As a kid, there was something magical about that first drive north, to Maine, for summer vacation. We’d pack our summer gear (swimsuits and oversize T-shirts), Nancy Drew novels, and dogs, and drive north over the Piscataqua River Bridge. When we got closer we’d roll down the windows so we could smell the salt air, a harbinger of summer.
But, inevitably, we’d also be greeted by the charms of a ramshackle summer cottage that had been locked up for months: musty couch cushions, ants in the sink. One time we arrived to discover that, over the winter, something had nibbled all the way through a wooden recipe box in the kitchen.
Thus began the start-of-summer ritual of airing out the house and preparing it for days of slamming screen doors and sand tracked through. For a simple, step-by-step plan, we asked Jeremy Floto and Josh Farley, the proprietors of The Glen Wilde, a throwback 1940s bungalow community in the Catskills, how they prepare the summer getaway each year. Whether you’re opening up your own cottage or renting one for a weekend, here are a few quick ways to get it up and running for the season.
N.B.: Featured photograph is by Constance Gennari, courtesy of The Socialite Family, from A Fashion Designer’s Cabin in the Cape Cod of France. Photography below courtesy of The Glen Wilde, except where noted.
1. Air out.
“We like to clear the stale air from the long winter, closed up,” say Floto and Farley. “First we just open all the windows for a few days, letting the fresh air in. It does wonders.”
2. Make a natural room spray.
Help freshen musty rooms with a natural air freshener. The Glen Wilde’s recipe? “In a spray bottle, we make a mix of distilled water, lavender essential oils, clary sage essential oils, and lemongrass essential oils. We use a version of this spray all season, changing up the mix of essential oils, to keep the bungalows smelling great.” (For another recipe, see DIY Essential Oils: All-Natural Alternative Air Freshener and DIY Essential Oils: Lavender Linen Freshener.)
3. Turn over the mattresses.
Flip your mattresses for a fresh start. “We store our mattresses on a 45 degree angle, so that the mattresses get full air circulation during the winter. Then we always flip our mattress from head to toe to help avoid creating dips in the mattress from wear.”
4. Refresh bedding.
If possible, hang comforters outside. “We air out our comforters in the sun and on a breezy day. The wind and sun helps to refresh and re-fluff the comforters.” Running sheets and washable cushions through the wash helps, too, to get rid of any lingering mustiness.
5. Flush the toilets.
If you turn off water in the off-season, run taps and flush toilets before using. “When we turn the water on for first time, we always flush the toilets first,” Floto and Farley say. “Doing this flushes away any minerals that have settled in the pipes over the winter. This helps to avoid clogging our shower heads and faucets. We learned this trick the hard way.
6. Dust the fans.
Get hardworking fans up to speed for the summer. “At the bungalows we have a collection of vintage fans. This means that each fan in each bungalow is different. How to clean them is also slightly different. We come prepared for the tasks with a tool kit with a few sizes of screwdrivers to take the wire frame off the fans to dust. We first dust using a feather duster to get the top loose layer of dust off. Then we use a rag (we like to recycle old T-shirts for this job), dampened with a mixture of vinegar and lemon. We let them air dry and then put them back together.”
For more advice from the Glen Wilde, see Expert Advice: Hacks for Staying Cool Without AC, Courtesy of a Catskills Summer Bungalow.
More expert advice for the summerhouse: