“Summerize” your Home

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Once you make the transition from boots to flip-flops and ditch your jacket for a tank top you may think you’re ready to enjoy the summer. But before you relax into lazy, long summer days, look around your home. Do you see a heavy wool rug underneath your feet? Are dark velvety drapes covering your windows? Is there any color in your rooms or is everything gray and beige?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time for a summer makeover for your home.

How about outside your house? Is there a comfortable chair where you can curl up with a bowl of cherries and a light novel? A place to kick back with a friend or two to admire the night sky?
While your budget may not accommodate a magazine-worthy outdoor living room, you can still take steps to make your outdoor space more enjoyable.
Bring Summer Indoors
•    Roll up your heavy rug and send it out for cleaning or store it in a closet until the season changes. If you need to cover your floor, look for an inexpensive raffia throw rug or light cotton rug.
•    Take down your drapes and switch to blinds or light sheers to let the summer light brighten your home naturally.
•    Add colorful toss pillows with flowers or nautical stripes to brighten your sofa, chairs or bedroom. Pack away your thick throws and quilts.
•    Cut some flowers for your yard or pick up a bouquet at a farmer’s market or grocery store. Flowers tend to be cheaper in summer when they’re more abundant.
•    Place bowls of fresh fruit in unexpected places like your family room and bedroom in addition to your dining table and kitchen. Not only is fruit attractive and colorful, you’ll be encouraging family members to eat healthy snacks.
•    Bring out your collection of shells or interesting rocks and display them on a shelf or table. You can sprinkle sand into the bottom of a clear vase and add a few shells on top for a vacation home ambiance.
•    Switch your candles to pastels or summer bright colors or to pure white and use citrusy scents to increase the sense of the season.
•    Find a small piece of driftwood to use as wall art or on a coffee table.
•    Rearrange your furniture. Aside from the winter holidays, summer is one of the more sociable seasons. Try to regroup your furniture into configurations that are conducive to conversations. You can also turn your back to the fireplace when you’re not using it, then reverse the position when fall arrives.
•    Put some greenery in your empty fireplace, a colorful painted screen or a collection of candles.
Move Outside
•    Start by cleaning up your yard, pulling weeds and scrubbing (or replacing) your dirty grill. Clean your outdoor furniture, too.
•    Even if you lack a green thumb, plant a few indestructible annuals such as Lantana or Penta or Vinca in the sun and Impatiens in the shade for a pop of color.
•    While most people take down their outdoor string lights after the winter holidays, twinkling outdoor lights can be festive for summer evenings, too. Plenty of shops and catalogs offer lights shaped like globes, shells or red hot peppers that can add pizzazz to your summer parties.
•    Pick up a tiki torch or two to add drama and light on your summer evenings. Citronella torches keep bugs away, too.
•     Add some outdoor pillows to your chairs. Technology has made outdoor fabrics more durable than ever, so you can leave them out even in an unexpected rain storm.
•    Use unexpected items for outdoor seating. While the traditional table and chairs or benches are available in a variety of materials, consider pulling out an old unused cot and covering it with sturdy fabric for a lounge chair and extra seating for guests.
•    Add water. While not every homeowner has the cash or the space to build a koi pond with a waterfall, small trickling fountains can be found for $100 or so at garden centers. The sound of water is both cooling and relaxing.
•    Create privacy with a screen. A wood screen can be used on a balcony or patio to define your space, reduce noise levels and add to your sense of privacy.
•    Add shade. Whether you hang a canopy on a frame or pick up an umbrella, a shady spot is essential for enjoying summer outside in the Washington area’s notorious heat.
•    Add light. For evenings, consider your outdoor lighting plan. You can use a mix of candle holders and pick up some small solar-powered lights that will soak up the sun and give off light in the evening.
•    Be ready with outdoor dining supplies. Stores like Target and Wal-Mart are filled with inexpensive yet pretty acrylic plates, pitchers and utensils so you can easily enjoy every meal on your balcony, patio, deck or yard.
Whether you live in a cozy apartment or single family home with a big yard, you can find a way to embrace the summer months with a few tweaks to your home.

Michele Lerner, an award-winning freelance writer, is the author of "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time." Follow her on Twitter @mvlerner or visit her website.