What is the season’s effect on design?


>Back-to-school ads have started, symbolizing for many the anticipation of summer’s end. Cooler temperatures are only a month away and before you know it, fall will be here. The changing seasons affect many aspects of our lives. The activities we engage in, the types of food we eat, and the style of clothes we wear are all affected by season.

We implement these changes to stay comfortable in our environment, just as we adjust the design of our home. Just as cold weather might inspire a sweater, it may also inspire warmer tones and accent colors in your living room.

Why We’re Asking:

We’re interested in how season affects design. Of course holidays come with décor changes: pumpkins and cornucopias in fall, wreaths and lights in winter. But design is often about creating a very specific mood to make you as comfortable as possible in your home. To find out how seasonality might affect design in and outside the home, we’re turning to our design and landscaping experts.

So design experts, it’s time to weigh in:

How does Seasonality Affect Design?

What are some simple design changes that can welcome the new seasons?
Is it better to change with the season or adopt a neutral design that works throughout the year?
What about geographic areas that do not have distinct seasons, like the South?
How should seasonality affect your exterior landscaping?

We’re hoping to get a jump start on design solutions as fall approaches, so check back next week to see all of our expert comments.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. Here in the beautiful Texas Hill Country near Austin, design begins with taking advantage of the wonderful weather we can have at any season and being ready for the extremes that we can also have at any season. Add to that the desire to take advantage of the breathtaking views and to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

    So we do all that we can to use site orientation to our advantage, to use energy saving everything, and at top of the list to find the best AC that the client can afford.

    Because the Texas Hill Country is always being hit by a fungus that kills big, beautiful live oak trees–there is always a lot of firewood available for cheap or free if you will cut it and haul it off. Also mesquite is invasive and a nuisance. So you would be welcomed to any ranch where you would chain saw some mesquite. All that is to say that fireplaces, wood burning stoves, outdoor fireplaces, etc. are a wonderful part of cold weather living here.

    So to summarize–use site orientation, understand the strong points and challenges of your particular local, use energy saving technology, etc.

    As a side note. We live in house built in 1856 by a famous Texas Ranger–Moses Hughes. We have walls inside and out that are made of stone and are two feet thick. The house is aligned perfectly on the property and we have wonderful 200 plus year old trees that help to cool the summer. We really only have to use AC/heat during extreme weather. There are still Spanish buildings in our area built in the 1700s with walls closer to 3 feet thick that are even more energy efficient.

    Learn all you can about how people in your area dealt with the seasons before modern technologies and adapt where you can.

    Best wishes,

  2. I LOVE this question! Being able to change out your inside decor & some landscaping w/the seasons is a perfect way to not only change up the energy in your space, but a great way become more “in tune” with the seasons & live a healthier life.

    What are some simple design changes that can welcome the new seasons?: You can use color (lighter, cool colors in summer, more saturated, warmer colors in winter), change your space-plan to focus on a great view in summer & then inwards towards a fireplace or TV as the weather gets cooler, change out artwork to reflect change in seasons and/or you can change outer curtain panels from a light, flow-y linen/sheer in summer to a heavier textile for winter.

    Is it better to change with the season or adopt a neutral design that works throughout the year?: I like establishing your primary & secondary colors in your space to “keep” & then change the accent color as the seasons change. Think pillows, throws, artwork, curtains, throw rugs…even candles and the scent you use as part of aromatherapy or “home fragrancing” can change w/the seasons.

    What about geographic areas that do not have distinct seasons, like the South?: This is where you can play with changing out artwork, candles & other accessories to reflect changing seasons, as opposed to working w/changing textiles.

    How should seasonality affect your exterior landscaping?: You can work w/changing out garden flags & figurines (I have garden flags that reflect the season change), as well as changing out door hangings (i.e. wreaths, signage) can be easy fixes. You can also work w/hanging baskets, window boxes & patio planters & plant seasonal plants or add pinecones or other seasonal symbols.

