Winter is so long and so unrelenting in our part of the country that when the warm weather beckons at last, we are relieved and profoundly grateful. We want to be outside as much as possible and, even indoors, we want to be reminded of the light and the warmth and to make the most of summer: We asked Montreal design types for suggestions and tips to do just that.
For talented Montreal interior designer Ellen Coopersmith, summer means “the outdoors come in and the indoors move out, in synchrony with a more open feeling in my soul.”
She brings pillows and candles and other decorative touches to the front stoop and her home’s balconies, for instance. “We eat dinner outside whenever possible, and sit on the upstairs balcony to read and relax. I try to bring the indoors out to these spaces, with books and throws and cut flowers.”
Indoors, she makes subtle changes – like setting an old-fashioned lemonade dispenser filled with ice water and fresh mint on the kitchen counter and a bowl of a seasonal fruit on the table in the entrance.
And Coopersmith draws on her perennial garden for flowers she places in vases throughout her home’s interior, from a side table in the living room and a window ledge in the entrance to a chest in the front hall. “I try to keep fresh flowers everywhere: first tulips, then lilacs and lily-of-the-valley, then peonies – and soon a riot of other choices,” she said. And the other day she filled a vase with tall and graceful fern fronds that also grow in her garden.
One way to evoke summer is to incorporate the tones of the beach and the ocean in your decor, suggest West Elm store manager José Larivière and Myriam Sylvestre, who is in charge of visual merchandising for the Griffintown store: Jute rugs, for instance, bring the colour of sand into the home, and crackle dinnerware with tones of cool pale blue puts us in mind of the sea.
To Vanessa Sicotte, nothing says summer garden party like her red-and-white checked rectangular ceramic bowls from West Elm – part of a special summer collaboration between the store and Manhattan tableware designer and retailer Fishs Eddy. The bowls remind the creative mastermind of Damask & Dentelle (damasketdentelle.com) of the cardboard containers that held french fries during childhood road trips along the Maine coast.
Bring any room into summer by swapping throw pillow covers in dark and winterlike fabrics for lighter and brighter ones, she suggests. “I have an armoire in my living room full of throw pillow covers that I like to change with the change of seasons – and I do the same with my urban backyard,” she said. Outdoor fabrics like Sunbrella are sturdy and resist fading and mildew, she said, and look great on the banquette in the outdoor space behind her family’s Montreal West home
Go green, she counsels. “Anybody can grow fresh herbs, whether they have a large garden, a flower box, or a small planter on their kitchen counter.” And if you don’t want to grow herbs or vegetables, simply adding a few large plants indoors is probably the simplest way to bring the outside in.
Michael Stratulak, owner of Beige, the spacious and inviting home decor and lifestyle shop on Notre Dame St. W., likes to “summerize” tablescapes with cheerful placemats and napkins – one table in his Little Burgundy store was set recently with cheerful white and red striped napkins and placemats and another was laid with sage-toned plates on white-and-sage-patterned placemats – and centrepieces that use bright summer flowers and seasonal fruit. He also likes clear glass plates. “There is something about a fresh spinach salad on a clear glass plate that looks so summery.”
To dress a room for summer, consider replacing heavy drapes or curtains in dark-coloured fabrics with something more sheer. Swap wool rugs for sisal or cotton and consider outdoor carpeting on patios and balconies to help dissolve the line between outside and in: There are some acrylic area rugs at Beige that look similar to their sisal cousins but are strong enough for an outdoor space.
A friend and collegue just sent me an interesting article from the New York Times about children and character. It talks about grit - determination, goal focused, follow through and character that make a difference in the children that succeed in school and those that do not. It is an interesting article - here is the link. It was printed last fall.
It got me to thinking about all of leaders that I work with and how they have character and the grit described in the article. They have goals and stick to them. They are determined and work hard toward staying the course. They follow-through on what they say they will do and they tackle tough problems. Grit means you have the character to succeed.
I wonder how you build grit and character into an organization. What type of culture would you need to build that supports that type of goal focus, determination and follow-through for clients and customers. How could a leader not only role model grit but also put in rewards and recognition for employees that demonstrate the traits and culture that would support grit. What would characteristics of this model culture be - does it below on the high performing list?
I think with the continued economic challenge we will all need grit to survive and thrive for whatever the next chapter brings. Character as the article points out is important - maybe as important as grades and tests for those kids that become adults. How do we help adults, professionals and organizations develop character and grit?
More to ponder as I try to come up with some new tools to help organizations face the next set of economic and social challenges.