Light, Bright Summer Decor for Your Apartment

Author: Alecia Pirulis

summer flowers

During the winter, your apartment was a warm, cozy retreat. The fireplace blazed, a chenille throw blanket was a welcome addition to your couch for those cold nights, and your dark, heavy drapes kept the cold air from entering through your apartment windows. Soft, fluffy pillows lined your couch, perfect for propping your head (or feet) on as you sat in front of the fire.

Now, the fireplace is a dark, gaping hole in your living room, the chenille throw is cloying, the draperies block the brilliant summer sun, and those pillows are just getting shoved aside or tossed on the floor. It is time to lighten (and brighten) your apartment for summer!

First, put away those pillows, the throw blanket, and the heavy drapes. Store them in a bin under your bed or in a closet, or place them in your storage ottoman. Clear out the winter clutter, and while you are at it, discard any knickknacks sitting around that you don’t like (that elephant statue Aunt Edna gave you for Christmas? Hideous! She’s back home now … she’ll never know).

Don’t think that decorating for summer means you have to rush out and buy new things.  You can easily decorate with what you have, or you can make new. For example, find that glass trifle bowl you only use at the holidays for your famous butterscotch-pudding-and-nutter-butter-cookie dessert. Fill it half full with sand and put a white pillar candle in the center. Fill around the candle with seashells – and perhaps a starfish or two. (Or, if you live near the coast and collect beach glass, try sprinkling this around for a unique look.) There! A centerpiece for your coffee table or dining room table that didn’t cost a penny.

Now, about that fireplace … it is so pretty in the winter, when it is being used. During the summer, it just looks sad. Clean your fireplace out and go on a hunt around your apartment (or at local garage sales) for summery statues — cast-iron bird statues, a garden gnome … a gazing ball … whatever you find interesting — and set it in (or in front of) your fireplace.

You can make a simple “fireplace screen” that is only used in the summer (when the fireplace isn’t on). Find a wood frame (or make one) and spray-paint it a lively summer color. Attach screen (you can find this at the hardware store), and then attach some “found” branches (spray-painted different colors). Very carefully (use gloves to protect your hands) cut out some “leaves” from aluminum cans. Sand the edges down a little so they aren’t sharp. Hot-glue the “leaves” around the branches (leave them with the colors of the cans visible or you can paint them). To make the screen more kid-friendly, use craft-store beads instead and you’ll have “berries” instead of “leaves.” Prop this up against the fireplace and enjoy your colorful (fake!) fireplace screen.

Outdoor furniture is perfect to give your apartment a “summer” look.  Take a wicker table from your balcony or patio and use it to brighten up a corner (add some flowers in a colorful pitcher). Also, look for items that are traditionally used outdoors (yard statues, decorative flags, etc.) and use them around your apartment – it will bring the outdoors in.

About those windows – the ones that are now bare, since removing those heavy winter drapes? You can leave them bare (especially if your window has blinds), or you can add lightweight fabric shower curtains with a bright, summertime theme (flowers, fish, palm trees). You can also use those decorative outdoor flags in front of your windows (use clip-on rings to hang) or even linen tea towels.

If you want a beach-themed focal point for your wall (over the fireplace or behind the couch), look for an old window at local flea markets and garage sales. Find a shelf that is the same width as the mirror and attach it to the bottom frame of the window. Paint the window and shelf the same color. Find some beach-inspired scrapbooking paper and cut them to fit each frame (a different paper per frame). You can add a few decals or stickers in front of the paper, or place some “window clings” directly onto the glass. Hang it and place some seashells, a candle, and other summery items on the shelf.

There! Now that your apartment is ready for summer, get out and enjoy the warm temperatures! (Collect items from your summer travels. You can fill a glass jar or vase with some sand and add your mementos and photos to make a unique diorama.

Light Up Your Apartment

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Glass Jar Pendant Light

Glass Jar Pendant Light (Photo credits: West Elm)

Those living in apartments know how important lighting is – especially those living in center units. When there are neighbors on either side, above, and below you, it can be tough to get a lot of natural light. You may find that while the living room or dining area has plenty of natural light from windows, the bedroom or the kitchen could use some help. With a little work and some strategic light placement, those rooms lacking light will begin to glow.

If you don’t like traditional lighting or you want to add some personality through your lighting, or you just don’t have much money to go out and buy expensive lamps, you can still get a great look, have plenty of light, and have money left in your wallet.

You may have seen the fancy, round pendant lamps that look like balls of string and wondered how they were made. There are plenty of tutorials on how to make these, such as on Craftynest.com. Go to the local discount store’s toy section and buy a bouncy ball (if you plan to hang several, buy a variety of different size bouncy balls). Head over to the craft section and get some craft glue (make sure it dries clear) and several balls of hemp string. Finally, go to the hardware section and get a lamp-making kit (wires and hardware) for each pendant.