  3. I am a firm believer in refreshing the look of an interior with the seasons; it makes the home feel new and helps create an environment in tune with nature. I should mention, I live in Las Vegas, where the seasons don’t really change, so it’s even more important to create the mood of the season inside. To me, backgrounds and accessories are the most important changes. Here are some examples: Area rugs: Swap heavy wool rugs for a lighter fiber such as jute, sisal, or even a cotton dhurrie. (Hint: If it’s a large area rug, say 8 by 10, consider covering it with a light cotton rug a bit larger. This has worked wonders in my home, as I’ve gotten tired of bundling up and storing a large wool rug every summer.) Window coverings: Silk drapes are perfect for creating a warm, inviting cocoon from October to April; then lighten up with cotton voile or an open-weave linen for the summer months. Artwork: Key pieces (such as over a fireplace) are features in a room; keep the subject and colors warm for the winter, and lighten up with a beach scene or other naturescape for the summer. Once you find pieces that work, it’s easy to swap them out. In a family bathroom, use simple, neutral frames with white mats, and change out the image with the season. The image could be old calendar pages, vacation photos, greeting cards, or even a collage of scrapbooking papers. Other ideas include using neutral cotton slipcovers on upholstered furniture in the summer; changing out bath towels; changing the bed cover (quilt/bedspread/coverlet); and swapping accessories such as candles and frames. I do a seasonal change in my home several times a year. The key is to have a plan (know your target areas, what you have, and what is going where), and to schedule specific times, what I call “changeover days.” I don’t do it all at once, but rather break it up — maybe change the guest bath one evening, and work on the family room on a weekend day. It honestly doesn’t take that long, and it makes a huge difference in the feeling of the house — and in how I and my guests feel in the house.

  4. In the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to have seasons but not very severe like some parts of the country. Since I design kitchens, baths and great rooms most of the time I’m focused on where people gather and many times share a great meal. We have an abundance of farmers markets and wonderful local wineries. I love changing a dining room, great room or kitchen with bowls and platters of seasonal fruit or vegetables. Artichokes piled up with lemons or big bowls of red and green apples; even mixing flowers from the garden and vegetables for floral displays on a dining room table.

    My other passion is setting a seasonal table with different dishware and glasses, mixing casual with formal pieces. In the summer I have glasses that have jute slip covers for wine, mix in seashells and light blue napkins and sea glass votives for a terrific outdoor salmon dinner. In the winter blend plaid napkins or inexpensive tea towels with a wildlife dinner plate, add a silver platter with a long bowl of pinecones and tiny pumpkins or small glass ornaments and candles. Your children make some of the best seasonal art work and decorations so find ways to incorporate these treasures into your kitchen or great room. There are great buys on inexpensive frames that you can use to “Professionalize” and thrill your kids.

    When you’re making decisions about colors and style that are permanent in a kitchen or bath, keep in mind this is a backdrop you’ll live with for many years. I’m currently completing a kitchen and great room for a client that has a decorating friendly color palate; creamy white cabinets in the kitchen and island with a built in ten foot long espresso cherry buffet. The kitchen has dark soapstone counters and the dark buffet has light Calcutta marble countertop. I wainscoted the dining/great room in the same creamy white as the kitchen cabinetry; the paint color was an extremely dark grey that picked up the glass liner bar used with Calcutta marble and white crackle subway tiles. Even though the space has very dramatic backsplashes and lighting with a deep wall color because of the unifying creamy paint color the space is perfect for bold accents and art work. Also for this kid friendly family we added a large white board framed in espresso cherry in the kitchen.

  5. Fall is a busy season for us for a few reasons. First, as people move back indoors, they want their homes to be organized. So they are busy adding adequate storage to family rooms, pantries and mudrooms. Many create family “drop zones” at the front door to catch clutter before it enters their homes.

    Another major storage makeover that happens in fall is the closet “fall switch out.” It’s prime season to pack away summer duds and make room for and to adjust storage to fit bulky sweaters and jackets.

    When the home is organized, it runs more efficiently. Activities run more smoothly. Home organization makes the transition from summer to fall much easier.

  6. We love design inside and outside of your home but it can get rather pricey to continuously update your home with new decor. By adopting a neutral color palate in your home, accent pieces from a home goods store will compliment your color scheme no matter what season you celebrate. Neutral color palates can be shades of cream, taupe and brown.

    While seasonality should not stifle your design creativity, we’re from Houston and here in Texas we have two seasons, HOT and not so hot. That means landscaping equates keeping your lawn as green as possible. In the summer months many cities that experience drought are forced to reserve water. If you live in a similar area but need some green in your life we recommend larger cactus varieties, which do well in the climate and will not suffer from lack of water. Using stones and other decorative items will ensure that your lawn remains aesthetically pleasing throughout the heat!

