Monday, September 28, 2009

Warm Your Welcome

One of the best ways, and my favorite way, to make a home welcoming and ready for the fall holidays and visitors, is to add a seasonal wreath to the front door. The warmth and cozy comfort it conveys is worth the effort and, quite often, costs next to nothing at all if you take the time to use things you already have or natural elements from your own yard.

The wreath you see above on the gorgeous red door was created by crafter, editor, blogger, designer and proprietress of vintage goods Heather Bullard. She blogged about the serendipitous way this beautiful wreath came to be last fall, not on her own site but on HomeGoods' Openhouse blog. As she tells it, Heather purchased two garlands to hang on her fireplace mantel but decided they were too much for that space. So she devised a new way to use them. Wired together, the garland of berries and another of pine cones and fall leaves became a lovely wreath. A few strands of raffia complement the loose natural look and a pretty bow adds the finishing touch. Of all the images I collected for this post, I like this one best, and may just try it myself. On purpose, thanks to Heather's happy accident. You can read her HomeGoods post by clicking on the wreath. To learn more about her great vintage style, click here to go to her blog.

Following, are a dozen more ideas. I hope there's at least one here that will work for you!

Another pretty berry wreath, above, is fashioned from branches gathered on the homeowner's property. You may have something similar growing in or around your own yard. Go take a look. Gather some vines and branches, twist them into a circle, secure with twine or wire and voila!—your new fall wreath.

If you have twigs and berries, it's entirely possible that you might also have dried flowers or seed pods and rose hips on hand. If not, they're easy to find at craft stores and florist suppliers. Wire your finds in bunches to a grapevine wreath. When designing or choosing a wreath to purchase, you should also consider where it will hang. Don't these fiery fall colors look great against a jade green door?

And on a sunny yellow door, pheasant feathers and chocolate brown satin ribbon add warmth and depth and beautiful textures.

A very traditional wreath of leaves and wheat and berries even has tiny pumpkins wired to it. Gourds or small ears of Indian corn would have the same effect. Against the creamy white door, the fall colors really stand out.

I love this fat little wreath, above, stuffed full with leaves and dried florals and wheat. The twigs sticking out all around soften the look and add a bit of whimsy to an otherwise very traditional look.

A very rustic wreath hung on an equally rustic gate is crafted from seed pods glued to a styrofoam base. Berries and vines are tucked in all around to add color and even more crunchy texture.

This simple yet stunning wreath, above, is made from a single element—leafy twigs full of turning leaves snipped from neighborhood trees.

Square wreaths make a more contemporary statement than the usual round. Modern in shape but made with traditional materials, this example, above, offers the best of both worlds. And I'm not entirely sure, but it looks like the brown leaves could be metal. Rusty metal garlands can be found in country decor stores.

If fall at your house feels more like summer, you may want a lighter, brighter look like the wreath above. Frothy with dried summer flowers, vibrant green leaves and just a few fall berries, it bridges the seasons beautifully.

Another wreath suited for both late summer and fall is this square wreath of dried herbs available at Williams-Sonoma. Perfect for cooks and foodies, it would also look great in your kitchen.

Choose a wreath like this one, above, and you can enjoy it during the fall and and on into winter. The graying, cool shades of oak leaves look especially beautiful against this stripped and faded wooden door.

Another fall to winter wreath features evergreen branches and citrus fruits. The striped wired ribbon adds a crisp finish.

One last wreath caught my eye and I just had to include it. Does your college-age son resist your attempts to decorate his apartment? Does the "man cave" in your own home lack holiday charm? Is Oktoberfest the number one holiday in your man's life? Craft a wreath with dude appeal using pub coasters! Go on, I dare you!

Beginning after Heather's wreath: #1, #2 and #12 found at, #4 at, #5 at, #6 at, #7 at, # 9 and #11 at, and #10 at #3 and #8 sources are unknown. And I wish I could give its clever creator credit, but the colorful pub coaster wreath (love that blue door!) is an image I've had in my file for some time now. Please don't ask me why.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall? Not So Much

All the design and decor blogs (okay, not ALL, but it feels that way), and certainly all of the shelter mags, are talking about fall. Fall decorating. Fall trends. Fall wardrobes. Fall flowers and the beautiful turning leaves. Fall menus. Fall tablescapes. Fall is in the air. In the wind. In the craft stores since July for heaven's sake!!

