Ask A Designer: Making a Room Fresh for Summer

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Q. I would like help making my living room feel fresh and cooler in the summer. All of my furnishings were bought for my previous house in New York, but I had beautiful window treatments made since I moved. The fabrics are dark red, black, olive, and gold. Everything is European and a little formal. I love what I have, and it looks magical during the holidays, but it drives me crazy when it is hot and sunny. I can afford to makeover the room, but my husband says it is “senseless.” I truly love what I have. Is there a way to transform the hot feeling just for the summer (only three months every year). The dark brick colored sofa is the hottest thing, but my husband says it is the most comfortable place to sit; so it stays. The “squash” wall color has to stay, too. I really need a summer house in the mountains, but it isn’t happening. Help!—MD

A. Before air conditioning, many southern houses were transformed for the summer. Slipcovers and fresh flowers are traditional tricks of the trade, but your room requires more because it is so very hot. So, we tackle the whole room.

Remove all red, burgundy, black, or gold items that can fit in a box. Pack up anything that is complex or woodsy like dried flowers, baskets, wood boxes, and loose books.

Then, replace them with larger, simpler, and fewer smooth and hard items like glass and ceramic. Leave as many flat surfaces showing as possible; don’t layer or stack anything. Your color transformation is the most difficult; because brick red is the hottest color going, and the sofa needs to stay. So, we look to find what the coolest colors are that we can coordinate with brick.

Blue is the best because it is the complementary color of orange. Light blues look silly with the heavy brick chenille. Teal is beautiful but still dark and heavy. Cobalt is cleaner and a better choice for squash walls. Even better, white and blue is a traditional favorite; and white feels clean. Touches of orange feel summery and link back to the brick sofa.

Let’s slipcover the chairs and make pillows for all seating, adding a throw over the back of the sofa. Lastly, we make new draperies that can be mounted using existing hardware. Simple panels are fine. With this plan, very little storage is needed in the fall.

While you are at it, you may enjoy broadening the style of the room. Large-scale patterns feel relaxed, and international motifs feel exotic. The room could look like your summer home decorated with items carefully chosen from your world travels.

Note: We welcome all questions related to home design—ask us about color, room arrangement, planning for a new home, selecting furnishings, lighting, flooring, and more. Answers provided by Tanna Espy Miller, B.F.A., M.F.A., who has operated her award-winning interior design practice for 26 years. You may also contact Tanna at 615/ 601-0552.

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