When summer is in full swing, people are more than happy to take advantage of the great weather, bright sun and outdoor activities! It gives us a chance to explore and reconnect, not only with people we may not see as often as we’d like, but also with the outdoors and ourselves.
Many people may not realize that summer also offers a unique opportunity to freshen their décor. Whether you decide to make design and decor changes indoors or outdoors, your choices will refresh your space and help you feel like a special guest in your own home. Even still, as an adult, the mere mention of summer brings the word ‘happy’ to my mind. Summer is a lighthearted, playful time of year, and with a little time and effort, your home can reflect this carefree attitude. Here are a few ideas to get you in the spirit of the season.
Move the Living Room Outside
Extending your living area outside and connecting with your surroundings seems natural during the summer months. There’s almost something decadent about having another separate living space outside. I mentioned in a recent blog post that outdoor patios and porches are perhaps the most underutilized area of our home. They offer an amazing opportunity to expand our living space and our square footage. During the warm summer months, outdoor spaces should be a continuation of your interior spaces, and making them mirror your interiors is an easy way to do so. Create a living area outside this summer and see what happens! Include seating to encourage guests to sit, socialize and relax. Anchor the area with an outdoor rug that echoes your décor inside. Using outdoor chairs and ottomans that are comfortable with colorful fluffy pillows and cushions made from weather-resistant fabric is an excellent way to make an inviting area no one will want to leave! There are also numerous accessories available that will help thread the look of your interiors into your new outdoor living spaces, such as art, mirrors and wall clocks that will make any outdoor room look complete. Don’t forget to add end tables and a coffee table for convenient places to set food and drinks.
To create the ultimate outdoor living room, consider having an arbor added to your backyard that incorporates the use of fabric panels to create your own personal cabana. I’ve found that adding a pantry area for clients to house candles, matches, plastic plates, cups, barware, napkins and a few serving pieces is a welcome addition to their outdoor area and saves unnecessary trips back and forth to the kitchen. The finishing touch for kids and adults alike is an outdoor fireplace or fire pit to help them stay warm on cool, early summer evenings, and it is a perfect place to roast a few marshmallows after dining al fresco with friends. Remember, it’s summer and it’s all about light-hearted fun!
Whether it’s indoors or outside, the kids probably need a quiet space for summer reading during their three month break from school; or you may need a space to get away from the kids! A reading nook is the perfect place to escape. Take a look around your home or outdoor space and get creative, as long as it’s quiet and comfortable, with adequate lighting. Most importantly, a reading space should be a peaceful area free of noise and the traffic of a household. Surround yourself with objects, colors and textures that make you feel at ease, and be sure the area is relatively clutter-free. Don’t forget to incorporate the use of a small table to make room for a glass of water or an afternoon cocktail! This is all about time for you.
Create a Summertime Tablescape
Summer is the perfect season to entertain family and friends and who doesn’t love a summer meal? Since the heat of the day is in the afternoon, guests will enjoy an early brunch or an evening dinner party. Have fun arranging the dinner table with tasteful, lighthearted summertime elements, like shells and flowers, candles and glass candle holders. Whether you favor formal or casual, eclectic or traditional, try using a variety of different colors, textures and patterns. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to make an impact is with the addition of fresh flowers and potted plants. Freshly-cut, brightly colored flowers from your own garden or from the floral section at your local store make such a difference in your home and at a table! Avoid using heavy, dark or bulky vases and let the flowers take center stage.
It’s no secret that color has an impact on our moods and plays a major role in any design project. Understand that colors behave in three basic ways: active (reds, yellows and oranges), passive (pastels, blue and green), and neutral (crème and white). Dark colors are sophisticated and cozy and they give large rooms a more intimate appearance. Light colors are expansive and airy and they make rooms seem larger and brighter. Personally, I enjoy combining both in my designs for clients while maintaining an overall feel, because I want them to be uplifted and happy when they use their rooms. Since summer is all about a fresh, happy feeling, take advantage of the bright summer sun and increased light levels and choose bright and airy colors or patterns, using those that incorporate the feeling of the season.
You may also enjoy incorporating fun summer accents like brightly colored vases, vintage glass bottles filled with sand or shells, a few antique frames and wicker baskets. Summer is also an excellent time to replace your throw pillow slipcovers with bright, happy designs or just replace your pillows altogether!
Consider swapping your traditional front door for one that’s a little more charming. Though we live in coastal Southern California, I’ve spent a lot of time on the East Coast. So perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to this little-used feature when I see it here. A Dutch door is divided horizontally into two half-doors, and either half can be left open or closed, letting in the warm, summer breeze. If you don’t want to change your front door, consider installing one leading to the back porch. Keeping the top open allows conversation to flow easily during parties between the house and backyard or when the kids are playing outside; and the kids love the cool factor of having a door that opens in two places!
Summer entertaining isn’t complete until you set the mood with lighting. There are so many options from candles and chandeliers, to candelabras, sconces and hurricane lamps. When considering an evening with friends, I always, always, always brighten a table and dark corners with candles. If your outdoor area is large enough, weave several strands of garden lights through the trees or highlight a path, stairs or pool edge with luminaries. Luminaries are containers or sacks filled with sand and a candle and there are gorgeous upscale ceramic or metal versions available through outdoor living stores. Candlelight will twinkle through the holes in the luminaries, allowing light to bounce around and flicker in the dark, throughout the evening.
Summertime is a time when we are energized and full of ideas, so it is an excellent time to incorporate new ideas into our home décor and design. This summer, give yourself permission to let your imagination go a bit and see what kind of changes you can incorporate into your own living spaces!
