Summer, in color. My favorite colorful things for the outdoors

Do you hear that, Gentle Readers? No? Exactly. It’s the sound of summer.

Brightly colored toy boats

Boats painted at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s annual Memorial Day festival

My daughters finally got out of school last Friday, we had their birthday parties (please note the plural; no shared party for THESE twins), and on Saturday, we drove them to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they’ll spend the week with friends.

Last night, back in DC, I was wandering around the house, marveling at the quiet, and I decided to do a bit of mindless tidying. Bossy color’s Katherine has been telling me about that all-the-rage book about Japanese decluttering she’s been reading, so I moseyed over to the front hall table, that dumping ground for mail, keys, earbuds, library books, and homework assignments.

And catalogs.

Crate & Barrel yellow outdoor sofa and pink ottoman

Crate & Barrel’s Morocco sectional

I started strong, Gentle Readers! Out went the homework (was it ever handed in? Too late now!) and into a tote bag went the library books. But I was powerless to resist the catalogs, which seem to be more fun, more colorful this year. Down the rabbit hole I went.

Here are some of the liveliest, most fun, colorful things I found.

You know I’m a fan of Dash & Albert rugs. Well, I’m happy to report that they’ve expanded their indoor/outdoor offerings dramatically — and in such amazing colors! (These are terrific for dining rooms as well as porches, by the way…) Put this rug in front of Crate & Barrel’s yellow-cushioned Morocco sectional and call it a day.

Red patterned indoor/outdoor rug

Dash & Albert’s Coco indoor/outdoor rug

Missoni Home’s outrageously colorful outdoors collection doesn’t disappoint, either. Imagine how THESE would brighten up bleak teak garden furniture.

Wild crazy colors and patterns on outdoor pillows and rugs

Missoni Home

Colorful crazy patterned Missoni outdoor pillows

More Missoni Home

I’m always a fan of bringing indoor dishes outside, and I fell in love with these sweet plates from good old Sundance.

Sweet colorful summer plates


To augment those, there’s no store better for simple, colorful (and, as a bonus, inexpensive) ceramics than Fish’s Eddy. My favorite serving bowls are from there.

Brightly colored dishes at Fish's Eddy in New York

Fish’s Eddy in New York

And finally, look at these Tamiami Chairs from Brown Jordan! How fun! How unexpected! How bossy color! Obviously you choose the frame and webbing colors, and they have tables that you can match…or not…

Outdoor porch chairs in vibrant colors

Brown Jordan’s Tamiami Lounge chairs

Brightly colored garden chairs

Colorful lawn chairs from Brown Jordan

Bottom line: there’s no excuse for a color-free summer this year, Gentle Readers. None at all.

Bossy color | Annie Elliott interior design creates outrageously beautiful homes for fascinating people — starting with color. Be sure and read our recent interview with The Huffington Post about wallpaper!

Hey, Millennials: home IS an experience

Jura Koncius just wrote a terrific article in the Washington Post about Millennials being more interested in experiences than in accumulating things for their homes. For this generation, nostalgia is in short supply.

Millennials in their Living Room

Millennials! Photo by Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post

Koncius points out that it’s not that Millennials don’t care about their surroundings. They do. Newell Turner, Editor-in Chief of House Beautiful, says in the article that “Millennials are design-conscious, informed consumers” who choose furnishings that have special meaning. They just don’t believe in investing in their surroundings the way older folks might.

Navy and red traditional living room

Family Room by bossy color. Photo by Michael K. Wilkinson

I understand, Millennials. You don’t have as much disposable income as previous generations did. You have student debt, and you’re starting your careers during a bummer of a recession. It’s not easy.

But if you value experience, isn’t home the most profound experience you can have?

It’s where you have meaningful interactions with your friends. It’s where you and your partner build a life together. It’s a sanctuary where you relax and recharge.

It’s worth your attention and a bit of your hard-earned money.

Living Room with green bookcases

Living Room by bossy color. Photo by Michael K. Wilkinson

I strongly encourage you to invest in stylish and decent-quality furniture from well-priced retailers such as West Elm. For one thing, the better the quality, the better the furniture will withstand multiple moves. (Because you are planning to move soon, aren’t you?)

Wooden dresser with blue lamp

West Elm’s Mid-Century Dresser in a Bedroom by bossy color. Photo by Michael K. Wilkinson

And yes, the photographs from your travels can be your artwork, as long as you blow up the pictures to 8 x 10″ or larger and mat and frame them. (Preferably in a tidy grid, as Michael did.)

