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Decorating my home for my Spring Open House last week got me in the mood for summer! After a busy spring, I can’t wait for the long, languid days of June and July, for lazy Sunday afternoons spent reading a good book on my screened porch, for Saturday evenings out on the patio, enjoying a great meal with dear friends. I hope you’re ready to surrender to summer, too. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of this delicious season. 

Let the Sun Shine In

There is no better season to showcases today’s hot hues than this summer. Everywhere you turn in the next few months, you’ll see happy colors on display, whether it’s in summer clothing, summer flower gardens or summer décor. Try adding just a pop of color here and there, and see what you think. That’s what I did a few years ago in my living room. This warm but formal room is filled with antiques and traditional furnishings, all featuring neutral colors. My cream colored upholstered furniture is the perfect blank canvas for experimenting with color.

While the combination of apple green and navy has held my heart tightly for the past few years, I’m beginning to be equally as enchanted with coral. For my Spring Open House, I added a dab of coral to my décor by simply plopping matching coral pillows down on a pair of armless side chairs, and putting an interesting coral colored vase on the chest behind the chairs. I was startled by how much this corner of my living room brightened up just by these easy additions.

Try the same at your home. Work in a pillow or two in a new color (it’s easy to do – just slipcover one of your existing pillows!), make a super simple table topper out of a yard of brightly colored fabric or lay down an inexpensive flat-weave area rug. You’ll feel like you pulled back the drapes and let the sun shine in!

Find a Place to Dream

Summer is the season to slow your life down and take time to dream. There is something so energizing about taking time out to let your mind wander. How else can you hatch new plans? To dream big, you need a quiet spot that soothes your senses. At my home, one of those spots is a small iron bench that sits in a secluded corner of my courtyard garden. On more than one occasion I’ve found my husband hiding there, enjoying a cigar after dinner. And the cats love to nap on this bench in the afternoon sun.

It’s easy to create a dreaming spot. First, find a quiet niche someplace out of the fray, whether it’s indoors or out. Outfit your retreat with a comfortable seat. I added a plump pillow to our iron bench so it’s easier to recline. Then, surround yourself with things you find beautiful, like pots of flowers or whimsical accents. I predict that this little oasis will becomes one of your favorite hideaways at home.

Offer a Warm Greeting

I really love homes that have a welcoming exterior. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a creative touch to the door or some plants on the stoop. It takes just minutes to decorate the entry of your home, yet it pays big dividends. This summer, I’ve spruced up my front door with an understated but romantic decoration. I found a simple light blue and white transferware plate in my stash of mismatched plates. I fastened a metal plate gripper around the plate so I could hang it from my door knocker with a soft, limp, cream colored silk ribbon. Then, I tucked in a few sprigs of white faux spring blooms. It looks fresh and light and so sweet.

I love planters full of live plants around my home in the summer, but I am not much of a gardener, so my front porch always features the same easy-care plantings. You’ll find two-balled topiaries planted in matching black iron urns on either side of my door. The concrete urns built into my front porch railing always hold Kimberly Queen ferns. I am hooked on Kimberly Queen ferns because they are readily available, inexpensive and thrive despite the abuse they suffer from me. I often forget to water, but these beauties not only survive, they thrive.

Play a Little

In summer, I like to add a few fresh touches to my regular décor. This year I’m doing so with fabulous cutout pottery, delightful pieces crafted in standard shapes, yet featuring a cutout design that allows light to shine through. I put one of these huge white cutout temple jars on a pillar in the corner of my screened porch. It brightens up the corner, adding some chic shine and interesting texture. Yet, the cutout pattern ensures the vase doesn’t obstruct the view of the garden behind it. You can see the green of the trees right through the cutout pattern.

We have reams of these cutout pottery pieces in all shapes, sizes and colors at Nell Hill’s right now, and they are flying out the door. They look dynamite all by themselves, like the jar on my porch, or grouped together in an interesting arrangement. I’d recommend clustering a group that features different shapes and sizes. You can also mix up the colors, if you want more pop. To add soft light to your summer evenings, try this trick: Insert a large battery operated pillar candle in the cutout pottery and watch the light dance through.

Get Fresh

Whenever I entertain, I like to use as many fresh flowers as I can. It may be as simple as grabbing a bunch of sweetheart roses, cutting the stems short and creating a tight bouquet in a small vase or jar, then tucking it on a side table. Or it may be sweet talking one of my friends who can work wonders with flowers to create a few showy floral displays for my dining room table, entry or buffet. During the summer months, I only have to look outside my door for the flowers I need to make my year-round displays special. Snip off a single hydrangea bloom, a rose or geranium and place it in a small vase, an antique bottle, a celery jar or an a salt cellar. No matter what grows in your garden, whether it’s showy blooms or soothing greens, bring them inside this summer. Don’t have a garden? Don’t let that stop you! Swing by a florist or the floral section of your grocery store and snatch a bouquet of seasonal blooms.

