Seasonal decoration is not just for Christmas

Chastity Fabry

Luke answers readers’ questions on design and stylish living every week. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall

I’ve noticed that decorating one’s home as the seasons change is a big deal in the US and I’d like to make an attempt at something similar here in the UK. How do you move from autumn into winter with decorations for your dining table and other parts of the house?

A good friend of my mother, Mrs F, is from Arkansas, although she and her husband have lived in west London for years. Mrs F receives regular updates from relatives in the Deep South on how their interior decorations are changing with the seasons. She is also given notes on how to achieve the same look in London, with accompanying photographs and the strictest of instructions.

October, naturally, was all about pumpkins for the family back in Arkansas and Alabama — dozens of perfectly round gourds piled up with military precision outside front doors in all shades of orange, green and white — some left as they are, others painted with polka dots, stripes or harlequin patterns. Surely no country does seasonal decorating quite like the US.

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At Halloween in London, you might find the odd overdecorated house in the neighbourhood, but generally you’re more likely to come across an ineptly carved pumpkin peeking out from a neighbour’s windowsill than the aforementioned gleaming gourd towers lining front garden after front garden.

Decorating your home as the seasons change can be a joyous thing. It’s all about bringing the magic of the outdoors inside, and at this time of year that means plenty of warm, rich colours, autumnal wreaths and hedgerow arrangements.

‘The dahlias have provided the best source of interior decoration for months now,’ says Luke Edward Hall
‘The dahlias have provided the best source of interior decoration for months now,’ says Luke Edward Hall

At home in the country, our decorations are rather humble. We have also enjoyed our fair share of gourds — yes, they are ubiquitous but
I cannot resist that autumnal colour combination of electric orange, greyish green and off-white.

We had them piled up on the dining table for a while, surrounding a large vase of dahlias. (After a while they got blitzed into soup or roasted with butter and sage leaves from the garden.)

The dahlias have provided the best source of interior decoration for months now, as fabulous as the tulips back in March, and they keep on coming. They’re the perfect autumn flower, looking as they do like fireworks and brightening every room with their glorious colour.

We planted the most vivid pinks, oranges and yellows we could find, along with some dark purplish reds. I’ve been displaying sensational stick-of-dynamite-like flowers in individual bud vases and dotting them around the house — this way they get the attention they deserve.

An autumnal wreath from florist Willow Crossley
An autumnal wreath from florist Willow Crossley

I like gathering whatever I can from the hedgerows too, so I usually keep a pair of secateurs in my coat pocket. Rose hips and Queen Anne’s lace in October, holly and ivy in November . . . I never take much (think of the birds), just the odd few branches. I love autumn’s hues as they become richer and full of texture.

As well as arranging in vases, you could attempt drying gathered flowers and seed heads and using them to make a wreath or a garland. I love
a wreath in December, but why wait until Christmas?

An autumnal version, with elements gathered from the wild (the inspirational florist Willow Crossley makes a version with willow or dogwood and wispy Old Man’s Beard), can look just as inviting on a front door and will last for weeks. I like the idea of using willow as a base, moss, ivy — and eucalyptus for its camphoraceous scent. 

Changing table linens as you move through the seasons is another way to update your decor. In the summer I took to using napkins printed with faded roses and blue and green stripes, but recently I’ve been eyeing up Bertozzi’s Quercina oak leaf and acorn napkins, available from Cutter Brooks.

The Bertozzi workshop in Italy addresses environmental sustainability by utilising renewable energies, and it only makes printed linens to order, eliminating waste.

Quercina oak leaf and acorn napkins by Bertozzi
Quercina oak leaf and acorn napkins by Bertozzi

It’s a good time for candlelight, of course, and I stick to darker colours
at this time of year — dinner candles in dark brown and aubergine.

I enjoy displaying large collections of one particular object at home. This autumn I’ve been picking up glossy conkers on my walks and displaying them in a favourite old dish on a side table by my front door. I often like simple tricks, but this doesn’t mean I’m not partial, when in the mood, to taking a hot glue gun and reels of ribbon to everything in sight.

A friend down the road recently painted bundles of branches gathered from woods bright white and arranged them in his hall ceiling bell jar lanterns (away from the lightbulbs, naturally).

It was an inspired idea because from below, the twigs look like elegant strands of coral, and when the lights are on they throw dramatic spidery shadows all over the ceiling.

For my dinner table, I rather fancy the idea of painting huge branches a glossy yellow or crimson and placing in a black urn: a grand centrepiece.

Get creative, but remember: there’s a fine line between marvellous and naff (although it’s a line I enjoy treading). I perish at the thought, for example,
of fairy lights stuffed in jam jars.

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