Can you tell there’s a change about? You’ve probably noticed that the light has evolved in the last couple of weeks, becoming less potent, but also more golden. The air has also stilled a bit. Except when hurricanes come ashore, that is. The scents borne on breezes have also taken on a bit of an edge. Fall approaches. And aren’t we glad? No sense waiting for crisp mornings and forests of turning foliage to give you official permission to create a bit of change in your seasonal décor, however. Select a couple of surfaces you want to use for fall bounty, start now, and add elements as the season progresses.
Clever, not Creepy by Chris Olsen
At the very end of summer, and at the very beginning of fall, you might just need a bit of liveliness injected into your garden and surroundings. Your plantings have been vivid all summer, but are now flagging. Your interiors may also be losing a bit of their enthusiasm. A great way to reinvigorate these areas and set the tone for the coming months is to use pumpkins, gourds, and all things orange, gold, green, yellow, warty, round, and all the shapes between. Look for unexpected places both inside and outside your home to feature this bounty you’re now seeing piled up in mounds at farmers’ markets, grocers, nurseries, and big-box stores.
Look Up. Nestle a size-appropriate pumpkin or gourd in a hanging basket, to feature with what’s already growing there. Add a low maintenance touch like this tillandsia for a bit of complementary gray foliage.
Look Down. As under-utilized space is always around and beneath a plant in a large pot. The larger the pot diameter, the more you can mix. Think about color, shape, texture with your mix.
Keep Moving. This one’s a perennial favorite of mine. Place pumpkins in a straight line going up any steps or stairs. Works indoors or out. It’s unexpected and whimsical. And a bit geometric as well.
Go With Green. Cooler weather may be just around the corner, but you still have lots of green in your garden. Pair gourds with deeper green ferns to get that last bit of use from this color.
Warts And All. I say ‘pumpkin, you think ‘orange.’ Try to go beyond this idea. I always encourage use of texture and, with the great variety of gourds and pumpkins, you will find many variations on a theme. Use odd shapes, feature the stem end, and try other colors, plus bumpy fruit when you can.
Light the Way. Got a big coachlight or outsized lantern? Tired of using candles in it? Keep the fire burning with an oblong gourd. Its shape is, of course, reminiscent of a flame, plus it fills the interior of the lantern. The bed of orange mini pumpkins the gourd rests on underscores the idea of fire as well.
Superlative Serenity. Create a shrine with pale pumpkins. The unexpected lemon chiffon color of these pumpkins fits perfectly with the gray stone, and their identical shape and size play into the serenity of a garden goddess.
Peeping Pumpkins. A line of three on a window ledge outside is not what your guests will expect. The traditional pumpkin color pops, the three stems amuse, and the effect is sublime. Nice seasonal punctuation of an area that no one but you thought about.
Take a look around at the underused spaces inside and out. Look at all the bounty of gourds and pumpkins available now. Make good use of it all, and you’ll have a happy seasonal home and garden. And there’s not a jack o’ lantern in the bunch.
Chris H. Olsen
Tower of Power by Chris Olsen
With any change of season come ideas about how to change your interiors for that season. Yes, you could alter the entire color scheme of your room or house, remove pieces of furniture and haul others in to take their place, bring in yards of fabric, and empty the contents of a barn to create fall ambiance everywhere you look. Or you can be a bit more subtle, and incorporate smaller items that still make a big impact. All I did was add a pair of shelving units above the mantel and pile a bit of seasonal color at the base. Light a fire, and you have instant seasonal display.
Begin at the beginning and set up your floor display. Remember to use the three elements of design: color, texture, shape. And don’t use pumpkins and gourds solely. I brought in the rock from the patio and a twig apple that matches the spirit of the season. And don’t be afraid to use both real and artificial components in any display. The lit pumpkins are from Botanica Gardens. They come pre-lit with an orange bulb, and are glazed, which gives them a look of elegance, but a nice touch of spookiness for Halloween.
