10 Summer Decorating Ideas

Turn the gazebo in your backyard into a summertime cabana by hanging up gauzy white curtains.

Some lucky guys and gals travel to a luxury summer home every year, decamping to the mountains or beach for a change of scenery. Not everyone can afford a vacation house, but small changes can make a room in your own home feel calm, relaxed, cool and inviting -- just like you'd feel if you took a million-dollar retreat.

Summer is the time to lighten the weight of fabrics and add cheerful colors inside to celebrate the arrival of the season. Extend your living area outside, and connect with your surroundings. Plant flowers in window boxes, and fill bowls on your kitchen countertop with fresh produce from the farmers market. Rearrange a space and make it more comfortable for the hot summer months.


Whether your décor projects happen indoors or outside, they'll refresh your space and make you feel like a special guest in your own home. Summer is a lighthearted, playful time of year, and with a little time and effort, your home can reflect this carefree attitude. Here are 10 ideas to get you in the spirit of the season.

10: Move the Living Room Outside

Who says your back porch or patio shouldn't mirror your indoor living room?

During the warm summer months, outdoor spaces should be a continuation of your interiors. Move your living room outside this summer, and arrange seating to encourage guests to sit, socialize and relax. Make outdoor chairs and ottomans comfortable with fluffy pillows and cushions lined in weather-resistant fabric, and place a rug made of durable material under furniture that can be hosed off for cleaning. Accessorize the area like you would any of your indoor rooms -- art, mirrors and wall clocks will make an exterior room look complete. Add end tables and a coffee table for convenient places to set food and drinks, and install outdoor lighting, like lamps, sconces and ceiling fans to use after the sun goes down.


To create the ultimate outdoor living room, add fabric panels to an arbor in your backyard to make your own personal cabana. Lounging on low-seated chairs, floor cushions and daybeds will inspire the mood for a party. Stock a pantry made out of an old hutch or cabinet with candles, matches, plastic plates, cups, barware, napkins and a few serving pieces for an impromptu celebration. Install an outdoor fireplace or a freestanding fire pit to help guests stay warm on cool, early summer evenings, and set up a sturdy dining table and chairs for casual family meals or other social gatherings. After dining al fresco at the outdoor dining table on a perfect summer evening with friends, roast marshmallows in the fireplace and enjoy delicious s'mores while playing a competitive game of Monopoly under the stars.

9: Create a Cozy Reading Nook

Maybe the kids need a quiet space for summer reading during their three-month break from school. Or, you need a space to get away from the kids! A reading nook is the perfect place to escape.

To create your own nook, look no further than your own bedroom or closet, or find an empty corner under a big, open window to pad with colorful cushions and pillows. Make sure you have adequate reading light, whether you install sconces in a darker space or use a room with plenty of natural light, like a sunroom.


Most importantly, a reading space should be a peaceful area free of noise and the traffic of a household. If it's a challenge to separate a nook from the rest of a room's furniture and décor, hang a curtain or use a folding screen to partition the space. Surround yourself with objects, colors and textures that make you feel at ease, but don't clutter the area. Place a small table next to your reading nook, and make room for a glass of water or an afternoon cocktail. Stock the table with notepads, pens and a dictionary to quickly reference words that are unfamiliar to you. And in case you start to feel so relaxed and cozy that your eyelids droop, keep an eye mask and ear plugs nearby for an afternoon cat nap.

8: Arrange a Summertime Tablescape

A summer garden tablescape just needs flowers, linens and pretty pottery.
A summer garden tablescape just needs flowers, linens and pretty pottery.

Summer is the perfect season to entertain family and friends, and since the heat of the day is in the afternoon, have guests over for an early brunch or an evening dinner party. After you send the invitations and plan a tasty menu, have fun arranging the dinner table with whimsical summertime elements. Drape outdoor dining tables or picnic tables in brightly colored tablecloths, or use plain white bed sheets accented by a colorful table runner. Adorn wicker or metal chairs with little posies of dried or fresh flowers tied up with pretty ribbons. For a more eclectic look, collect several different chairs, and paint them varying shades of blue, green and yellow.

Mix and match china or everyday dishes to make a unique, playful table setting, and don't worry about matching the napkins. Whether you're into paper or cloth napkins, use a variety of different colors, textures and patterns. Hand-craft napkin rings from a swatch of fabric, tied in place with a strand of raffia. Stick a peacock feather under each strand for extra flair.