Next Week …Whether you’re entertaining guests this summer or just making dinner for your family, it’s fun to come up with attractive ways to present your food and beverage services. I’ll have ideas, complete with photos, from my Spring Open House, next week.

P.S. Don’t miss a bit of Nell Hill’s news – stay up to date on my favorite finds, new arrivals at the stores and all our special events by checking the Nell Hill’s Facebook page every day. You don’t have to have a Facebook page yourself to look in on the fun, but if you’re already on Facebook, “like” us today!

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16 Responses to “Surrender to Summer”

  1. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    Your entrance is always so elegant, and inviting. I love it. Thanks for the tips. I too adore the summer and it’s lazy days. I want to do nothing but sit on my porch and breathe in the scents of my flowers and all the familiar smells that surround my home. Thanks.

  2. Glendana Says:

    The color of your house is so very nice. Do you happen to know the paint color? I have been trying to find a neutral color to paint my guest room turned office in my 80 year old home.

  3. Betsy Woods Says:

    When we lived in Leavenworth in 1992, I found Nell Hills.
    I am so excited because we are driving from St. George, Utah to meet friends from St. Louis in Atchison at Marigolds for lunch SO THAT WE CAN GO TO NELL HILLS TO SHOP on Thursday, May 31st.
    The girls have not been to Nell Hills so I insisted that our Kansas
    travels include Mary Carol’s beautiful work of art.

    One trip, I traveled with 2 friends from Colorado Springs to Atchison to introduce them and one friend bought all the fabric for her draperies, etc. for her new Florida home. It is beautiful and she loves it.
    Of course, my daughter did her nursery for her firstborn with fabric from there. That was in 1999.

    I am such a fan. Mary Carol is incredibly talented and it is such
    a joy to have the opportunity to visit her stores.


  4. Patty Says:

    I so enjoyed the tour of you home last week. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place. Could you please tell me the color of your living room? Also the color of the ceiling of your screened-in porch? Thanks.

  5. Diane | An Extraordinary Day Says:

    Thanks so much for such lovely inspiration!

  6. Sandy Barnum Says:

    Mary Carol, I enjoy your blog each week & wanted to say thank you for taking the time to dish out a little design inspiration each week. It is appreciated.

  7. Sharon Mihalsky Says:

    I so look forward to your weekly blog. I especially enjoyed today’s. The subject of summer was on my mind today, simply because we are experiencing heat and finally humidity here in the lower south. Cannot wait to see the open house photos!

  8. Glenna Morrow Says:

    Thank you for the many years of decorating inspirations! My husband and I both love our trips to Nell Hills. I frequently have houseguests (mainly girlfriends) and I was wondering if you would share all the “little extras” you provide in the bedroom to make their stay more enjoyable and comfortable.

  9. mimi tafour Says:

    Hi MC,
    So hated missing your Spring Open “Home”….with the sweet grand babies in Georgia. Enjoying your beautiful photos, however. Thanks! BLESSINGS

  10. Julie Says:

    Loved, loved, all of your suggestions. I just want to get in the car and go shop at Nell’s Hill. I been to the Atchinson store several times and go home with a backseat full of new treasures.
    We recently moved to Highlands Ranch, CO and we are building a new townhouse.
    I really liked the paint color used in your dining room. Would you be willing to share the paint color?.
    It’s time for another day at Nell’s Hill.
    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Mary Carol Says:

    So glad you had a nice time at our spring open house. Just recently we painted the walls in our dining room to the sugar cookie and the garrity cream on the trim. The screened in porch ceiling is the front porch—but who knows, next week it might be something different! All of course part of the Mary Carol paint collection.

  12. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Glenna–Love to have one of my girlfriends or my sis stay with me and spoil them rotten. I do different things from time to time, but some of my favorite things are: a robe hanging on their door (one of those items that is heavy to pack), current magazines and a book of short stories for some private time in their room. Love a hot carafe of coffee outside their door in the morning and a couple of bottled waters. My guest room is not set up for this, but I love a TV in the room to help with a little wind down time. Of course fresh flowers are always nice!

  13. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Glendana–My outside paint color on my home is the farmhouse white from the Mary Carol paint collection.

  14. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Julie–The paint color from the Mary Carol paint collection available in the stores or online is the ‘Twlight Blue’ in my dining room. So glad you like it–I do too!

  15. Hope Says:

    I love the picture of your living room. You said the color in your dining room is Sugar Cookie. Is your living room painted the same color? Also, do you recommend using a single paint color for an open concept floor plan?

  16. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Hope,
    As mentioned my dining room is our ‘Twilight Blue’
    My living room is our ‘Sugar Cookie’.–both available online and in the NH’s stores.
    Yes, I believe a single paint is the most appropriate for an open concept room. Then feel free to use contrast in the a-joining room.

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