Natural Fall Décor
It’s time to use what’s in season for fall to your advantage. Decorate your home for Thanksgiving with the season’s natural elements—from the farm stand, the grocery store, and even your own backyard. Let your surroundings inspire you when it comes to fall decorating. If you’ve seen some beautiful leaves in your yard, or on your walks around the neighborhood, turn them into fall décor by flattening them and pinning them to boards for instant wall art. Or instead, of carving the pumpkins and gourds that you’ve picked up for Halloween, use them as candleholders and display on your mantel or dinner table. When it comes to displaying these natural accents, don’t just limit it to the table and the mantel, think about hanging some décor from your lighting fixtures or along your stair railing. You can even start putting these décor items out in early fall and keep them through Thanksgiving and early December—we’ll show you how to preserve fruit, leaves, and other foliage so you won’t end up with anything rotting or giving off a bad odor. Try one of these DIY ideas and your guests will be impressed with the warm, festive welcome (and your creativity!)
From the Farm Stand
Reap the benefits of the fall harvest: unusual textures, vibrant color.
Small plants with delicate husks that resemble paper lanterns, Chinese lanterns are ideal for adding color to a banister. Glue thin pieces of velvet ribbon to the stems and tie between each spindle. Choose ribbon that’s in a muted, fall color palette. When the holiday is over, wrap them in tissue paper, then place in a box to store. Handle with care, because dried Chinese lanterns retain their color and should last for a few years, so you can have these accents for next season and beyond.
Mini Pumpkins and Gourds
These cuties convey the very essence of autumn. This idea proves that you can never have too many pumpkins in your house during this season. Plus, unlike jack-o-lanterns, you can keep these out past Halloween. To turn them into candleholders, use a sharp knife, an apple corer, or a pumpkin-carving tool to cut a two-inch-deep hole about the size of a quarter around the stem. Go with white candles only, or opt for a handful of earthy colors. They’ll look great lined up along a mantel like in this photo, or you can use them as dinner table lighting, which will give off a warm, cozy glow.
One of the oldest known varieties of apple, these small fruits are lightweight enough to hang from a chandelier with fishing line or raffia. When shopping, choose unbruised pieces with stiff stems. To make the apples last through the holidays, spray them with clear lacquer (available at craft stores). Decorate the table by placing a pear or some other fall fruit on each napkin.
• Enliven a staircase by placing a white pumpkin on the side of each step.
• With a knife, make a small one-inch cut in cobs of Indian corn, then tuck in place cards at the dinner table.
From the Backyard
Forage right outside your own door: earthy elements, free for the taking.
With fall in full swing, that means you’ll see some beautiful foliage and branches. If you come across and interesting branches in your backyard, or maybe while you’re out walking the dog, collect them to make a stunning centerpiece. To add height and drama to an entryway, display branches in a glass vase and hang mini acorns in various spots with thread or fishing line. Use a rock to anchor the arrangement and make it sturdier. It will also look great on a console table in the living room or dining room.
Scour the yard or a nearby park for leaves, then place your favorites inside a thick book for 24 hours to flatten before affixing them to pretty pin boards for some wall or mantel art. Some kinds, such as pin oak and southern magnolia, keep their color naturally; others need a little help. David and Leanne Kesler, co-owners of the Floral Design Institute, in Portland, Oregon, recommend an old-fashioned trick: Iron them. Using medium-low heat, press leaves between two sheets of wax paper until the wax melts, bonding the sheets together. Separate the two pieces; the leaves should come right off.
For a nontraditional centerpiece, fill bowls with sand and top with lichen, a pretty fungus-alga. Search for pieces of it on the ground and on rocks; some types can even grow on concrete, limestone, and sandstone. To complete the look, forgo a standard table runner in favor of an artfully placed piece of driftwood.
• If you find a pine branch dripping with cones, set it in a large cylindrical vase, says floral designer Robert Palomo of Bardin Palomo, in New York City.
• Slip a pretty leaf between two glass plates to add seasonal charm to a table setting.
From the Grocery Store
Nab decorative accents on your shopping trip: gorgeous fragrance, surprising shapes.
Who needs a rosemary or lavender room spray when you’ve got real thing? Welcome guests with the invigorating aroma of rosemary by tucking stalks of the herb into a wooden box. Add flair with a few pieces of lavender—its soothing scent will tone down the pungent rosemary. You can also dry herbs by bunching sprigs together, securing them with a rubber band, and hanging them upside down in a dark, dry, and warm area for a couple of weeks. Keep lavender out of direct sunlight to preserve its color.
Combine the jewels of the citrus family—kumquats, clementines, oranges, and limes—to make a pretty, sweet-smelling wreath. The beuatiful citrus fruit will wake up your space and add some vibrant color. It’s easy to make, but it looks intricate and impressive. Start with a circular piece of florist’s foam, then use wooden florist’s picks to secure large items, such as oranges, first. Continue with smaller fruits. Tie with a thick velvet ribbon. The wreath should look good enough to eat for at least a week. Place it over your mantel like in the photo, or hang on an interior door.
Peppercorns and More
Add some extra items to your grocery list for some easy and elegant décor. Fill clear glass vessels with figs, peppercorns, pomegranates, and Champagne or Concord grapes. Whole peppercorns will last naturally for months; pomegranates, a week; and figs and grapes, just a few days. Arrange the vessels together on a dining table, side table, or mantel, or use one large statement vessel as your dining table centerpiece.
• Throw a few dried mint leaves into a roaring fire for some instant herbal essence.
• Don’t forget the vegetables: Arrange Chinese eggplants, Brussels sprouts, and jalapeño peppers in a beautiful bowl.