If the thought of facing four magnolia walls all summer is too much to bear, painting them white can really open up a room, making it feel instantly brighter, fresher and cooler. Unless you're a fan of the minimalist look, introduce colour, texture and points of interest with rugs, fabrics and artwork (see below) to prevent a space from looking too clinical. To create an interesting focal point, consider painting one wall in a feature colour. Cool, calming shades of blue, green and grey will help create a serene, relaxing space.
Vibrant colour is a big trend this summer, and an easy way to introduce it into any scheme is to banish any beige or neutral cushions and replace them with splashes of sunny orange, hot pink, jewel blue or fresh green. There's no need to go overboard - just three cushions, complemented with accessories such as vases, lamp shades, coloured tea light holders or even just a single vase of bright flowers, can make all the difference.
Spending more time indoors during daylight hours means that an ugly view or dirty, dusty windows may become a lot more noticeable - particularly if, like many of us, you don't have a regular window-cleaning service. A pair of sheer gauzy curtains will not only disguise any unsightliness, but help filter strong sunlight, protecting furniture, rugs and artwork. Silks, cotton, wool and linen can be destroyed by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, while colours will fade and white fabrics can turn yellow. Keep your curtains closed during the day, if possible, or rehang any treasured artworks or photographs out of the way of direct sunlight. In the bedroom, keep the strong morning sunlight out and the cool air in by hanging blackout curtains.
Attend to your air-con
If you're noticing that layers of dust and fluff are starting to accumulate on surfaces and floors no matter how much you dust, it's time to clean your air-con vents. A damp cloth will help get rid of any gunk clogging the vent grills and stop it being blown out with the cold air. (Don't bother using any kind of duster - you'll just be redistributing it). If the problem persists, or the system isn't as efficient as it should be, call in an expert company to inspect and vacuum the ducts if necessary. Check www.yellowpages.ae and look for companies with municipality approval.
Change your bedding
Nothing beats slipping into cool, crisp cotton sheets at the end of a hot day. They're not only more comfortable on your skin than poly-cotton (don't even think about polyester), but they're strong, absorbent and more hard-wearing. Since we produce, on average, 250ml of sweat every night, you should be washing your bedding once a week at the very least and have a mattress topper to keep moisture away from your mattress - they start at around Dh100 for a double at Ikea. The mattress itself should be vacuumed and turned every six months at least. And unless you plan on whacking up the air-con to freezing point, a light tog duvet (around 4.5) should be sufficient to keep you warm, without causing you to overheat. Synthetic duvets are your best bet since they can be laundered.
Spruce up your bathroom
Showering becomes an almost constant past-time during the summer months, so your bathroom needs attention too. Shower heads harbour a surprising amount of germs, including a particularly nasty one called mycobacterium avium, which has been known to cause lung infections if inhaled. You don't need any of those strong antibacterial sprays for the job; just remove the shower head and soak in a pan of boiling water and vinegar for 20 minutes. Ideally, this should be done every two to three months. If your shower curtain is looking less than healthy, sponge or soak in diluted bleach then wash in detergent. And if all the showering is becoming a chore, chuck out any old rough and scratchy towels and treat yourself to a set of new soft white fluffy ones and a plush new bath mat - Marks and Spencer is great for both.
Freshen your furnishings
Since you'll be spending more time than usual on your sofa, it may as well be fresh and clean. Begin by removing any loose cushions and give them a good beating or vacuum to remove any excess dust. Use your cleaner's crevice tool to remove crumbs or debris in any tight spaces, and pay attention to the base of the sofa where dust accumulates. If you've been averting your gaze from a nagging stain, tackle it with a water-based fabric shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner, and vacuum again. Cushion covers should be laundered and many neighbourhood dry cleaners will take care of your curtains and rugs. If your sofa or armchair is beyond help, consider updating it with a slip cover. Shadows in Abu Dhabi (behind the Crowne Plaza on Hamdan Street, 02 631 4404) carries a huge range of fabrics and can transform even the most tired-looking couch.
Bring the outside in
Indoor plants are an excellent way to introduce colour, interest and a fresher atmosphere in a room, plus they help to purify the air, increasing well-being and concentration. Just make sure you adhere to Nick Leech's tips on care and maintenance on page 6. If you lack green fingers, botanical-inspired accessories are another key trend this season. Fabrics, cushion covers or art prints with designs featuring trees, ferns and flowers will help to banish thoughts of the heat and dust outside.
Clear out winter clutter
It's not the most exciting way to spend a weekend afternoon, but sorting and tidying your wardrobe or drawers can be hugely satisfying. Plus, with most outdoor activity off limits, what else are you going to do? Sort through your clothes and shoes and store any heavier winter clothes and shoes away. Ikea's under-bed boxes or space-saving vacuum storage bags from Lakeland (Mirdif City Centre, 04 284 3460) are great for this. This way you'll have lots of room for your lighter summer clothes, keeping them well aired and crease-free. You should always remove any dry-cleaned garments from their plastic bags - the polythene can trap moisture and cause mildew, which can ultimately damage the garment.
Cool for cats (and dogs)
We're not the only ones that need more water during the summer months. Setting down a bigger bowl for your animals while you're out at work will mean they'll get sufficient water to last them through the day. We love the Lupita dog bowl and Tigrito cat bowl by Alessi, available from Tavola shops in Dubai. They're big enough to keep any pet refreshed and come in a range of colours, so they're great to look at too.