Summer Living: Brightening Your Abode With Terry John Woods, 'Summer House,'

June 30, 2011


The idea of having a summer escape place — be it an inherited mountain cabin or a beach-house share in Rehoboth — appeals to all but the most workaholic urbanites. Still, that kick-off-your-shoes, get-sand-in-your-toes look (weathered Adirondack chairs, French bistro-ish metal tables, piles of shells) can be hard to get right — and, from the real estate side of things, afford. Still, interior stylist Terry John Woods insists that injecting your second home — or extra bedroom — with a dose of warm, welcoming style can be as easy as the season itself. We chatted with him about his new book, “Summer House” ($45, Stewart, Tabori & Chang), which could inspire interiors at spots from grand beach houses to tiny condos.

What do the words “summer house” mean to people?
They mean a casual, comfortable place to live, surrounded by friends and family.

In the book, it seems like that means a mix of vintage finds and weathered surfaces.
Yeah, I think summer places are a good way to use family heirlooms. Well-worn things create an instant causal feel, the kind of mood where people feel like they can put their feet up and put their iced tea on the table. You can feel that way wherever you live.


What if I don’t have family heirlooms? How can I score some?
Go to flea markets. I like to buy old photos and put them in frames — they’re instant ancestors.

What are other ways to achieve this sort of casual chic?
Surround yourself with the things you use in the summer. If you love to surf, use boards as part of your decor. And instead of having beachy things all over the house, group them by subject and color. In our house in Maine, we covered the mantel with rocks we found on the beach. Just don’t go to a box store. It’s better to buy a really nice painting from a regional artist.

What about colors? Which ones suggest warmer climates?
I like to use cool colors and white on furniture. I also slipcover pieces in painter’s cloth. It’s light, cheap and it lasts forever.

What about outdoor spaces? How do I make my porch or deck summery?
I like to mismatch things and repurpose things, like have iron furniture mixed with Adirondack chairs, or have a rocker on the porch paired with my grandmother’s silver lamp.

People often host houseguests in the summer. What’s the secret to making them comfortable?
Well, I never make a bed until the guest gets to my place — I like to be sure their bedding is always crisp and wonderful. I put flowers in their room and stick good books around the house. And I like to leave a little watercolor set by the bed. People either leave artwork behind or take it with them. I like to decorate my walls with their art!

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Clinton Yates · June 29, 2011