July 24, 2021


Home Improvement

How to make your home’s summer decor appeal to all five senses

By IOL Reporter Time of article published12m ago

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Helen Grange

Summer decor is all about the senses – light, bright colours, floral fragrances, trickling water, the cool feel of cotton, the taste of lemon in a soda drink. Decorating for your senses, therefore, is about creating a holistic experience in the room and maximising the chosen ambiance. Whether it be fresh and fun or calm and peaceful, there are tools to use to appeal to all five senses.

A good start is your soft furnishings. If you have removable slip-covers or decorative throws, introduce bursts of colour and brightness.

If you prefer whites and neutrals, khaki-hued slip-covers are summer casual and can be dressed up with more formal cushions. Dark, heavy drapes can be exchanged for light, free-flowing curtains made from sheer linens or faux silk.

When you think of summer, you think of the outdoors so bring the outside in with flowers, leaves and fruits which can feature as standing or hanging plants or table centrepieces.

For a rustic feel, introduce earthy, textured rugs made of eco-friendly materials like bamboo, sisal, hemp or seagrass and jute.

If you love white, unearth old picture frames and paint them, or create a festive tree from branches painted white.

Scent the air with lavender, lily or frangipani, and open the windows to listen to the sounds of nature. Relax with a fruity summer cocktail with plenty of ice on hand next to an azure blue pool.


Think of summer colours as fruity – watermelon, lemon, lime, papaya, mango. They can be introduced in subtle shades on the wall, in pops of colour in curtains and cushions, and in items like plates, crockery, vases and bowls.

Think about a big jug of sunflowers, citrus fruit displayed through a glass vase or a gathering of red berries as part of a table centrepiece wreath. Then introduce plenty of garden greenery.

Picture: Pexels

“Take inspiration from the garden. Choose your favourite leaves and plants.

“I’m particularly fond of Monstera and Strelizia leaves, as well as air plants,” says interior designer Lee Ann Bell, founder of Mezzanine furniture and homeware.

For good reason blue is a common theme in summer decor, as it’s the coolest colour of the spectrum and studies show it helps calm the nervous system. It works beautifully as a feature wall, offset with shades of blue in furnishings and objets d’art. White gives a room a light, airy feel for summer.


Summery textures are a mix of rough and smooth, but as opposed to the heavy lustrous textures of winter, these are more natural, airy and rustic. Think of rattan basketry, a seagrass rug and wicker chairs combined with silk-covered cushions and the soft touch of a light cotton drape.

Texture is also about embellishments – a batik hand-blocked print tablecloth, a colourful mosaic on a picture frame, an artful display of sea shells, delicate embroidery on a cotton duvet cover, a painted piece of furniture made to look distressed.

Plants like succulents, cacti and ferns are another great source of textural contrast, and can be eye-catching features if placed in beautifully painted pots.

“Summer is a good time to paint your garden furniture and plant pots. Blues and greens look great with plants, and yellow is a sunny colour that looks fantastic with whites,” says Annie Sloan, international paint guru.


Think of the sounds of summer. Birdsong, rustling leaves, gentle winds, trickling water and the chorus of pond frogs are the natural tunes of the season. Open doors and windows and let in the sounds of nature. They can be enhanced with the tinkle of wind chimes.

To create a lovely summer ambiance, choose your music with a holiday feeling in mind. “Having background music playing in your home adds to the overall feel of the room. Whether the room is punchy and vibey or peaceful, your choice of music can reflect and enhance this,” says Bell.

Music that speaks to lazy summer days include mellow jazz and bossa nova songs from Brazil.


Summer tastes are fresh and citrusy. Think of a tall glass of water with a slice of lemon, a chilled wine, a fruity cocktail made with watermelon, lime, ginger and mint.

Try new cocktail mixes this summer, including ingredients like basil leaves, mint leaves, lemon twists, orange wedges and diced cucumber.

Salads are standard summer fare, and you can make them especially colourful with splashes of pomegranate, corn, carrot, orange, watercress and beet.

Picture: Photo Mix/Pixabay

Garden guru Tanya Visser, presenter of The Gardener TV show, suggests you spice up your braai this summer by adding herbs to your meat.

“Rosemary, basil, parsley and French tarragon works well with chicken, and use rosemary, garlic, ginger, mint, lemon balm and thyme with lamb. Steak is great with garlic, ginger, horseradish, mint, chives, parsley and thyme, and fish goes with lemon balm, lemon grass, fennel, dill, parsley, rocket and French tarragon,” she says.

Food ideas for summer include seafood platters; crispy tacos with avocado slices, carrot strips, black beans and a sprinkle of feta; pasta with sautéed peppers, zucchini and mozzarella; Hawaiian chicken kebabs; cucumber quinoa salad; and herbed lemon garlic chicken skewers.

Seafood platters are always a popular dining choice during the hot summer months. Picture: Maria Labanda/Unsplash


Smell is intricately linked to taste. The dominant fragrances of summer are citrusy, with compositions based on lemon, orange, bergamot, grapefruit and mandarin. “Beautifully scented candles, fresheners or incense can evoke memories referring to these summery tastes,” says Bell.

Summer flowers are the best way to introduce natural fragrance in your home, and among the most sweet smelling are sweet alyssum, lavender, jasmine, stargazer lilies, tuberose and frangipani.

Place bunches of these in generous vases around your home to make it smell divine.

Other summer scents are of freshly cut grass, sun cream and coconut rum-infused cocktails. Let them all flow freely through your home to enhance the holiday feel.

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