Top designers reveal easy tips for creating a fun, airy atmosphere

By Diana Lundin

Summer is the most frivolous season. For three months, we can celebrate the playful side of our accessories and furnishings. We asked top interior designers what essential elements scream out summer to them. Their answers? Anything light, bright and fun!

Following are 10 summer decorating ideas that are affordable and easy to do.

Brightly colored slipcovers

“I love fresh white slipcovers,” enthuses Jan Showers, the lead designer for Jan Showers & Associates in Dallas.

Odette Lueck of Lueck Interiors in Bowie, Md., likes slipcovers, too, but in glowing hues or in color combinations relating to water, “particularly blue-and-white-striped color schemes, that you wouldn’t have in your house during other times of the year.”

Lighter fabrics

Freya Block of Freya Block Design in Manhattan suggests a change of fabrics in your house to “anything that’s fresh and clean and bright. You can go with new pillows with lighter fabrics, linens particularly. Napkins are easy to change. For runners or tablecloths, you want something lighter or different.”

Lueck agrees. “I think brightness, whether it’s done in bright throws that are left around, or pillows or anything else that gives a sunnier look, says ‘summer.'”

Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz is a fan of lighter fabrics, too, only in an unorthodox form: white mosquito netting. “It’s decorative, but very functional,” says Noriega-Ortiz, owner of Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz LLC in New York City.

“I used to have a house at the beach and that’s the first thing we did, put up mosquito netting around the bed. You could put draperies in mosquito netting around the porch instead of screens,” says Noriega-Ortiz, whose work has been featured in Town & Country and House Beautiful.

Sheer window treatments

The sheer look for window treatments is a favorite technique of Michael Verdugo, a designer in South Pasadena, Calif. “It lets the light in, but filters it.” Ditto for Julie Appel of the Appel Group in Santa Monica, Calif.: “I like sheer fabrics for windows—airy fabrics that let a lot of light in.”

Natural materials

Appel also is drawn to natural materials in the summer. “Wicker furniture, lots of plants and natural window coverings like straw blinds,” she says.

Flower arrangements

Block also loves anything to do with flowers. “Lots of flowers, wildflowers, grasses, roses … anything from the garden. You can put them in wonderful containers, such as bottles or great baskets.”

Noriega-Ortiz puts a sophisticated spin on the floral-arrangement idea. “Banana leaves in tall, clear vases,” he suggests. “Or light sparkling accessories in colored glass also say ‘summer.'”

Fruit or vegetable bowls

Noriega-Ortiz thinks fruit displays are just peachy. “Bowls of fruit, tons of bowls of fruit, everywhere. Put in apples or grapes, things that are easy to pick up on your way out. I wouldn’t put lemons because you can’t eat them. They just look pretty.”

Block thinks big bowls and baskets of vegetables capture summer as well.

Summer fun baskets

“Keep a very accessible basket or box of summer reading that you never seem to have time to read,” says Lueck. “In the summer, you can relax and read a little more, particularly those magazines that seem to be stacking up.”

Lueck also likes the idea of keeping tennis balls or baseball caps or even suntan lotion in baskets. “You want to put them some place attractive but yet be available immediately as you go out the door so you wouldn’t have to go hunting for those kinds of things in the summer months.”

Painted floor cloths

Verdugo favors storing area rugs for the summer. “Most of my clients pull up area rugs. It feels cooler. When you have too many of these comfy elements, it feels warm … hot. And who needs that?”

Charles Gandy of Gandy/Pearce. Inc. in Atlanta also likes a change on the floors for the summer. “I’d take out the Orientals and put in sisals or put down painted floor cloth. In summer months, a little more whimsy is the idea, so the summer floor cloths could be childlike or frivolous, or they could be rather sophisticated, too. Kids could participate in making them. You just go to an art store, get one of those rolls of large canvas, hem the edges and use house paint. It’s a fun way of changing things.”

Linen bedspreads

Likewise in the bedroom, adds Gandy, take off your heavy bedspread and throw a plain piece of linen on it. “It’s a way of lightening up,” he says. “We get bogged down in what we have and we forget its okay to change it.”

Air conditioning

What won’t change is summer’s heat. So the one thing Noriega-Ortiz can’t live without? “Air conditioning. Oh, my God, especially here in New York City,” he says.

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