As the days start to warm up, why not take inspiration for your interiors from the great outdoors? From the best contemporary garden furniture to the latest modern florals, it’s easy to freshen up your home and garden for laid-back summer living.
Summer is the perfect time to breathe new life into your home and garden. There’s nothing like the long days, balmy weather and bright sunshine to make you want to revamp inside and out. Whether you want to make the most of your garden or brighten up a key space inside, summer decorating is all about bringing a breezy design ethos for a timeless feel.
Nature’s paintbox – flowers in all their variety, have long been popular for the home. But forget ditsy prints, the new take on ‘grandma chic’ is all about impact with big blooms and bold colours currently in vogue.
Nicola Sanders, a Cambridge-based interior designer, at Parsons Gray, sees incorporating florals as the first step in a summer revamp: “For a fresh scheme, take your cue from the garden. I like to accessorise with painterly florals, such as Bluebellgray cushions or Jessica Zoob‘s pixelated floral prints, designed for Romo Black Edition fabrics. Both will give a modern take on a classic theme and pretty-up an otherwise plain space.”
Renowned for its luxury, modern fabrics, Harlequin’s Amazilia range is inspired by the tropics with large-scale tropical flowers, hummingbirds, stylized foliage and botanical references at its heart. Scatter a few of the range’s ‘oh so pretty’ cushions for a burst of colour. Meanwhile, new for 2016, the brand’s Fauvisimo collection of textiles is based on the vibrant colours and bold brushstrokes of the early 20th century’s Fauvist art movement. Overblown peonies, foxgloves, tulips and sprays of blossom are contrasted with abstract stripes and ombré colours. Curtains and statement chairs in one of these fabrics will give a warm, summery feel all-year-round.
Harlequin’s design director, Claire Vallis, comments: “Bringing motifs from nature into our homes has long been a tradition, but in today’s interiors we are looking to more exotic locations and bolder colour combinations, taking inspiration from, for example, the flora and fauna of rainforests and patterns far flung locations.”
Also taking its lead from nature’s best, with cushions featuring birds, butterflies and bees, Rume’s bright and interesting accessories in bold colourways also contrast beautifully with a floral design scheme.
Another impactful way of reflecting nature in the home is to mirror a view with a similarly themed wallpaper. So, for instance, if a room looks out onto a lawn, use a bright green as your starting point, or if you can see flower-beds, choose a wallpaper that picks up on similar blooms or colours.
Meanwhile artist Gillian Arnold’s zingy Floral Dance and Autumn Flurry Wallpapers are perfect for statement walls and she says: “The beauty of florals is that they don’t need to try to have a brightening effect, or depict summer, they inherently have these qualities about them. They bring an instant freshness and spark of life to any surroundings, symbolising both growth and harmony.”
Floral upholstery is also making a return with statement chairs and sofas covered in bold fabrics suddenly looking modern again. Sofa Workshop’s Botanique Chair, for instance, combines a contemporary shape with a garden-inspired print. Contrast with an otherwise pared-back room for total impact.
Suzanne O’Flynn, creative director at John Sankey, which offers a range of handcrafted fine furniture, comments: “From feminine posy prints to bold botanical motifs, the trend for florals is an easy one to incorporate into interiors all year round. The exuberance of the Loseley Park Lime fabric on our Crinoline Chair injects a joyful burst of colour into the house, even on the darkest of days. The many colours within this painterly floral are easy to use as a creative palette for the rest of the room, making the piece an important anchor in decorative schemes.”
Meanwhile, Harvey’s coastal-themed upholstered furniture is perfect for reminiscing of summer days by the sea. Lisa Broad, head of buying at the brand, gives her advice: “With interior trends harking back to floral prints this season, living rooms shouldn’t shy away from being bold. Fabric is a great way of experimenting with iconic patterns and can be incorporated through a graphic print armchair and matching scatter cushions on a plain sofa.”
Using flowers and blooms in a scheme can lead to a maximalist approach, so tone the overall look down by carefully choosing the colour-palette for the rest of the room. Helen Shaw, marketing director of paint experts Benjamin Moore UK, comments: “When choosing your colours, consider how they complement the hues in the neighbouring areas. For an endless summer feeling, opt for white or cream walls with accents of blue or green to create an extension of the sky or the garden in your home, delivering a restful and calm feeling. If you want to make more of a statement but still achieve a bright summer scheme, use bold contrasting colours as accents. An accent colour can look fantastic next to a crisp neutral wall.”