Gallery wall over sectional

“Wanderlust Gallery Wall” from the blog, Inspired by Charm

The rug you stuffed in your rucksack and lugged halfway around the world should have pride of place in your home, but believe me: it’s too small to anchor a room. Place that 5 x 7′ rug on top of a larger rug and all of a sudden, it works. Crate & Barrel has a good selection of well-priced, low-profile sisal rugs.

Living Room with Oriental rug

Persian rug on top of a sisal rug. Living Room by bossy color. Photograph by Andrew Propp for Washingtonian Magazine

Finally, even if you rent, please invest $100 and a weekend and banish the “rental-unit cream” from your home. Paint your walls with environmentally-conscious, low-VOC Benjamin Moore Natura paint.

Green Living Room

Benjamin Moore’s 628 Winchester Sage

Home is an experience, my dears. One of my favorite clients said that to me, and it became my mantra.

Your home must ground you, strengthen you, and bring you joy, so that you are inspired to go into the world and fulfill your passions. It’s worth an investment of your time and money.

Bossy color | Annie Elliott interior design is an interior design firm based in Washington, D.C. We create outrageously beautiful homes for fascinating people — starting with color. 

5 ways to spruce up your beach house for summer

And by “beach house,” I mean summer house, cottage, country house, weekend house, or year-round house :) I’m just so desperate to think about warmer weather…I’d like to make every house feel summery right now.

1. Do a massive cleaning (even if you have a housekeeper). Whether we’re talking about the home you live in year-round or a house that’s been closed up all winter, there’s something extremely satisfying about doing a deep clean. Scrub the backsplash and kitchen cabinets. Mop wooden floors. Vacuum waaaayyyy under the beds. Use a magic eraser on the wall going up the stairs. Set aside as much time as you can — a few hours is realistic; an entire weekend is ideal — open the windows, enlist the entire family, and get down to it.

You don’t have to take my word on this; Apartment Therapy’s Maxwell Ryan is a great believer in the deep clean.

Glass backsplash white kitchen

So clean it shines!

2. Put a new rug in the Foyer. Or mudroom. Wherever you first enter your house. Dash & Albert has beautiful striped cotton rugs that look wonderfully beachy. HOWEVER, cotton is a sponge. It absorbs dirt like nobody’s business. If you’re thinking, “But it’s cotton! I’ll just throw it in the laundry!” let me tell you: you won’t. And even if you do, the rug will never be the same. It will shrink, get lumpy so it doesn’t lie flat, and possibly fade unevenly.

Striped rugs on bales of hay with mountains in the wets

Round-up of Dash & Albert’s striped cotton rugs

Lucky for all of us, Dash & Albert has a huge, beautiful selection of indoor-outdoor rugs. Some are really ropey, which one of my clients loves, and some are nice and flat, which allow doors to swing over them.

Blue and white striped rug

Dash & Albert’s durable AND beautiful Cameroon indoor-outdoor rug

3. Make sure all of your sheets are 100% cotton. I doubt that you, Gentle Reader, have ever purchased 50/50 sheets. But if you have a family house that’s been around for years, some things are slow to be replaced. Put sheets at the top of your list — not only because old sheets are grody, but because cotton percale is coolest in summer heat, the experts at Sferra tell me. Check out Peacock Alley’s Calypso sheeting in Egyptian cotton percale. Deeee-vine.

Crisp white and yellow bedding

Sferra’s Genna bedding

4. Use white accents. Despite all of the pictures you see of “beachy” rooms, you’re not restricted to navy blue and white when decorating for a country house feel. But incorporating some white makes a room fresh and summery…crisp white sheets, as above; a white lamp; white vases; or white in pillow patterns. Serena & Lily has a great selection of pillows that incorporate sharp white.

Throw pillows on white sofa

Serena & Lily

5. Paint a room — or a ceiling — super super duper light blue. Really, what better way to feel summery and beachy? (I recommend light blues especially for rooms that gets a lot of light — at least make sure you have ample table and floor lamps in a north-facing light blue room.)

I’ve had great luck with Benjamin Moore’s 1646 Lookout Point (my bedroom color), 2052-70 Ice Blue (my former office color and my daughter’s current bedroom color), and CW-585 Ewing Blue (at least one bossy color-designed bath). I also love Farrow & Ball’s 235 Borrowed Light.

Light blue foyer with white furniture

Benjamin Moore’s Ewing Blue on walls

If we do all of these things, Gentle Readers, together we’ll WILL spring — and then summer — into existence.

Bossy color | Annie Elliott interior design is an interior design firm based in Washington, D.C. We create outrageously beautiful homes for fascinating people — starting with color.