The warmer months call for light and breezy decorating, says interior designer Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper & Co.
It’s nearing the end of July, and mid-summer days have delivered plenty of Florida sunshine and lots of high temperatures.
When summer came to Massachusetts, my grandmother always addressed the days with many changes in our home décor. Out came the slipcovers for all the furniture, mostly white linen ones lined so that the print upholstery for wintry days never showed through.
Granny, as I called her, was always neat. All the slipcovers had to fit tight and perfectly — she would have never have approved of the shabby-chic coverings we see today.
Not only were the slipcovers welted in a contrasting color, usually green or aqua blue, but she also slipcovered the throw pillows in happy Floridian colors — pineapple yellow, tangy orange, and, oh, that ocean blue. While my grandmother loved the classic look of Boston where she lived, she also loved the breezy look of South Florida, and thus the summer-decorating scheme.
Not only did July bring slipcovers for the furniture but it also brought curtain-bag covers so that all the winter drapery could be taken down and stored away. The long damask draperies were housed for summer in what looked like long pillowcases of striped black-and-white ticking fabric, much the same fabric as you find on mattress covers.
Once the draperies were tucked in their sleeping bags, they were put away. No need for draperies ever to to be drawn in summer, as window shades were used for privacy when needed.
In this unusual time, many of us are experiencing a South Florida summer for perhaps the first time. The health crisis has kept us here, when in other years we would have escaped the heat and headed north.
Summertime in South Florida calls for decorating in a light, easy and cool mood. If you’re here for the warmer months, here’s a tip: You might want to pack away the Aubusson rugs and leave the floors bare and shiny, which is such a refreshing look for summertime. It also may be time to take your potted palms outside to enjoy the sunshine.
Summer also is a good time to make changes that you might want to keep for the social season ahead. Have all the metalwork chandeliers brightly polished and wash the crystals that sparkle above your dinner parties.
And don’t forget small changes, such as swapping out your tapestry-style sofa pillows for something floral in chintz.
You might also change your dark table placements to ones with palm-leaf designs or made of gingham — or even the ultimate South Florida fabric, seersucker.
Seersucker is, indeed, one of my summertime favorites. It reminds me of gentlemen in straw boater hats and blue seersucker suits. I’ve seen lots of seersucker placemats on the market, and the fabric can be found on clothing, towel trim and event umbrellas. And it doesn’t have to be blue: there also are pastel versions in pink and yellow, which are pefect for a summer table.
In the same way, tropical-pattern fabrics, always popular in Palm Beach, seem especially right for summer. Today you’ll see banana-leaf prints — including the classic Brazilliance, designed originally by my mentor, Dorothy Draper — everywhere and on everything.
In Palm Beach, the winter is bright, and the summer is even brighter. Lucky us! For the coming weeks, remember: Everything should be softer, decor-wise.
And as for those summer slipcovers? They’re a terrific reminder that summer is, in fact, here, especially if you’re spending most of your time indoors at home.
Palm Beacher Carleton Varney is president of Dorothy Draper & Co., an international design firm with offices in New York, West Palm Beach, London and White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Visit CarletonVarney.com or email him at [email protected].