Finally, don't neglect the center of the table! Decorate with glassware found in the back of your kitchen cabinets -- mix tall wine glasses with short water glasses, and add a few short candle votives around the edges. Drop colorful beads, found at your local craft store, in the bottom of each wine and water glass. Fill them halfway with water, and add floating candles to set the mood.

7: Install an Outdoor Shower

During the summer, most people enjoy working in the yard early in the day, before it gets too warm, or beat the heat by taking a dip in a pool or nearby ocean. Taking a shower outdoors is a great way to cool down after mowing the yard, or rinse off before diving into the pool. Outdoor shower kits are available for purchase at most home improvement stores, but constructing a shower from basic materials is relatively inexpensive, costing only $50 to $100. All you need is an outdoor water faucet, a black water hose, nozzle and a bungee cord.

While outdoor showers are refreshing and convenient, they can also be very inefficient since heating water outside can result in heat loss, adding money to your utility expenses. To conserve water and save money on monthly heating and water bills, install a solar-heated outdoor shower that's environmentally friendly, too. Add a solar roof to your outdoor shower to collect heat from the sun, warming the water. Heating cold water naturally using the sun's rays and a solar-roof water heater will save you energy and money, so you can take a long, hot shower without feeling the least bit guilty about your carbon footprint!


6: Decorate with Seashells

Glue little shells around a foam ball for a unique piece of decor.
Glue little shells around a foam ball for a unique piece of decor.

Collecting seashells at the beach is a fun activity, but let's be honest -- when you return home from vacation, the large bag of shells is usually forgotten and begins to collect dust in the corner.

Sand dollars, conch shells and tiny starfish can really brighten up a space in your home and serve as a reminder of the fond memories you shared with friends and family on a recent trip to the beach. Before you begin decorating your home with these tiny treasures from the sea, make sure they're cleaned properly with bleach or dried out by the sun to rid them of any odors from tissue left behind by slimy sea creatures.


Once your seashells are clean and shiny, there are many creative ways you can display them in your home. Large conch shells can serve as a stunning container for an arrangement of flowers, or they can be a centerpiece in a summer tablescape. Fill a giant clam shell with candle wax kit from a craft store; then, arrange seashell candles around your patio at an outdoor summer dinner party.

If you have a collection of tiny shells, hot glue them by the hundreds on the frame of a mirror to make a statement piece for your front entryway. Or, group similar seashells together and display them in apothecary jars on a mantel or a bookshelf. Finally, if you're entertaining indoors, hang seashells at varying lengths from ribbons under a chandelier to make a delightful summertime statement.

5: Build a Potting Bench

Every gardening enthusiast needs a neat, tidy place to organize tools, pots, labels, scissors and soil. A potting bench serves as the perfect area for a gardener to work. What's more, it can be used year-round and be constructed very simply from weather-resistant wood and nails. Some gardeners prefer to have a mobile potting bench on wheels, and others want a large structure that looks like a piece of fine furniture, complete with shelves and cubby holes to store everything from flower seed packets to a large-brimmed gardener's hat.

A potting bench can be constructed from basic materials, but think outside the box! Do you have an old chest of drawers or vanity languishing in the attic or basement? Turn a vanity mirror into a peg board to hold gardening tools, and paint a weathered piece of furniture an earthy shade of green or blue. Use drawers to store unexpected containers for potting plants and flowers, like watering cans, a metal pail or even an old work boot! Make a statement by planting flowers in jewel-toned antique Depression glass bowls and candy dishes. Install a farmhouse sink in your potting bench, and clear the counter as a place to cut and arrange flowers to make beautiful bouquets and centerpieces for summer dinner parties.


4: Install a Summer-Friendly Front Door

This summer, consider swapping your traditional front door for one that's a little more charming. A Dutch door is divided horizontally into two half-doors, and either half can be left open or closed, letting in the crisp, summer breeze. If you don't want to change your front door, consider a Dutch door for a laundry room or the entryway to the back porch. Keep the top door open during parties, allowing conversation to flow easily between your house and the backyard. And, keep the bottom door shut to keep small children and curious pets from escaping outside!

Before it gets too hot in the afternoon, enjoy summer's breezy mornings and evenings by installing a screen door. It doesn't matter if you own a condo or single-family home, screen doors are a great way to cool your home naturally, save money on energy bills and, perhaps best of all, keep the season's pesky mosquitoes and bugs from flying inside!