Don’t forget your flooring when looking to introduce a bloom or two. Modern Rugs’ Hortus, Tulipani and Manila rugs bring the outside in with their bold botanical designs. Ben Dale, founder of Modern Rugs, says: “Bright florals and shades of green look good all year around and can even help cheer up a living space when the summer months are over. If you are choosing vibrant floral accessories, such as a rug or soft furnishings, then combine them with plainer muted shades for larger items of furniture in order to prevent the room from looking too busy. Alternatively you could choose to go for a colonial theme by using wood furniture and combining it with bold green botanicals.”
If all else fails, fill your home with fresh flowers for an instant freshener. The Cambridge Flower School offers a range of courses for those wanting to perfect the art. Sarah Clerk from the school comments: “We all love flowers in our home, whether it’s a simple jug of flowers picked from the garden or an impressive, formal arrangement. Flowers have a “feel good” factor and if you chose well, mix with seasonal foliage and use complimentary containers (and there are so many hidden around every home – just look in your kitchen cupboards) you will be amazed at what you can create.”
LET THE LIGHT IN
The main focus for homeowners when the summer months roll around is how to keep a room light and airy. Windows, and how they are dressed, are key. If you are looking for a major overhaul, then Cambridge-based Economy Windows can advise on energy efficient doors and windows. Otherwise, simply by updating the finishing touches can transform how your room performs when the temperatures start to rise.
Shannon Rose-Cox, product development manager at Clement Browne, a specialist in blinds and shutters, gives an insight into what is on trend: “We expect that a more streamlined look will continue to remain popular throughout 2016. The demand for a sleek, seamless finish on window coverings appears to be increasing and features such as hidden hinges and hidden tilt mechanisms will be key. While white or neutral shutters will always be popular, more and more customers are getting creative with their shutter colours. New painting processes mean you can choose any colour you like.”
Giving privacy and an innovative design ethos, The Window Film Company offers a range of options, from solar films, to avoid excess heat, to frosted window films in a range of designs. The films are ideal for giving privacy, especially for those who don’t like fussy window dressings.
For a unique investment, however, QMotion UK’s range of automated blinds are an innovative way to control light and shade. Ian Claxton, director at QMotion UK, comments: “The blinds operate from one central point by finger touch via a smartphone, tablet app or remote control. The wire-free concept means that there are no cords, power or control wires required at all and the user can install a fully motorised and intelligently controlled shading system without the need for chasing out walls or using an electrician. There’s a collection of over 400 fabrics and colours available, or, for a personal touch, you can supply your own imagery for QMotion UK to manufacture the blind with.”
To truly let the outdoors in, however, bi-fold doors remain one of the most popular home improvements of late. With its head office based in Cambridgeshire, Kloeber is a local, leading name in the glazing industry. Matt Higgs, co-owner and sales director, reveals more: “Creating more light and space in your home has become more and more essential over the last decade and the improvements in larger glazing systems has made this more achievable. Bi-fold doors, or folding sliding doors as they are also known, have become extremely popular as they open up your house to the garden and offer flexible configurations. We are also seeing a trend towards sliding doors over the last couple of years; gone are the days of the 1970s-style sliding doors – we now have lift and slide doors which move effortlessly even when they are in widths from 1.5m wide up to as wide as 13m.”
Local interior designer Nicola Sanders of Parsons Gray agrees: “If you are planning a rear extension, do consider incorporating bi-fold doors in your designs – the larger the better. In winter, they provide the perfect picture frame to the garden slumbering outside; on summer weekends, throw them wide open from breakfast time for a seamless holiday feel!”
YOUR SECOND LIVING ROOM
With many of us travelling more often, the UK garden scene has boomed of late with homeowners borrowing style ideas from our Mediterranean cousins, chic boutique hotels and coastal resorts. No longer are our gardens drab, forgotten spaces. Over recent years they have morphed into second living rooms (when the weather is kind, that is), with a wide range of stylish furniture and accessories available to transform even the dreariest corners.
Lowri Allpress, director at Jo Alexander, Cambridge’s garden emporium, comments: “Summer living should be easy living! With our busy lifestyles, creating a relaxing outdoor space is becoming even more important than ever. Invest in something like our teak day bed. It is furnished with a base cushion and scatter cushions and is perfect for unwinding on a hot day. Meanwhile, our new concrete and bamboo ranges introduce two of the most interesting materials available for garden furniture at the moment. Combine these with woven bamboo lanterns for stylish, summer nights.”
