Summertime in Florida brings lots of rain.
It's our decidedly unpretty season, when the mornings are hot and steamy and the afternoons glum as February in the North.
The thing about rainy days in the subtropics, I've noticed, is that they cast a pall on the way our homes look. It may be my mood or imagination, but the inevitable spate of gray days seems to make even the cheeriest Florida home feel a little frumpy.
So I turned to a local expert for some advice on how to brighten up our living spaces during Florida's soggy season.
Who better to give advice on warming up an interior — whether it's just for a minilift or to actually sell a home — than a real estate stager?
Winston Lawson is the general manager of operations and development for the Staging Stylist — www.thestaging stylist.com — an offshoot of Home Signature Designs in northwest Tampa.
Over the years, Lawson has noticed that people tend to make the same basic mistakes over and over with their interiors.
The biggest faux pas?
Fear of color, he says.
Fix it with a simple infusion of color. A hint of turquoise blue or hibiscus red will warm any interior with immediate results.
"A lot of people are very afraid of adding color, yet it can make a place look so much better," Lawson explains.
It's not necessary to paint the walls to achieve the desired effect, he said. Splash around some instant sunshine using bright artwork, pillows, accessories, fabric and throws.
"Also, consider adding some florals or silk plants, especially if it's not feasible to take care of a live plant," he says. "Adding color through accessories costs a fraction of what it does to have a home repainted."
Next, he advises, take a good look at lighting around the house.
"In most cases, it's very poor," he says. Assess the problem by looking at the common living areas and thinking about whether the existing lighting is soothing and welcoming, or just makes the room feel sterile.
Consider adding a floor lamp, some picture lighting or directional lighting. Adding a dimmer or two allows more control over the intensity of a particular light, such as a dining room chandelier, and can change the mood of a room in an instant. Lawson says that uplighting (a small light that sits on the floor behind a plant, for example) works well "to create mood and shadow effect."
Kitchen counters, as well as the often-empty spaces above kitchen cabinets, are also problem areas, Lawson says. When decorated properly, Lawson notes, they can significantly warm up an interior.
"In a kitchen with 42-inch cabinets and 10- to 12-foot ceilings, it's important to effectively add accessories," Lawson says. "Florida-style homes have a lot of niches and shelves, which often serve as dust collectors and unused space."
Warming up your house on a rainy Florida day doesn't have to be hard, he adds. Simply bring in color, add cozy lighting and plants, and accessorize those overlooked empty spaces.
Do it right, Lawson says, and you might not even notice the weather.
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.