How to Decorate Your Second Home

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE to decorate second homes. There’s so much freedom, because you simply don’t have to worry about things like home offices, storing keepsakes, and housing your entire wardrobe — and also because the lifestyle is (or at least should be) casual, simple, and easy.

While “simple” does imply “less stuff,” it’s not like you’re going camping. You will still need 90 percent of what you have at home: bedding, towels, kitchenware, sofas, chairs, good lighting, dining tables, and window treatments and such. There’s nothing as frustrating as finally having the time to bake some cookies and not having a set of measuring cups. Be prepared to do a lot of shopping, but be determined to have a lot of fun.

You can use the opportunity of decorating Home #2 to move some things you’ve grown tired of in Home #1 (and yes, that does give you the opportunity to update Home #1). This seems to make a lot of sense, but be careful you’re not shoehorning the wrong look into your new relaxing space. If you decorate your second home like a rental house — just cramming a bunch of worn out stuff into it — you may end up hating your landlord, You!

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  1. Have a plan.

Get an idea in your head of how you want your new place to look, and work towards it. The amazing thing about second homes is that they’re often easy to “theme,” because they are surrounded by the beach, or the mountains, or golf courses. You should embrace the local motif, though you don’t want to go overboard and have it look like the souvenir shop down the road. Alternately, a second home is your chance to embrace something completely different than your main residence, so don’t be afraid to swap modern for rustic or muted beige for magnificent color— or vice versa — for your time away.

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  1. Plan for guests (and entertaining).

If your second home is in great location (and not too hard to get to), you’ll probably find yourself surrounded by friends and family whenever you extend the invitation. They’ll need a room with a chest, lamp, mirror, bed, and comfortable chair, but you’ll also need to make sure they have a place to sit in the common areas — including patios and porches. You’ll likely be feeding those guests, too, but you can set different expectations. If you’re a gourmet table-service kind of person at home, think about embracing the outdoor grill or investing in a buffet table for some low-key entertaining.

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  1. Keep it uncluttered.

The glory of a second home is that you are free from the things you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. Here more than anywhere is where you can live by the mantra, If you don’t love it, don't put it in your house.Every knickknack, every book, every old pair of boots should be something that brings you genuine joy. You’ll enjoy the tidy look of having fewer things, but feel safe knowing that all that stuff is back home if you ever need it.

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  1. Hide some old (or new) favorites.

We’ve all got some things in our house that we used to love but have grown tired of. Hiding them away for half a year can make you remember why you were so attached in the first place. The same goes with some of those impulse buys you’ve made; if you love something that’s never quite fit in to your home décor, it might be just the thing to brighten up a second home — or even to build the whole décor around.

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Just remember that you got a second home to relax and have fun, so you don’t need to be too serious about your second home décor. Think casual and comfortable, and take a few design risks. The only people who will see them are your close friends and family, and they already know you’re a little eccentric.

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