Summertime is finally, gloriously, upon us, so now is the time to luxuriate in its lazy, casual vibe.

Whether you only have a little free time or are lucky to have more, enjoy our ever-so-fleeting summertime. Walk around barefoot, put on your skimpiest clothing, barbecue to your heart’s content, and dine or linger outdoors.

To maximize your enjoyment of the season, you’ll want to blur the line between outdoors and indoors. You’ll want to push normal “inside” activities outdoors with things like the traditional screened porch, and dining on the patio. But you’ll also want to bring that luscious summery light indoors.

For me, summer with its relaxed emphasis on enjoying the season, and the lack of any sense of formality and fussiness, is a state of mind to be envied and sought after. One way to try to create that air of relaxation and easy living inside is to create an atmosphere that emphasizes comfort and informality inside the house.

Some people call bringing this feeling into the home the “cottage” look, but you can certainly create this look and feel, and keep it as a year-round style of decor, with a few accent changes to relate to the time of year. With cottage style, there’s a lot of latitude.

Cottage style can take any number of themes, but whichever theme you opt for, there are some basics. The “cottage” look is above all, airy and light, casual and easy. It means you are bringing the relaxed feel of the summertime inside, and keeping it there throughout the year. It involves light colours, airy spaces that allow light and air to flow, and fabric finishes usually in toile, chintz, floral or plain fabric. Slipcovers work well, rather than anything dark or leathery. Furniture is usually not brand-new and shiny, but often looks weathered or is often painted over in light colours. Floors are usually natural wood, with rugs or stenciled accents.

The look is often thought to be a mix of “country” and “rustic,” but can be other things too. In any case, anything formal or fussy is definitely out.

At its heart, cottage style relates to how you enjoy your summer, and where you live or spend your summers. For some of us, it is the sea or a large lake, with its blues and moody greys that best represents summer. Finds from the shore, such as shells and driftwood, lobster trap pieces, and polished stones or glass can look wonderful as accents. As the seasons change, you may substitute more seasonal accents, but the colours and themes remain.

For many of us across the country, summertime means heading up north to a rustic cottage beside a quiet misty lake, complete with canoe paddles mounted in an X-pattern over the fireplace. Cheesy as it may sound, this look works well in cottage country. But it can work in an urban space amazingly well — set aside the cheese factor, but stick with the rough-hewn wood and twig accents, and use earth tones.

For others, summer means gardening, and to bring the garden look indoors, you simply bring inside items that fit into that theme. For example, bring inside bright white or natural wicker furniture, or an antique watering can. Use floral throw pillows, and consider painting some parts of your decor in the light pink and green. This works well if your cottage is away from a lake, or sits amidst a meadow. It can also work well in an urban or suburban setting.

Other themes that bring the outside inside might be a “Malibu” beachhouse or surfing theme, complete with bright colours and modern finishes. A vintage theme can be a fine idea too. Really, anywhere your imagination takes you is fine. Just concentrate on the pleasures of summertime as you experience them, and you’ll come up with a unique way to invite the summer into your home to stay.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design;

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