Fabrics and Color – Simple Ways to Lighten Up Your Home Decor for Spring and Summer

Living room design - looking out through wall of windows

They must have invented the word “splendiferous” to describe springtime in Atlanta.

Southern spring brings with it a veritable fairyland of flowering dogwoods, magnolias and weeping cherries, who then join forces with bright azaleas to create a riot of color. 

But step inside your house, and it can seem downright gloomy in comparison. The same rich colors that warmed our spaces during the cooler, cozier months suddenly seem, well, drab by comparison to the glory of the outdoors.  Heavy and dark.

Happily, there are many easy and inexpensive fixes to bring a little of that springtime lightness into each and every room of your home. And they all can be found at your favorite fabric store.

Where to begin?

Throwing new or recovered decorative pillows on the sofa to “lighten things up” is a good beginning, but they’ll stand out like sore thumbs without a well-thought-out, cohesive design plan that incorporates this new color palette. To pick up some new ideas and fire up your creative juices, head to the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), now open to the public. In a single visit, you’ll get decorating tips from more than 40 showrooms that feature fabrics and bed linens. 

Katie Belveal, ADAC’s general manager, points with pride to a new initiative, “Behind the Windows,” that showcases not only seasonal trends, but the work of designers themselves. If a particular decorating style attracts your eye, you can either contact the designers directly or simply head to a fabric store to turn those dreams into reality. 

Though most showrooms sell only to the trade (designers), Peacock Alley is an exception. “The retail store welcomes walk-ins and our staff is very design-savvy,” says Brad Cleveland, director of retail stores. “They can suggest ideas to revive your existing spaces like purchasing a duvet. It’s one of the most cost-effective items you can buy because the coverlet is easily changed with minimal cost and powerful impact.”  

Neutral pallets like white, ivory and natural linen are always in vogue at Peacock Alley, but accents of coral or aqua or prints with yellows and soft grays, can totally change the mood from winter to summer. Complementary or matching towels, shower curtains, bath mats and more can link the master bedroom and the en suite. 

“We’re not a trendy company,” says Cleveland. “We specialize in items that last year after year. If you crave customized items like appliques and monogramming, we’re happy to comply. We have even manufactured personalized linens for an NBA player who wanted a square bed so all his kids could pile in with him.”

Change of Scenery

“One of the easiest ways to create a new look is to rearrange the furniture whenever possible,” says Ann Wisniewski, ASID, of AJW Designs. “You’ll achieve an entirely new feeling without spending a dime,” she says. 

“If you have the budget, invest in custom slipcovers in light, neutral colors that can be reused every summer. The room will look as if you’ve purchased entirely new furnishings,” she says. Another easy way to transform a room is to select some bright, airy fabrics to complement the existing upholstery and change out the pillows and throws to bring the outdoors in.” 

Inexpensive indoor/outdoor rugs that pick up the new summer accent colors help create a cohesive look. And with kids running in and out dragging Georgia red clay with them, these rugs come with a built-in bonus. Simply drag them outdoors and hose them off. Voila! Minimal work; maximum appeal.

Color, color everywhere

“Customers often ask us where to begin sparking up a room,” says Karen Magill, owner of Karen’s Fabrics, a full service fabric and decorating store in Alpharetta. “I always tell them to choose a fabulous stripe, geometric or floral fabric that knocks their socks off and then build from there. Then it’s easy to choose complementary fabrics. 

“One of the least expensive and quickest ways to brighten your home for summer is to recover the seats of your dining room chairs or kitchen stools in a cheery fabric,” she says. “All you need is a staple gun, some lightweight batting and fabric.” Add some inexpensive new placemats and napkins to totally transform your dining room or kitchen.

A number of colors are “trending” now, says Magill. Warm gray is the new neutral and it’s particularly effective with punches of yellow and tangerine. “All shades of blue and white are strong too,” she says, “along with soothing green/blue spa colors. Prints with birds and toiles are also making a comeback. All are perfect for ‘summer-izing’ your home.”

Changing out heavy drapes for faux linen or burlap will also lighten up the room in an instant. Generally, they’ll hang beautifully, even if unlined.  “Opt for a rod with rings instead of pinch pleats. The drapes are less expensive because they take less material, and they can be switched out when the season changes,” she says. Another trend is using banding in a contrasting color instead of heavy fringes for trim. “Ruffles are totally out,” Magill warns. 

“For those who live in lofts and prefer contemporary furnishings, less is usually better. Often a few geometric fabric accents can add the pop needed to take the industrial space from bland to pow.”

Penny Theriot, long-time manager at Karen’s Fabrics, suggests spray painting an old lamp base and covering the tired shade with an attractive fabric. Also, “A chenille throw will update (and disguise) Dad’s favorite old chair without changing the comfort level,” she says.

“In the master bedroom, you can turn an old wooden headboard into an upholstered beauty by covering it with batting and updated fabric,” Theriot says. “A matching or contrasting coverlet and bed skirt will pull it all together. Coordinate the linens in  the master bath and you’ll feel like you’re living at the Ritz.” 

Regardless the room, fresh new fabric accents will summerize the space with minimal cost. Even Fido and Fluffy’s beds can be spruced up with a complementary new fabric turning them from eye-sores to accent pieces.

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