Toward the bottom of the ball (where the little air valve is), draw a circle with a marker, about an inch away from the valve all the way around. (You’ll have to be able to get the wiring and bulb in there so make sure the space is big enough for your hand to fit.) That area won’t contain any string. Cover the hemp with the glue as you wrap it around the ball. Go all around the ball until you get the look you want. Go around several times – the more you wrap the stronger your lamp will be. Make sure you leave space in the string pattern for heat to escape.

Let it dry then deflate the ball with an inflating needle. Pull the ball out and use your lamp-making kit to wire up your pendant. Use a low-wattage compact florescent light bulb (which gives off less heat) and make sure the bulb isn’t touching the shade.

Use your imagination to create lamps. Once you get the hang of using the lamp-making kit, you can turn wire planters, wine bottles, mason jars, and even old toys into interesting and fun lighting. (I recently came across a lamp base that was made of old action figures glued together and spray-painted gold. What a unique way to “upcycle” old toys!) If you are really handy (and tend to buy a lot of cookies and popcorn that comes in tins), you can even make a floor lamp by stacking a variety of different size and shape snack tins and securing them together.

If you don’t want to build lamps from scratch, you can find great old lamps at flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores. Look for the size and shape you want, check to make sure the wiring, switch, and socket are in good shape, and ignore everything else – with a little craft (and spray) paint, some stencils, some craft glue, ribbon, fabric, and whatever else you can come up with, you can turn that old, tired lamp into a work of art.

Don’t just add a table or floor lamp to the room and call it a day. Your space will feel more vibrant if you add a variety of lighting options, from floor lamps to hanging lamps to wall sconces to rope lighting. Placement of your lighting is also important – soft lighting is fine in a seldom-used corner, but near your reading area or over your desk you may want something a little brighter. Hang mirrors in strategic locations in the room (on the opposite wall from the lamp, for example) where the light from the lamps will “bounce” and brighten up your space even more.

If you are allowed to paint in your apartment, brighten up darker rooms with pale colors that will reflect the light, such as a sky blue or a soft cream. Add a few touches of bold, bright colors in throw pillows and accessories to make the room even more vibrant, and add a few shade-loving potted plants to further create the illusion of natural light. Shade-loving plants include ferns, bromeliads, African violets, mother-in-law’s tongue, and jade plants. Plants will add color and texture, bring to mind the outdoors (and by proxy sunlight), and you can choose lively pots that will brighten up the whole room.

Don’t let the lack of natural light get you down – instead, turn it into a vibrant space. How do you brighten up those apartment rooms with little to no natural light? Share your ideas with us on Facebook.

Lighten Up, It’s Spring

Author: Alecia Pirulis

At the end of the day, after you’ve enjoyed the sunshine of this first spring day and you’ve attempted the rather futile ritual of trying to stand a raw egg on end, it may occur to you (as it has me) that … oh, wow. It’s spring. It’s time to put the baggy sweaters away … and drag out the sundresses, shorts, and sleeveless tops. Oh, my.

If, like me, you balance out short, cold days with warm, delicious comfort food … you may be realizing that winter has not been kind to your figure – especially if you tend to “hide out” in winter and don’t get a lot of exercise (again … me). And guys aren’t immune to this problem, either. My husband managed to gain weight right along with me this winter, and (while it will be easier for him to lose), he is also concerned about shaping up in time for “pool weather.”

Now is the best time to lose that winter weight. The weather is still cool enough to get out and go for a walk, jog, and take the dog to the local park. Carve out some time in the morning or after work to get in a quick workout in your apartment complex gym. If you can split your lunch hour at work and spend half of it eating and the other half walking, that will sneak in some exercise, as well. If you don’t mind a slight looking-silly-at-work factor, you can also work out at your desk.

Spring is a great time to diet because of all the fresh fruits and veggies available. Find a local farmer’s market and make it a weekend thing. Being outdoors, handling freshly-picked produce, and selecting items at their peak of flavor will make cooking with them an exciting adventure instead of a necessary chore. It’s also time to put the grill back to work and grill up some fish and chicken to have with your fresh-from-the-farmer’s-market salads.

Get in the right frame of mind by doing a little shopping. Some new clothing items for spring will help motivate you and give you a fresh perspective. Clean out your closet using the rule, “if you didn’t use it, toss it.” If an entire winter went by and you never took that green sweater off the hanger, it’s time to ditch it. The items that are left can get placed in storage bins and placed on a shelf or even under the bed. Bring your spring and summer items out of storage and go through them, as well. Toss anything that looks worn, dated, or ill-fitting.