Beating the heat
Summer may officially be over, but in many parts of Australia that doesn’t mean an end to hot and humid days and sultry nights. While the obvious solution is to install air conditioning, there are many ways to turn down the thermostat inside (and outside) your home without sending your electricity bill skyrocketing.
Ventilation is key.
Increasing the movement of fresh air through your home will help keep it cool. For cross ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the room and feel the flow! Vertical ventilation creates air movement from floor to ceiling. Hot air rises, so drawing fresh air in, up and out helps to remove the heat.
Don’t underestimate the ceiling fan.
While some people shy away from ceiling fans, they do provide additional air movement which helps to cool down your home. And you are not limited to boring white fans anymore. There are so many beautiful fans on the market now, you are sure to find one that suits your design scheme.
Choose your window treatments and floor coverings carefully – inside and out.
I spent many years honing my craft in Italy, and if you look at homes there, you will see that many of them have external shutters – and there is a good reason for that. External shutters block out the extreme heat before it enters the home (and can keep the cold air out in winter). They can also be effective in directing the flow of air. Inside, delicate curtains should be lined to protect them against the harsh rays of the sun. This can make them heavy so be sure that you can pull them back clear of the window to allow good ventilation.
Your choice of window treatments must also take into consideration your floor coverings. We have all experienced the nice cool feeling of shaded tiles underfoot during the summer, but surfaces like concrete, stone and ceramic tiles have a higher thermal mass, so direct sunlight will heat them up. Keeping heat off your windows will also keep it off your floor surfaces and, if you have carpet, prevent fading and degradation.
Choose fabrics that suit the Australian climate.
Natural and light products that breathe are more comfortable to wear during summer and the same rule applies inside your home. While a leather lounge might be hard wearing, and classically beautiful, sitting on a fabric sofa in the sticky summer heat is often more comfortable.
Think about using fabrics that reflect the light and heat rather than absorb it. This also applies to paint colours, external wall colours and your roof.
Make it green.
Did you know that when trees and plants “sweat”, they can cool themselves and cool the surrounding air? That’s why planting trees, shrubs and bushes can help keep your home cooler.
Plants like the Snake Plant (Sansevieria), the Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica) and the Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) are great indoors and require very little care. Outside, consider planting some fruit trees or native trees in pots near windows and doors. Of course, you need to choose plants that are suited to your climate and soil type, so it pays to visit your local nursery for some advice before you start planting.
Creating a beautiful undercover area outside, shaded by plants and trees provides an oasis to escape the heat, and if you add some comfortable seating, an external kitchen, and a ceiling fan, it will become your go-to space.