There are environments that seem to breathe coolness and serenity: soft colors from the blue-green spectrum, undraped windows framing a view of the outdoors, and the absence of clutter.
As we weather the hottest days of the year, giving our surroundings a cool look and the ambience of a house at the shore can help.
Interior designer Victoria C. Cooke believes that decorating for summer is as necessary as "changing your wardrobe."
"In winter, we need the warmth of curtains, and we tend to arrange our furniture near the fireplace, yet in summer we orient ourselves toward the French doors and the outside," Cooke says.
Designers agree that a "less-is-more" philosophy is the key to coolness. Clearing the clutter from table-tops and replacing curtains and drapes with panels of lace or sheer, see-through white cotton or linen are the options they frequently mention.
Leslie Linsley, author of the just-published design quarto "Nantucket Style" (Rizzoli, $40), knows a lot about how to create that summer look. An island resident, she visited dozens of Nantucket homes in the course of researching her book.
White, all-weather wicker used indoors and outdoors is a staple of island summer decorating. Fashioned from specially treated wicker woven onto an aluminum frame, this new variety of wicker is hardy, handsome and available in classic design styles.
"It has that wonderful 'Great Gatsby,' old-porchy kind of look," Linsley says. The old-fashioned, non-weatherproof wicker is popular, too. Its airy weave, portability and adaptability to many different styles of interiors have made wicker furniture--which was ubiquitous from the 1880s through the 1930s--a summer standby. Even a single chair or a small table in white or neutral wicker can lend a serene note to a room.
Another house-at-the-shore look is the pickled floor, Linsley says. "(Homeowners) give their floors a white or soft, seashell-pink wash and just use scatter rugs."
Cooke finds that the sisal rug, made from woven straw fiber, is an inexpensive floor covering suited to summer living. Available in its natural color or in soft, dyed shades, the sisal rug can be customized with a stenciled border of flowers or other design motif.
"In the summer, we need to decorate to allow the breezes to blow through the house," says Cooke, who likes to replace drapes with a simple curtain of sheer fabric such as lawn, voile or batiste. Many designers advocate no curtains at all during the summer. The window itself thus becomes a frame for the world outside, and the colors of the yard become part of the interior.
Another inexpensive design alternative for the window is a roller shade of rattan, bamboo or paper.