Summer is birthday season for my boys. Conor, the Leo, begins his third year of teenager–hood this summer, while Kiki, the Cancer, enters his second year in the world of double digits. Despite the unbelievable speed of these developments, many things about their birthdays have remained constant throughout the years: the candles blown out on Krispy Kremes instead of cakes, the birthday morning treasure hunt for presents, and their tireless requests to hear stories about the day they came into the world.
Another constant is how their birthdays always have the power of leading me to reflect upon where I am as a parent, where my children are, and how we are connecting together. Beginning with those earliest days and months of their lives when they were so dependent on me for most of their needs, and shifting with each successive year, I am continually amazed by this “connection” dance of dependence, independence, and detachment.
So what is healthy connection?
On one hand, the more connected I feel to my boys, the more I am able to feel empathetic to their perspective, and what they face in the world. When I am in tune, it’s so much easier to see my eleven–year–old’s testiness and impatience in relation to the amount of homework, fatigue, or other pressures he faces at various times in his life. To see that it’s not that different from when he was young and missed his morning nap, or accompanied me on too many errands and inevitably a meltdown ensued. In each circumstance, he is conveying his need for space, refueling, or rest.
Feeling connected also helps me understand that my teenager’s constant testing of what he can and cannot do on his own, [which] is his way of researching the push and pull of independence and security. It reminds me of when he was first able to walk away from me at the park as a toddler. He loved going far away but often looked back, sometimes to make sure I was where he left me, other times to see if I would come and set a limit on the path he chose. And even though he doesn’t always like my limits, when I feel connected, I see that at each stage in his life he has the same need for Mom, his “safe harbor” to be there for him, as he explores the world.
Yet, the other side of connectedness is not being so connected that we follow our children to every emotional place they go, and everything they experience becomes our experience. This is especially true, as we all know, when it comes to their struggles, heartaches and fears. Practically, this means not letting our egos allow us to take all the credit or blame for their choices, behaviors or achievements, no matter how tempting. When my boys experience success or challenge, be it athletically, academically or socially, it’s so difficult not to feel and experience the same joy or pain they do. Yet, when I am connected, I know that in order to determine the appropriate action or response to these situations, I must remain a little detached–to see these moments as ultimately their journey (not mine), where once again I remain their safe harbor, if and when they need me.
This detachment also includes knowing what information we need to know about our children and respecting there are things we never need to know. Especially now with the tweens and teens upon me, I see this happening more and more. How much of my boys’ experiences, interactions and feelings do they need to share with me? How much did I want to share with my parents when I was their age? As the Kabat-Zinns observe in their book, Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, “The quality and warmth of our connections with our children will be proportional to how much we continue to do our own inner work, and keep a sense of appropriate boundaries… according the same freedom and respect to our children as they transition every year from total dependency… to independent and interdependent adults.”
So in closing this summertime, birthday reflection, I would like to share a poem I revisit often, given to me as a new mother by my parents, that speaks so beautifully to this ever shifting, constantly challenging, yet powerful journey of connection:
On Children by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
We are so fortunate in Southern California to have beautiful weather throughout the year and the natural beauty of mountain ranes to the ocean side surrounding us. All beautiful settings to fall in love in, but many times we can find ourselves in the busy pace of life asking… “where is the love?”
We want to share the work of Dr. Gary Chapman as a compass to finding the love that is there, but perhaps is not being translated into your “love language”. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of a series of books all surrounding the topic of The 5 Love Languages®. He has also provided therapy for couples and families and found a common theme that kept surfacing. In simplicity, he found that how one person showed or expressed their love to another may not have translated correctly to their partner, child, family member. This loss in translation could leave one feeling unloved when in actuality they just were not speaking each other’s love language. Dr. Chapman identifies the following 5 Love Languages® to describe how one interprets love:
- Acts of Service: Receiving help makes this person’s life easier which shows compassion and expression of love.
- Words of Affirmation: Compliments, hearing “I love you” and why can send this person to the moon.
- Quality Time: This person thrives on uninterrupted attention, and being made like she or he is the only one that matters.
- Receiving Gifts: Receiving gifts shows this person she/he matters.
- Physical Touch: This does not necessarily mean sex, but this person enjoys being touched in a loving manner.
Identifying which language(s) speak to you is only part of the equation. The other important piece is finding out what the love languages are for those around you. For example, if “Words of Affirmation” speaks to you but your partner is “Acts of Service,” how do you learn to communicate your love and also feel loved in return? Can you learn a new language?
You can assess your love language at www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/. Then you can ask those around you to do the same. You can do the following assessments for wives, husbands, singles, children, parents of teenagers, and languages of apology. You can do this with the whole family.
If you choose to do this with your family, have everyone give examples of how that love language looks for them. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want. This is very important, so no misinterpretation happens and your needs are getting met. Please note there may be more than one love language that you may speak. Start with one and give ways to implement it. Check in and see if everyone is feeling the love.
When it comes to our children, it is so important that they feel the love. As we know, how a child interprets love during their formative years can help promote healthy self-esteem, self-confidence, and security. Learning your child’s love language can help fill their cup, so to speak. Dr. Chapman will also be releasing a children’s book soon on helping children
identify the different love languages. It is never too soon to have the discussion or observation of your little or not so little one(s).
In our practice we often see couples struggle while juggling the transitions in parenthood. Please use this tool to support each others needs. Take the time to refill each other’s cups. Cheers.