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Decorating tips to help you stay cool

Summer slipcovers and straw rugs. Ah, doesn’t that sound nice? So simple. So cool. So summery. That’s the chapter title from the late interior designer Mark Hampton’s celebrated decorating book, in which he also mentions bamboo blinds, bare floors, white flowers, muslin fabrics and green and white striped awnings.

Certain items in our decor look or feel cool on hot summer days. I thought of this while jingling the ice cubes in my near-empty glass of iced tea the other day, watching the cat stretched out on the glass-topped coffee table. Nearby, in the hallway, the dog was napping on the ceramic floor by the front door, possibly dreaming about a refreshing swim in the lake.

Wait, that would be a nightmare for him. He doesn’t like the water.

Nevertheless, Hampton in his book reminded us: “In the days before air-conditioning, it was enormously important to invent ways not only to be cool but also to help make you think you were cool. The subconscious language of decoration is loaded with symbols that carry visual messages extending far beyond the realm of mere prettiness.”

And even today, with our modern electric fans or central air, “the desire for a seasonal change in decoration continues to be felt.”

I once had a bedroom with white-on-blue floral wallpaper, white-painted furniture, including wicker pieces, and white bedding. That room always made me feel cooler when I walked in, while I avoided the black leather sofas in the carpeted den on hot days.

Interior designer Pamela Witte knows what I’m talking about.

“In my own bedroom, I went from a very subtle red to Silver Marlin. It’s a blue-green-gray from Benjamin Moore. It’s so delightfully cool; it’s just such a refreshing change. Visually, it makes you feel cool,” said Witte, owner of White Orchard Home Furnishings, 4203 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park.

So does swapping out your area rugs – even changing the rug near your front door to a cooler tone – or changing your pillows out, from heavily textured to linen, she said.

When you look at cooler colors – the whites, blue-grays, and blue-greens – on sheets, pillows covers, even dinnerware, it can psychologically make you feel cooler, we decided.

On the other hand, “My kitchen is red. I love my red kitchen in the wintertime, but in the summertime I feel hot in there, even with the air-conditioning. It’s the color,” Witte said.

“Yet when you think about it, we have longer cooler months than summer so I do put up with it. I love to come home in the wintertime and light some candles. You sit in there, and it’s cozy as can be. It’s just delightful. But in the summertime, it’s hot,” she said.

Thank goodness for the wading pool. That’s right. She and her husband have an inexpensive 2-foot wading pool they fill up now and then to cool off in the evening.

As Hampton put it: “The summer garb of a house can be deliciously appealing.”