In years past, fall home trends centered around furniture shapes, popular patterns and the latest appliance finishes.
But in a world where a pandemic lingers, even while the desire for connection grows stronger, we look to design to provide us with something more profound this autumn — spaces for safe entertaining, that are cozy and welcoming, and that surround us with soothing aspects of nature.
We’ve tapped some Seattle-based design experts to share their expertise on how to display the bounty of fall and mix indoors and outdoors to get the most out of the shoulder season.
With temperatures steadily cooling, bringing elements of nature indoors can help breathe new life into your home as you spend more time inside.
For Hannah Morgan, a botanical designer and owner of floral studio Fortunate Orchard, fall is about embracing not just the blazing hues of red and orange, but darker colors, too. “Summer flowers, foliage and stems that have died and turned very dark, nearly black, can be striking elements in arrangements,” she says. “They create eye-catching lines and texture in a piece.”
Pumpkins, of course, are a go-to when it comes to decorating for fall, but if you’re looking for something more subtle to spruce up a living room for book club or a dining room for a weekend dinner party, Morgan suggests berries, such as rosehips or viburnum.
Another festive but understated option? “Grasses that develop a bit of color in autumn are sophisticated and simple in a vase. I’m thinking of Miscanthus, sedge and Japanese forest grass, but there are many to choose from,” says Morgan.
Fall fruit also adds to a gorgeous tablescape. Morgan advises hitting up your local farmers market to browse for grapes, persimmons, quince, plums, apples and pears to add some pop that’s not only visually pleasing, but pleasantly fragrant as well.
When creating a tablescape, be sure your decor doesn’t dominate functional space on the table and that sight lines are clear so people can converse easily.
Morgan says to consider if you’d like your tablescape to serve one special gathering, or if it’s something you want to keep out and enjoy for part of the season. If it’s the latter, steer clear of items dependent on water and look instead to branches, fruit and pods.
And if you just can’t resist filling up your wheelbarrow at the pumpkin patch, Morgan suggests mixing red Cinderella pumpkins with white pumpkins and blue Hubbard squash for a harvest-like aesthetic at home. Another standout? Glass Gem corn. “They really are jewels,” says Morgan who loves the combination of pink, blue and green kernels.
Whether your decor style leans toward giant jack-o’-lanterns or toward more delicate gourds, Morgan says local farmers have you covered: “These days farmers are growing gorgeous varieties of squashes for their visual impact.”
While warm summer temps made it easier to safely gather with people outside, group events can take a little more planning in the colder seasons.
“The ability to host friends outside in the cooler months has really become a priority since the beginning of the pandemic,” says Carrie Culp, a landscape architect and co-owner of Urban Oasis Design and Construction.
When planning an outdoor living space, the options and scale can be overwhelming. But there are smaller, more workable options available. “The most basic necessity will be the actual cover,” says Culp. An awning (Culp recommends Rainier Shade) does not require a permit and can be set up fairly easily.
If you want something more rainproof, consider a roofed or louvered structure that can open and close depending on the weather.
To add warmth to these structures without breaking the bank, Culp recommends adding heavy curtains, screens or fixed panels. But if you’re looking to use your outdoor living space well into winter, a heat source is a must. Fire pits are a classic choice, and are great for gathering friends around for coffee or drinks. Or you can opt for outdoor heaters, like the Infratech Slimline 3000, which Culp recommends.
Looking to take your backyard to the next level? Outdoor bars, kitchens and fireplaces will have the whole neighborhood showing up at your door with a bottle of wine. “The flooring needs to be considered,” says Culp of these outdoor additions — poured concrete being the most budget-friendly, followed by pavers or stone, and composite or ipe decking at the top end.
But Culp notes that these larger-scale projects need to be planned about a year in advance with a team that specializes in outdoor construction. She advises using materials that complement the architecture of your home so it feels like a natural extension.
“Outdoor living is here to stay — post-pandemic, too,” says Culp. “Take time with the process, as these spaces should bring decades of enjoyment to your household.”
“Clients are more focused on home design now than ever before,” says Chloe Deane, owner and principal designer of Design and Digest. “Everyone is doing some kind of remodel to better accommodate their new lifestyle.” That includes working and entertaining from home more often than before.
Like Morgan, Deane is a big fan of bringing nature indoors this time of year. That could mean arranging hydrangeas in muted tones from backyard bushes in a large vase, or putting together and displaying a fall wreath made from foraged sticks, dried leaves and moss to welcome guests at the front door.
“I love to accentuate the moodiness of fall weather by bringing out lots of candles on the weekend, even when it’s still daylight,” says Deane. “I get some candles going and cook big pots of soup.”
Lighting and scents are great ways to transition to fall, but don’t forget about texture. “In addition, I typically change out decorative pillows on our sofa and bed from bright white and cream linens to soft cashmere and wool,” she says, which is an idea that can also work well for adding coziness to guest rooms for visiting family and friends.
Deane extends coziness to outdoor entertaining, as well. “When setting a table, I’ll bring out beautiful candles, dried fall foliage, warm cashmere blankets and thicker linens that add an extra texture to the table,” she says, and also suggests adding sheepskin or faux sheepskin to seating areas.
Whether indoors or out, taking the time to create an experience for guests is important. “I like to walk myself through the evening from start to finish, imagining what I want things to feel like when guests arrive, the details and timing of the meal, the music, the ambiance,” says Deane. Always have food and drinks ready as guests arrive — such as wine paired with seasonal fruits and vegetables, crackers, olives, spreads and nuts — to help make visitors feel instantly welcome.
And don’t sweat it if you lack matching glasses and fancy tablecloths. “A freshly washed queen bedsheet can do the trick [as a table covering] quite well,” says Deane. Grab some greenery or florals from your yard or pots on the porch and you’ll have an elegant, effortless setup for a simple Friendsgiving meal or long-overdue dinner party.