The changing of the seasons offers the opportunity to make changes of your own – not just in the way you dress, but also in the way you dress the rooms you live in.
“I grew up in a house where it was a family event to change literally everything — like covers, curtains, pillows, and even china” — with the seasons, said Amanda Nisbet, an interior designer based in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Hamptons, who grew up in Montreal.
She still follows that practice to this day. “A year is a long time and you don’t always want to look at the same things,” said Ms. Nisbet. Storing winter accessories and digging out summer accessories “heralds a new season.”
If the goal in the winter is to create a space that feels warm and cozy, in the summer the goal is to make those rooms feel bright and fresh. We asked interior designers for advice on exactly how to do this.
Swap pillows and throws
One of the easiest ways to change the look of a room is by swapping out decorative textiles. “First of all, change pillows,” says Zoë Feldman, an interior designer from Washington, DC. “That’s a very simple solution.”
In winter you may have piles of heavy pillows, covered with velvet or thick wool, that provide warmth. In summer, lightweight linen or cotton is a wise choice.
In addition to the material, consider the visual warmth of your color choices, Ms. Feldman said: “For the winter, you might want warm colors like curry, russet, and olive green. In the summer, swap that for softer blushes or brighter shades like periwinkle, salad greens.” and butter yellow.”
The same goes for throws. Summer is the time to put away sheepskin or thick wool blankets that hang over the backs of sofas and chairs, and bring out gauze cotton and linen blankets or lightweight throws in fresh colors.
Add cushion covers
“Fabrics have a seasonal character, and velvet, mohair, and any kind of felt have a fall-winter feel to me and a warmth that isn’t always appropriate in spring and summer,” says Nick Olsen, an interior designer in New York. In the summer he likes to put fresh covers over sofas and chairs that are upholstered with thick fabrics.
“A white duck duck cover or a linen cover just feels really fresh for spring and summer,” he said. “Practical too, because your upholstery wears less.” And it’s easy to wash those covers at the end of the season.
Frumpy slipcovers have fallen out of favor with the decline of the shabby-chic style, Mr. Olsen said, so make sure yours is well-matched to your particular furniture pieces. If you’re making your own, the fabric should be pre-shrunk, he added, to avoid problems later.
Roll up the carpets
Large rugs are unwieldy and difficult to store, making it difficult to change them with the seasons. Some designers therefore layer and place large summer rugs under smaller winter rugs that can be removed.
“Sometimes when there’s a big space, I like to put a neutral, natural rug like burlap or sisal on the bottom,” says Emma Beryl, a New York-based interior designer. “Then, in the winter, maybe I’ll layer that with a wool or silk layer to make it more textured and warmer.”
In the summer, the smaller rug can be rolled up to reveal burlap or sisal, she said, “which is a great summer choice.”
Change the curtains
For a major transformation, Ms. Nisbet recommended changing the curtains.
“In the winter I like cozy decor and I have boiled wool curtains,” she said. “But in the summer I like to feel more airy.” So she temporarily replaces the wool with cotton or linen curtains in ticking stripes or a solid, light color.
“It makes a big difference,” she says. “You feel like you’re in a whole new room.”
If your curtains have hooks that hang from rings, changing them is relatively easy. “It’s not that difficult, especially if you involve the whole family,” said Mrs. Nisbet, “which my parents did.”
Make a cool bed
When the weather warms up, it’s time to swap out those fluffy duvets and wool blankets. “I have a drafty apartment, so I have a duvet rated for extra warmth, but it’s not suitable for the summer because it’s just too hot,” said Mr. Olsen.
To dress up a bed for warmer nights, start with simple bedding — plain white sheets, he suggested, or sheets with a subtle floral pattern — and top with a light, breathable cotton piqué or matelassé blanket.
“It’s just a practical thing,” Mr. Olsen said. “It’s not even a design thing.”
But it’s still nice to put a throw or thin blanket at the foot of the bed, Ms. Feldman said, “so when you’re taking a nap, you don’t have to crawl under the covers.”
Decorate the dining table
Just like putting a slipcover over a sofa, covering a dining table with a tablecloth can give it a new look, says Ashley Whittaker, an interior designer in New York. “In my dining room in Millbrook, I have this sepia-toned pastoral-landscape wallpaper that’s very skewed,” she said. “So in the summer I put a really fresh, beautiful tablecloth on the mahogany table, which just brightens up the whole room.”
Ms. Whittaker also uses the summer as an opportunity to change up her flatware, dinnerware and glassware – in particular, switching to bamboo-handled flatware, playfully patterned plates and colorful drinking glasses.
“Storing things you love and changing them with the seasons refreshes everything,” she said, letting you enjoy favorite accessories again.
Rethink your relationship with fire
If you have a fireplace, you probably don’t use it much in the summer. But if you have a yard, chances are you’ll be spending a few evenings around a fire pit. To ease that shift, Ms. Feldman recommended emptying the basket or other container that normally holds kindling and firewood by the fireplace and supplementing it with lightweight throws and pillows that can be worn outside on cool evenings.
Candlelight is desirable year-round, Mr. Olsen said, but it’s worth refreshing your candles for the summer. “Black candles in the summer are a bit gothic,” he said with a laugh. “Candles come in all the pretty colors, so maybe swap them out for a fresh green or blue.”
Fill your vases and bowls
Of course, one of the best ways to give your home a summery feel is to take advantage of nature’s bounty. Whether you buy them in trusses at the green market or pick them in your garden, vibrant peonies, dahlias and other summer flowers will give an explosion of color wherever you’ve displayed evergreen branches, magnolia leaves or dried flowers in winter.
Even leafy tree branches will do the trick, said Ms. Whittaker, who often chops them off trees in her yard to cram into vases. “I have ratchet pliers that can cut a huge branch from a tree,” she said. “I put it in my dining room, and suddenly it’s like a summer forest.”
Bowls filled with seasonal fruits, such as peaches and pears, are equally effective at bringing nature’s beauty indoors. Don’t think too much about it, Mrs Whittaker advised – because a real summer interior should feel relaxed. “Making the formal a little more casual,” she said, “is a lot of fun to do in the summer.”
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