  7. I am from the Northeast so we have all four seasons. My favorite trick is to landscape your home with plants that flower at different times of the season. In addition, plant bushes or trees that have different interesting aspects as well. Some are breathtaking from bloom to bare wood.

  8. This is an interesting question. I like to have my designer create blinds that will block out the sun on those very hot days. The solar gain in the window can make an air conditioning system feel like it is not working.

    In the winter doing radiant heat we need to insulate the inside wall of the foundation so we do not have heat loss. If you do not do this you will see the flowers in bloom way before spring which depending on who you are will be a good thing or a bad thing!

  9. In the mid-20th Century, it was not uncommon for homeowners and renters to swap out their heavy draperies from cold-weather months for light cafe curtains in warm-weather months, and to cover heavy upholstered furnishings with light (in color and weight) slipcovers. I don’t know of many people who do this today. Probably because of the expense or the lack of time.

    An easy way to change decor seasonally is with accessories: use autumnal and jewel-toned throw pillows in cold-weather months, swapping them out for pastels or neon brights in warm-weather months. This strategy works in any climate–seasonal or not. Cover the seats and backs of sofas with a heavy-weight woolen throw in winter (plus, it stands by for added warmth and cuddle factor), and then do the same with a colorful lightweight coverlet or even a length of fabric with finished edges in the summer. Indoor plants help too. Place low-rimmed containers of succulents on tables in the summer, but in winter try potted amaryllis. If you have heavy draperies with shades underneath, take the drapes down for cleaning and leave them off for the warm weather months.

    Here in the Northeast, the aim for outdoor landscapes is to use plantings that add color and texture throughout the year, no matter what the season.

  10. What are some simple design changes that can welcome the new

    Change the amount of lighting you add/remove. In the fall or winter seasons when the days get shorter, add more lighting to any room, you can use table and floor lamps, as well as candles. Change the color of your accessories, this can include candles, curtains, throws, pillows, furniture slip covers or any other accessory that could be easily switched out once a year. Also changing the accessories you use will help a great deal to “get into the mood” for the present season. Using linen and light cotton throws and pillows in the spring and the summer, change them out to heavy cotton fabric.

    Is it better to change with the season or adopt a neutral design
    that works throughout the year?

    It depends on how you use your space and what you are looking for. A number of my clients have living spaces where we have decided to keep the main pieces neutral, like the sofa, chairs and wall colors. This makes creating a new space much easier, you move the furniture around and purchase a few new things and you have a new room!

    What about geographic areas that do not have distinct seasons, like the South?

    The seasons are marked more by the holidays then the actual season. Spring is ushered in by Easter, regardless of the temperature, little girls wear their sleeveless dresses, even if it’s 40 degrees outside! We are more excited about the promise of the season, so changing our environment to celebrate that change that’s ABOUT to happen is more exciting than the actual season.

    How should seasonality affect your exterior landscaping?

    SO MUCH! Creating outdoor spaces is an amazing way to celebrate the spring, coming outside to enjoy a book, wine or your best friends company is a great way to celebrate the spring, summer or fall. Creating spaces outdoors automatically doubles the size of your living area, giving you more space to entertain and relax.
    It takes more than a few lawn chairs to create an outdoor space, but you also don’t need to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars either. A firepit outdoors would be welcome in the spring and fall, but too hot for the summer. The summer is a great time for wide open spaces, watching the flowers blow in the breeze and sipping tea! Things change all around you outside during different seasons, so there is less to “do” and more to enjoy when you are outside.

  11. Keep heavier window treatments up in the colder months, keep windows bare or use light and airy treatments in the warmer months have a functional fireplace in the colder months, but use it as a display area for a decorative objects during the warmer months on the bed, switch from darker, heavier bedding during the colder months to lighter weight and lighter color bedding in the warmer months in the living/family room change accent pillows, throw blankets, candles from dark in winter to light in summer. You can also remove heavy woolen area rugs and keep bare floors or use sisal or grass rugs during the warmer months in the bathroom, use lighter towels and rugs in the summer and darker in the winter, you can also switch out your shower curtain from light to dark

    In the kitchen, switch out towels, rugs (if you have them), placemats or tablecloths, potholders, candles, and use more seasonal decor. It has always been my philosophy to invest in high quality, neutral pieces when shopping for furniture, and save the bargain shopping for the seasonal elements that you can change throughout the year. The key is to be organized and know where you are storing your different seasonal items or it will become too cumbersome to keep up with if you have to go hunting for things. When decorating seasonally in geographic areas that don’t change seasons, rather than using the light/dark or heavy/lightweight switches, keep interiors neutral and add seasonal decor based on holidays.

