How to turn your home into a summer palace

Forget spring cleaning – now is the moment to prepare your house and garden ready for warmer days. Kate Watson-Smyth lets the light stream in

The heatwave might have passed, but summer is certainly here. So if you missed the spring clean, it's time to think about how you can bring some of that glorious sunshine inside – where, let's face it, it is actually a bit warmer. There are plenty of touches that cost little or no money that you can do to make your home feel new and fresh, and it's also a good time to get a few of those boring maintenance jobs out of the way so you won't have to worry about them next winter.



Windows

Not only does the sunlight streaming through reveal just how dusty your windows are, but the frames might also need painting. This is a perfect summer job, as any weak spots and damage will have been exacerbated over the long winter months – and they were long this year. Call in a couple of local decorators and get quotes for painting the windows and perhaps the front door while you're at it – a bright colour for summer will also cheer you up in November. If you haven't got a window cleaner and one hasn't come knocking, then visit windowcleaner-directory.co.uk to find one in your area. Obviously you will need to clean the inside of your windows too. Christina Strutt, author of Cabbages and Roses Guide to Natural Housekeeping (cabbagesandroses. com), is full of advice on how to use natural products for cleaning: "White distilled vinegar has had hundreds of different uses over the past 10,000 years and it cleans windows to perfection. A solution of one part vinegar and one part warm water sprayed onto glass and rubbed with a soft dry cloth, followed by crumpled newspaper, will work miracles," she says.



Declutter

Now that the windows are clean, everything is thrown into sharp relief and you can see just how much stuff there is lying around. "There's nothing like a really good clear out to make you feel better," says Carmen Morris-Coulson, of Plan My Life (planmylife.co.uk; 0208 341 1800). "This is the perfect time of year for a declutter, as it will make your house feel bigger and brighter and you will start to love it again." The first requirement for a declutter is bin bags and new storage. She suggests filling a large kitchen drawer with lid-less plastic pots into which you can sort spare batteries, pens, phone-chargers etc. Apply the same principles to the cupboards and get rid of any old, chipped crockery that you no longer love or use. "You will have to tackle your desk too, but the last time I did mine I found a cheque lurking in a pile of papers, so you never know," she says. A visit to Ikea will buy you masses of storage for not much money. Carmen likes the Expedit Range of book-cases, which you can fix doors onto and slide boxes into as well as drawers. "You can hide things behind the doors, use boxes, which you must label, for all manner of stuff, from toys and paperwork to photos and all your filing, and you can change it round as your requirements change." And if you really can't face it, then there are plenty of professionals who will do the job for you – for a fee.



Freshen up your paintwork

We're not suggesting you do the whole house, but moving that pile of books from the floor to the shelf may have revealed some tatty paintwork that is chipped or covered in tiny muddy hand prints. Now is the perfect time of year to sort that out. You can touch up what you already have or perhaps, be bold, choose a light summery colour for one wall. This will totally change the look of the room and will be easy enough to paint over for a darker, warmer colour in a few months time when you want to feel cosy again.



Lighten the décor

You change your clothes according to the weather, so why not ring the changes with the soft furnishings too. Chrissie Rucker, of The White Company, is a big fan of the seasonal décor-change. "In summer I use lightweight fabrics in white or soft colours, and then mix up the textures to make it more interesting." Now, we don't all have to take it to White Company extremes, but there's nothing wrong with removing the winter cushion-covers – for a wash if nothing else – and replacing them with something a little more summery. You can also remove heavy velvet curtains and hang some lightweight summer blinds for a change.



Storage

This is also the time of year when you want to put away your winter boots and fetch the sandals out, so you need to examine your bedroom storage too. The Holding Company sell vacuum bags (£16 for three) into which you can pile the winter bedspreads and heavy duvets so they don't take up much space. Chrissie Rucker says you should change to a lighter duvet in the summer, not just for temperature purposes but because you should get the winter one cleaned to get rid of dust mites and bed bugs. Then you can store it away for the summer. Suzanne Baker, of The Holding Company, says: "The vacuum sacks are great, as you can put them under the bed or into a large box and they will take the shape of the box so you can stack them up. It's a great idea to buy underbed storage because that space is often under-used and it's a good size. Personally, I always buy boxes to store winter boots in too so they are protected from dust during the summer, but I can also move them out of the way so I can see the summer shoes."



In the garden

Now is the time to plant that herb or vegetable garden that you kept talking about last year but didn't get round to actually doing. Even a window box will give you plenty of produce, and when the window is open it will fill the house with the smells of summer. Christina suggests planting sweet- pea seeds and says if you pick the flowers every day they will keep you going until August. And when the sun finally starts delivering as much warmth as it promises, you need to be ready with the deck chairs and loungers. Take a trip to the garden centre and while you're buying a few plants, pick up some chairs too. Bright colours will cheer up even a dull day and give you something pretty to look at when you're inside staring through those sparklingly clean windows.

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