Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes

By Jay Johnson
Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes

Help clients transition their interiors when the temperature climbs—and create a seasonal-makeover design service that will add to your firm’s bottom line all year round.

My partner Irwin Weiner and I were visiting with a client recently when Irwin put on his "thoughtful face" and started to talk in a voice that reminded me of a wise, old grandpa spouting philosophy from his favorite rocking chair: "Back in the 1920s and '30s, before homes had central air conditioning, folks summer-ized their interiors," he said. We looked around the client's living room, and what greeted us was a winter decor. Bummer.

But being stuck with a winter scheme as summer approaches is completely understandable: Most furniture retailers gear their upholstery and furniture styles to the seasons. When they’re selling winter merchandise, you'll have chenille, velvets, and heavier, darker construction and finishes. If you purchase items for your client from catalogs or showroom samples (versus Customers Own Fabric), you'll probably fall into the seasonal trap of giving your client an appropriate fall/winter look but leaving them with a heavy-handed, darker interior in spring and summer.

A great way to stay in touch with clients is to help them transition their interiors into appropriate seasonal styles and moods. Here are 11 tips to help your clients summer-ize their interiors:

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Hayden Zig Zag Rug (Pottery Barn)

1. Rugs: In days of yore, homeowners would roll up their rugs to prepare for the summer months. Rugs are darker room elements, and removing them would leave bare floors (usually wood or stone), that feel cooler underfoot when the outdoor temperatures start to climb. Think about removing area rugs; Have them cleaned, rolled up, and stored for the colder seasons. Another option would be to swap darker rugs for pieces with lighter, brighter colors and patterns.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Tali Printed Window Panels (west elm)

2. Window Treatments: Spring and summer were once the seasons for cleaning windows, the idea being to allow more bright seasonal light into the home. Take a cue from this tradition: When you design window treatments for your clients, build in seasonal changes. Side panels can be removed in the summer to allow added light into rooms. If you can't remove the side panels, have them pulled back or drawn all the way to allow in as much natural light as possible. (And make sure the windows are cleaned, too!)

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Natural Palampore Slipcovers (Pottery Barn)

3. Slipcovers: Before air conditioning, people put cotton or linen slipcovers over dark upholstered goods. Don't let the richer, deeper colors of velvet, mohair, or tapestry-covered pieces keep your client's décor stuck in winter. Nothing looks nattier for summer than blue-striped linen or beautiful floral chintz slipcovers.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Green Garden Pillows (Williams-Sonoma Home)

4. Pillows: Bright pillows are easy to haul out of storage for a quick seasonal makeover. Clean and pack away darker winter-colored throws and pillows for the summer and replace them with brighter, lighter fabric and patterned pillows to freshen up rooms.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Madison Lamp (Williams-Sonoma Home)

5. Lampshades: Light covers are easy to switch out as part of your seasonal makeover campaign, too. Default to whiter shades in the summer, carrying in the "lighter and brighter is better" decorating theme. And don't ignore the light bulbs. They have a tendency to dim with age, so summer is a good time to switch out older bulbs for newer ones. Store the old bulbs for the summer, then put them back in their fixtures when fall rolls around; never throw away bulbs that are still working.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Clinton Friedman Wall Art (west elm)

6. Artwork: Here's an off-the-wall idea Irwin picked up during a hot and humid summer visit to an historic home in New Orleans. People used to put fine, sheer-fabric slipcovers over artwork to prevent mosquitoes and flies from settling on the pieces. You can make sheer slipcovers for your clients' darker pieces to visually lighten them up—or you can help your clients clean and store away darker, richer artwork and hang lighter, brighter, more colorful pieces in their place. Whatever you opt for, you'll achieve a more summery look.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Natural Composite Container (Williams-Sonoma)

7. Plants: Add indoor plant materials to your client's decor. We've installed flower boxes and added orchids and other potted plants to enliven a summer design scheme. Miniature boxwood topiaries in cachepots look amazing on a sideboard! Anything that flowers can be used as a substitute for more temporary cut-flower arrangements. When a flowering plant is done blooming, switch it out for a fresher plant, then put it in the garden or in a special space devoted to "wintering" indoor blooms, such as orchids. In the winter, switch out the summery flowers for miniature Norfolk pines, pencil hollies, and other seasonal greenery.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Bailey Stripe Doormat (Pottery Barn)

8. Entryways: A doormat is the first decor impression most people are given when visiting your client's home, so change out darker, more robust winter mats for lighter, thinner, colorful mats.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Hanging Closet Storage (PBteen)

9. Closets: Your clients' closets need the summer treatment, too. Clean and store away winter coats and clothing, replacing them with a fresher spring/summer wardrobe. Your clients will also appreciate custom fabric hangers in fresh summery fabrics that you can have made at a resource like Henry Hanger.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Home
Coyuchi Belgian Linen Bedding (Williams-Sonoma Home)

10. Bedding and Linens: Switch up bedding and linens for the summer months. Go crazy over florals and bright colors for summer; retire those darker, more somber winter bed dressings, comforters, and throws. In the bathroom, switch out all linens to a summery palette. You can even bring in seasonal soaps—citrus scent for spring, lavender for summer, sandalwood for fall and winter.

Avoid the Summer Bummer: Easy Updates for Wintry Homes
Aviary Jacquard Table Runner (Williams-Sonoma)

11. Kitchens and Tables: Finally, tabletop and kitchen decor must change to usher in summer. Dinnerware, both casual and formal, should reflect a lighter, brighter mood. And that should extend to serving pieces, placemats, napkins, glassware, and dishtowels.

All these tips will help your clients enjoy the splendid days of summer. And in the fall you can help them winterize their decorating schemes. By successfully marketing a complete seasonal-makeover design service, you will also improve your firm's cash flow year round.

In November 2006, Manhattan-based blogger Jay Johnson and his partner Irwin Weiner ASID applied the popularity of watching videos on the Internet to the house-and-garden arena. The idea for Design2Share was born. On D2S, they share their insight, tips, and strong opinions about how people design and decorate their homes, entertaining over 300,000 visitors a year; their syndicated original videos had over 22 million video views in 2010.