Like so many, I have a flat-screen television above my mantel. And I didn’t even move it for this look. I just decorated around it. Note the squash and branches beneath the screen. The anchor for my look is a pair of bookshelves. They’re actually brackets from The Container Store, and a book slides into them, which means an actual book becomes the bookshelf. I chose matching vintage books with metallic titles to go with the season. The compartment boxes within the brackets and between the books are vintage slide boxes I bought at an estate sale in San Diego. (Another bit of advice: Always be looking around for personal additions to your home; you will find them just about anywhere, and often in your travels.)
The bookshelves become a tower for the season with little effort. I brought in flowers in an earthen vase, an owl, a pumpkin. Three components are all it takes to represent fall. Or spring. Or any holiday. You don’t want a heavy hand. And I left all those little compartments empty. If I hadn’t, I might still be looking for small–tiny–objects to fill them, which illustrates my design point; be sparing.
The casual seasonal mound on the floor is comprised of natural and man-made elements, real and artificial. The one unexpected piece–and you should have one–is the large aggregate quartz rock. Talk about texture!
The pair of shelves isn’t clunky or overbearing, and represent fall at its best. Wood tones, a bit of color, and texture. And, because I didn’t fill this display with lots of items, the vertical lines of the shelves aren’t hidden, and echo the lines of the mantel, which makes the ceiling appear higher. I created a mirror effect by incorporating identical pieces and matching each shelf with its mate on the other side.
The overall look matches the room, and both the floor and wall displays use the same elements. I’ve both blended my seasonal look with the existing room décor, yet created a shrine that immediately pulls the eye up. And something else to note as well. Not everyone thinks about painting the mantel silver, but use of this color makes my mantel a neutral staging area for any seasonal look.
You don’t have to fill up a room with representative pieces of the season to get your point across. Make one slight addition, use pieces you already have, bring in some natural elements, and you’ll have a chic display, and one that conveys your personality and sense of whimsy. That’s all you need for decorating changes that will tower above.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen
Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen: Heads-Up!
Don’t you just hate it when pumpkins get lazy? They congregate in dim corners and just sort of sit around, or they roll into each other, cheek-to-jowl? Passive and refusing to participate in what’s going on around them? Well….You can energize them, put them to work for you, rev up your decorating, and bring something unexpected to unexpected places. All you have to do is look up.
Seek those high points in your home, like shelves and the tops of cabinets or armoires. Think about what’s below, on those shelves, or featured—your collectables—and shop for pumpkins, mini-pumpkins and gourds that will bring out the life in what you already have. Think about scale, variety, color. Scale is important because you don’t want a pumpkin so large it ‘looms’ above you and your guests, and takes two people to lift up onto the surface above. And color is also something that you want to consider, because you want to complement what you already have in the room, or provide a nice contrast.
As you get your look assembled above, be sure and use some of the same elements below, which will create uniformity in your design, and even make your space appear larger. You don’t want your design to seem too polished, so look around at the pieces you already own and try and incorporate them into your look.
Don’t be afraid to bring your display into really unexpected places, like these kitchen shelves. These -out-of-the-way places serve as great little vignettes for seasonal produce heaped into a few similar bowls. Note the blown-glass irregular shaped vessels are the perfect receptacle for pumpkins and squash because they don’t obscure the fruit within, or make your design too heavy overhead.
While you’re creating a sort of natural design, go outside and find some things growing around your yard that will help you create a design point. Cut branches make a sort of ‘nest’ for this pair of pumpkins. The column capitals were nice and level, which meant the pumpkins would be fine resting on top. But the insertion of a few small stripped limbs around them gives the look a bit of texture and whimsy, which is always good.
When we think of pumpkins, of course we think of the color orange. So try to bring in a hue not as shopworn. ‘Ghost’ pumpkins are now easy to find, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. And by using such a pale color above, the design is not nearly as heavy as it would have been with the tried-and-true hot-toned pumpkin.
All you have to do to give your design that extra pop is elevate it. Use your seasonal elements in unexpected places—as high up as you can—and don’t forget the good design trinity: scale, variety, color. You will enjoy the seasonal transition much more and all with only a few new ideas or elements. And it can all start with you looking up for inspiration.
Chris Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.