  12. I believe that a home should reflect what is going on outdoors. That does not mean that I advocate changing all of your accessories with the seasons or holidays. I think that a home should have a certain amount of decor that is consistent throughout the year. You can add or replace a few items in each room in order to create a subtle change. The purpose of the change is to help enhance your mood or to compliment the way you use your home. In warm weather you want a lighter, cooler feeling so you can change your curtains or remove a rug. In cooler weather you want to feel cozy so you add layers with throw blankets and pillows with curtains that are more substantial. It could be as simple as choosing your favorite seasonal flower or plant to place by your entry. Seasonal decorating should not be a burdensome job you feel compelled to do. It should be a subtle shift that enhances spaces that work for you all year long.

  13. What gets me the most excited about the change of seasons is actually the debut of new fashion styles. While interior design typically needs to be more timeless than the fashion industry, following fashion trends is a great way to add new flair to an old space through fresh accents or accessories. For a few examples of how fashion trends can inspire the design of your own home interior, check out my blog related to New York Fashion Week (coming up in the fall!) and Ralph Lauren’s Team USA Olympic apparel.

  14. What are some simple design changes that can welcome the new seasons?

    The simplest and most effective design change for all seasons is the addition of pillows and accessories utilizing seasonal colors such as pumpkin and burnt orange for Fall, lavender and blue for Spring. This nod to the change of seasons can be incorporated in Great Rooms, Kitchens, Bathrooms, and Bedrooms. Emulate the season in your home by adding the seasonal colors: a change of guest towels and artwork in the bathroom; a bowl of Fall leaves and gourds in the kitchen; a change of sofa pillows in the Great Room; a change of the duvet and pillows in the bedroom.

    If seasonal colors don’t work with a home’s color palette, then something as simple as “scents” can be a consideration: spice and pumpkin for Fall; floral for Spring. Or, consider adding seasonal color to the exterior entryway of the home with planters containing seasonal flowers and plants.

    If feeling a bit more ambitious, then paint an accent wall a seasonal color within the home’s color palette. A little bit of color can go a long way! Make sure the wall is highlighted with appropriate lighting and it therefore becomes the “jewel” in the room.

    Just as we welcome changing our wardrobe with each season, welcome the change of seasons by making a few subtle changes in the interior of your home!

    Is it better to change with the season or adopt a neutral design that works throughout the year?

    If you are one who enjoys the change of seasons, then start with a neutral palette that will allow you to add seasonal color. The new neutral is grey which works beautifully with so many seasonal colors – think grey and lavender for Spring and grey and tangerine for the Fall.

    What about geographic areas that do not have distinct seasons, like the South?

    We do not have four distinct seasons in Arizona but we definitely like to live as if we do! While Fall and Spring design changes can easily be incorporated as they are in the rest of the country, winter and summer are a bit more challenging. Because Winter is holiday season, most of the seasonal changes are centered around specific holidays. When it comes to summer, a departure from the desert color palette and the incorporation of “cool” colors makes the summer more tolerable. So much time is spent indoors that we want to feel as if we’re escaping the heat!

    How should seasonality affect your exterior landscaping?

    Exterior landscaping should take advantage of what the climate allows. Depending on the area of the country, landscape with the appropriate flowers and plants. One should always have healthy, attractive landscaping. We are so fortunate in Arizona to have exterior color in the winter months! Our mild winters allow us to plant colorful flowers and to entertain outdoors on our colorful patios. In the Spring we take a lot of inspiration from the plethora of desert wildflowers dotting our landscape. Summer months in Arizona are challenging as very few flowers thrive so we resort to desert landscaping. This translates to mostly green succulents and very little color. For all climates, consider container gardening as an excellent choice that allows for seasonal planting.

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