Interior designer offers ideas for a summer home face-lift

Start anywhere from paint to pillows

The Washington PostJune 13, 2013 

Marika Meyer

Marika Meyer of Marika Meyer Interiors


Marika Meyer, an interior designer, has been featured in HGTV, Home & Design and Luxe magazines, and on Martha Stewart Living Radio. She recently chatted at about how to freshen your home for summer.

Here is an edited excerpt.

Question: Every summer I dream of owning a beach house, but until then, I often think of decorating just one room that has that beach-house feel. Any suggestions on where I can purchase items that I can store and bring out in the summer? Nothing too big, just small items that say "beach."

Answer: I love spending time at the beach and have found my own way of bringing that aesthetic home. I love to accessorize with shells and coral. On my bookcases in my library I have a few pieces of brain coral and favorite shells that I keep out year-round; every time I see them I think of lazy afternoons by the ocean. These items can be collected on trips or purchased.

Q: We love your website,, and noticed how you often use built-ins in rooms and decorate behind the shelving. We'd like to give that a try in our living room. How do we select the wallpaper or paint for the back?

A: The back of bookcases is a great place to have a little fun. I often will use a bold patterned wallpaper to add some punch to a room. ... I like adding fabric or a textured wallcovering because it helps to soften the feel of millwork.

Q: We rarely use our living room these days. We've often thought of turning it into a place for just adults. Have you done this? And if so, what are some suggestions for starting the process?

A: You are not alone. I personally love using our living room because it is a true escape from toys and the chaos of family life. On many of our projects clients ask to turn the living room into a space that can really be a retreat for parents at the end of a long day. Using comfortable but elegant upholstery is the first step — something that will welcome you at the end of a long day but be fashionable enough for cocktails with friends. Pairing comfort with case goods and tables that are reflective of your style will help translate the space into one that welcomes you rather than feels unapproachable.

Q: We have a great family room, and it's kid-friendly but not so attractive. Any suggestions for window treatments and accessories to make a space the whole family can enjoy?

A: Window treatments are always a great way to transform a space. Depending on the window type plus the age of your children, you can either do drapery panels or roman shades. Panels can add height to a room by creating a strong vertical line, but I know how little ones like to play in them. Roman shades are a great way to soften a window as well, and if you do an outside mount, Roman shades can help a small window feel much larger. For accessories, try a fun tray for a cocktail table or an unusual collection of boxes for the side table.

Q: We just painted our family room and bought some furniture but can't decide on art or finishing touches. We have two young children and want the space to be fun for them but a bit grown-up for us, too. Any suggestions?

A: Congratulations on making progress to fix up your home. For family room spaces you can get away with more colorful accessories since the "volume of life" is louder in that space. Fun pillows with a great pattern and in punch colors along with a coordinating throw create great accents.

For art in family space we often have custom frames made that we cycle children's art through. When someone comes home from school with a new piece of art it can easily be displayed. It's a fun way to showcase your children's art and show unique art in the space!

Q: I always aspire to have my home — or at least one room in the house — look as good as a room in a magazine. What are some baby steps to get there?

A: It's important to try to address all the areas in each room rather than filling out various rooms partially. For example, many people buy furniture but ignore the windows and floor, which leave a space feeling cold and uninviting. In magazine spreads, each room has been filled with finishing touches and accessories. For your sofa, select the right pillows and throw; add decorative items to bookcases and the mantel; and never underestimate the power of fresh flowers!

Q: There are so many options for paint colors, especially the neutral tones. We'd like to find a main color that we might use throughout the house so we don't want to make a mistake. Where do we start to find the right color?

A: For neutral tones I often turn to Benjamin Moore. For a first step it's important to figure out if you want the space to have a cool or warm feel. Once that decision has been made, I suggest looking through their OC colors and Historical Colors. Some of my favorite go-to neutrals are Manchester Tan and Baby Fawn.

Q: We've just become empty nesters and we're downsizing. We don't have room for all the family photos, so we want to select just a few photos and treasures to display. We also need help deciding on the scale of furniture for our new place.

A: It is always hard to edit personal possessions. Having someone come in who does not have the emotional connection will help give perspective to items. Designers can also think of creative ways to incorporate family items in a fresh way. Maybe it is keeping a piece from your grandmother but updating it with paint or a new finish. We often work with clients who are having a difficult time working with a family piece that they are not ready to part with.

Q: I love springtime and am looking forward to spending time on my patio. What advice can you offer for breathing new life into my outdoor furniture and accessories?

A: There are so many great indoor/outdoor materials to select from. I just bought a couple of Dash & Albert outdoor throw pillows for my patio chairs. They are in a bright orange and white chevron that I am pairing with a vintage white wicker elephant that I also painted orange. It is a fun splash of color that we will enjoy at low cost for the next few months.

Q: With a young family, we just never have enough room for everything — between the toys, clothing, backpacks, etc. We need practical solutions for storage but also don't want bins stacked to the ceiling. We'd love to hear your ideas.

A: Many of my projects are with clients who have young children at home. As a mom with two little ones I understand how quickly toys accumulate. I think the most important tool to help is concealed storage. I use built-ins frequently with families. We do a base cabinet with doors or drawers and open shelving on top. In our house we make a point of teaching our son that he needs to put the cars and trucks back in the "garage" before bedtime.

Q: Can you suggest quick and easy, and budget friendly, tips for freshening a space?

A: Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint. And remember not to ignore the ceilings and trim. One of my favorite tricks is to tint the ceiling in a pale subtle blue or green. It is a great way to lighten the space and also to trick the eye into thinking the ceilings are taller than they are. Trim also gets grimy over time. A fresh coat on your trim can often freshen up the whole room.

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