3: Build a Tiki Bar

If you enjoy entertaining outdoors, host a luau in your backyard complete with flowered leis, grass skirts and a tiki bar! Building a tiki bar can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, depending on the materials you use and how large you want your bar to be. Install shelves behind the bar to store liquor and barware, and leave a large space in the corner for a kegerator or mini fridge to keep beer and wine at cool temperatures. Decorate the tiki bar with bamboo accents, and be sure to buy plenty of thatching for the roof!

When construction of the tiki bar is finished, accessorize the bar with tiki totem poles and tiki masks. Add matching bamboo bar stools for guests, and hang a few Balinese lanterns from the bar ceiling. On the counter, gather tropical flowers, like orchids and tuberoses, to make a Hawaiian-inspired flower arrangement.


Don't forget to put a stereo behind the bar, and while party guests dance to the sounds of bongo drums and ukuleles, serve chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and coconut battered shrimp. Last but not least, whip up some mai tai cocktails garnished with mint leaves, pineapple slices and a miniature paper parasol.

2: Paint the Floor With a Stenciled Design

Tired of those drab wooden floors? Paint 'em!
Tired of those drab wooden floors? Paint 'em!

If the sticky, hot summer weather has you wanting to rip up your heavy, wool carpet to expose the plywood sub-flooring or cool concrete underneath, what are you waiting for? You're not alone if the thought of refinishing the floor underneath the carpet makes you squirm, but no one says you have to spend hundreds of dollars to make over your floors with hardwood or expensive tile.

An inexpensive alternative to hardwood and tile is painting the concrete or wood floors a soothing shade of grey, white or blue. Be sure to vacuum and clean the floor thoroughly to remove all dust and dirt, and use a polyurethane-based enamel to prime the surface before painting. Open the windows to help filter the paint fumes, and keep the temperature at around 70 degrees to ensure the paint dries quickly.


After the floor is painted, add a custom stencil design to give the room some character. Shopping for stencils at craft stores can be a frustrating task -- selections are usually limited to designs with hearts, stars and flowers, and it can be hard to find a unique, one-of-a-kind design. If you can't find a stencil that you like, consider shopping for fabric with an inspiring floral or geometric design.

Making your own stencil from a piece of art or swatch of fabric can be as simple as taking a photo of the design, scanning and uploading it, and printing it to a desired size to use as a cut-out for a stencil. Use a small foam paint roller, and carefully rotate the stencil around the room so that the pattern connects and flows well. Floors aren't the only place to use a custom stencil; paint the walls, ceilings, furniture or a canvas with your one-of-a-kind design!

1: Illuminate the Backyard

Summer entertaining isn't complete until you set the mood with lighting.

Invite friends over at twilight, brighten tables with a centerpiece of candles, and string several strands of garden lights through the trees. Line the backyard with citronella tiki torches, keeping the bugs away, and highlight a path or stairs with luminaries. Luminaries can be assembled by carefully placing candles in paper sacks filled with sand, or you can use old aluminum paint cans as an alternative. Use an ink pen to mark where holes should be on each can, and bore holes with an electric drill. Candlelight will twinkle through the holes in the cans, allowing light to bounce and flicker inside through the evening.

Lanterns are another great way to lend a romantic atmosphere to your backyard. Buy metal and glass lanterns from a home décor store, or make your own by placing small candles inside old mason jars or recycled tin cans. Drill two holes at the top of each can or jar to add a rustic wire handle, and hang the jars and cans through branches in the trees over the backyard. If paper lanterns are more your style, craft your own Chinese lanterns by using patterned tissue paper, construction paper and a pair of scissors. Cluster the paper lanterns over your outdoor dining table to make a unique chandelier.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Lyttle, Bethany. "Summer Decorating." Country Living. (March 29, 2011).http://www.countryliving.com/homes/how-to-get-the-look/summer-decorating-yellow-0607
  • Myles, Bill. "Build a Potting Bench." Kitchen Gardener Magazine. Dec. 1997. (March 30, 2011). http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/2429/build-a-potting-bench
  • Norris, Michele. "Why So Blue? Color Graces Many a Porch Ceiling." NPR. Aug. 14, 2006. (March 30, 2011).http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5645263
  • Riegler, Shax. "Designers' Summer Decorating Rituals." House Beautiful. (March 29, 2011).http://www.housebeautiful.com/decorating/ideas/last-words-0808