From Maze Living’s covetable rattan furniture to John Lewis’s modern dining sets, garden furniture has raised its game with a whole range of interesting styles on offer. Nicola Gidlow, John Lewis’s buyer for outdoor living, explains why: “The blurring of the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces means that entertaining is no longer confined to one area of the home and now commonly involves using kitchen, dining and outdoor spaces to create a flow though the home. Investing in weatherproof furniture allows for key pieces to be transferred outside when entertaining in the warmer months. Furnishing rooms, that back on to your garden, with accessories and cushions in bright, bold colours and prints will help warm up the inside of your home bring a touch of the outside indoors. To link the spaces choose similar patterns and hues for your outdoor accessories, this will help add a sense of unity to your entertaining space.”
Extex’s award-winning outdoor fabric collections are water repellent and stain resistant and just the thing to enhance a garden, even when it showers. This year’s collection of fabrics includes bright oranges, acidic shades of greens and blues and rich, rustic dark tones. For the wow-factor, add in statement pieces of sculpture, like the mirrored Flame and Dance pieces at In-Spaces. External lighting also adds atmosphere and prolongs the long days with added illumination when the sun goes in. Industrial-style wall lights and lanterns at J. Adams and Co are among our favourites.
Offering a range of garden sets and swing seats, Sweetpea & Willow’s whimsical take on summer is appealing to all. Jacquie Dunton, co-founder of the shop, says: “For those lucky enough to have the luxury of a large garden, much like inside the house, you should consider zoning. Create different spaces with the use of different styles of furniture, for example you can create a dining area with a beautiful table and chairs set for entertaining or a casual area with deck chairs, throws and plenty of cushions to relax and unwind with friends.
“Those with smaller gardens should consider stackable, shape shifting furniture that can be reconfigured depending on what the space is being used for,” she continues. “For example, our Higold Shenzou lounge seats can be stacked together to create cosy cocoons.”
For idyllic summer night scenes, scatter some of the Hogla Floor Seats, from design store Oggetto, around the Ignis Fire Bowl, from Scandi Living. Add a few of the Shepherd’s Crooks and Lanterns, from Pastel Lane, and drape pretty bunting, from Cambridge-based Susie Watson Designs, in trees.
“There’s nothing like a balmy summer for dining outside of a summer evening,” says Susie Watson. “Add some extra colour with bunting in the garden boughs and a touch of elegance as the sun sets with candlelight in pretty glass domes.”
OKA Living’s new stone garden furniture gives a grandeur to gardens and is just the thing for lazy dinner parties al fresco. “Dining al fresco is one of summer’s greatest pleasures,” says Julie Paul, head of interior design at OKA, “so turn outdoor entertaining into a proper occasion by insisting on real plates, glasses and cutlery. The outdoor table is the perfect place to experiment with colour and pattern – rich mustard and vibrant amaranth are on trend for 2016.”
Sometimes a lick of paint is just enough to uplift an otherwise tired garden. Head of creative at Farrow & Ball, Charlotte Cosby gives her insight: “Create an ‘outside room’ by linking the inside and exterior of your home with colour. Painting garden furniture using a hue that is also featured in your interior is so on trend. Try painting furniture in statement colours, like Charlotte’s Locks, for a dramatic look, or create a work of art in the garden by painting plant pots in Pelt, Vardo and Studio Green to make them an unusual decorative feature.”
For those with large gardens, a garden room – often a bespoke wooden or brick-built structure – is the perfect way to create more space outside of the home. Offering sleek cedar ‘pods’ and nostalgic shepherd’s huts, ideal for games rooms, offices or a serene retreat, Garden Hideouts are specialists in versatile outdoor living spaces.
Cambridge Timber Buildings also offer garden rooms, which can be made bespoke to your needs. Stacia Greenaway, director, reveals: “We have found that people are increasingly looking to create living spaces which better reflect their individual lifestyles. So when faced with the expensive options of extending or moving house, investing in an attractive garden room offers a simpler and more cost-effective way to personalise and extend their living spaces. At this time of year, in particular, when we are looking to spend more time outside, customers are seeking out our bespoke service to maximise unused corners of their gardens.”
For a quirky take on outside rooms, Raj Tents may not be as permanent but win in the style stakes. The Indian version of a traditional marquee, the tents are made from textiles that use traditional Rajasthani skills, such as hand block printing and embroidery. The brand, and many other innovative companies, will be exhibiting at next month’s Grow London, the contemporary garden fair, on at Hampstead Heath (24-26 June, www.growlondon.com).
A version of this article can be seen in the May issue of The Cambridge Edition