Fall wreath via—not my house.

Here's what fall looks like in my backyard. This photo taken from inside the house will have to do because I am NOT GOING OUT THERE.

That thermometer is in the SHADE by the way. All day. And this has been our weather for several weeks now. Hot. Dry. A little windy. Lovely, right? Feel that nip in the air? Oh wait, that's just the AC kicking on.

Because I won't go outdoors any more than absolutely necessary, this is what fall looks like in my neglected garden. The roses are giving it a good try, but they're tired.

And whatever was in these little pots, above, was removed a couple of weeks ago because it was dead, dead, dead. There are some troopers still making a good effort despite the sun and heat and grasshoppers doing what they can to decimate everything in their paths. The succulents and sun-lovers are very happy.

The biggest part of my problem is that there's nothing remotely "fallish" about cacti and heat waves and flip flops. To cool off a little, I made a pitcher of lemonade last weekend and drank the whole thing myself in one day. Lemonade doesn't really work with pot pies and roasted vegetables. And it's too hot out to turn the oven on anyway. More salads and grilled fish for me, please. offers loads of fall menu ideas—if it's fall at your house.

Because of the blogs and magazines, I'm starting to get a complex and feeling like an under-achieving party pooper because I haven't changed out my mantelscape or added pumpkins to my porch decor. Give me a few weeks and maybe I'll get into it.

Fall tablescape via

It will likely be almost Halloween before it cools enough in this neck of the woods to call it fall. Just in time, the weather will change so that all the princesses and fairies in tights and tulle will freeze their patooties off trick-or-treating. For extra fun, it might even rain! That's kind of how it works around here. Blazing hot summer one day, cold blustery fall the next.

Thank you so much for allowing me to pout a little. Truthfully, I'm just jealous because I can't join in the fun. Not yet anyway. It feels so wrong to condemn an innocent pumpkin to certain rotting death on my blazing hot doorstep. On a happier note, my favorite local street festival takes place the weekend before Halloween and that always gets me in the mood for fall. Fingers crossed that it's below 80 degrees that day!

If you're here in the I.E. and haven't checked out this fair, you should. It's lots of fun!

And I suppose I should take some solace in the fact that it all evens out on New Year's Day—when those of you who celebrated fall earlier and more traditionally than I did are watching the big parade on tv, wrapped up tight in front of a blazing fire with five feet of impenetrable snow on the ground outside. In all likelihood, I'll be back in my flip flops with the house wide open enjoying the lovely mid-seventies day!

I promise not to rub it in when I'm enjoying this beautiful blue-sky weather on New Year's Day—and you're not.

Many of the streets in my neighborhood are lined with liquidambar trees like the one at the top of this post. Their leaves turn the most gorgeous shades of gold and orange and russet red before they fall. So I have hope, even on a hundred-degree day, that fall will come–such that we have it here in Southern California. Just not quite yet.

Is anyone else feeling left out by fall? Bah-humbugging seasonal decor? Please let me know I'm not alone! (Or feel free to scold me for being bitter!)

UPDATE: If you are torn about seasonal decorating like I am and want to listen to a fun (and funny!) conversation about fall and holiday decor—what works, what doesn't, and what they simply tolerate—tune in to The Skirted Roundtable's discussion on this topic. They start with fall and move right on through to New Year's Eve. Thanks Ladies! I don't feel like such a grinch now that I've listened to the three of you!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Falling for Purple

If your birthday is in the month of September, your flower is the Aster. The name of this flower, also known as starwort, is derived from the Greek word for "star", and "aster" is the root of the name of the star-shaped symbol known as the asterisk. It should come as no surprise then, with its astral appearance and associations, that the aster has long been considered an enchanted flower with magical powers.

In ancient times, it was believed that the perfume from the burning leaves of asters could drive away evil spirits. Victorians, with their complex language of flowers known as "floriography", used asters to send messages of love, daintiness, affection and patience. Today, asters also hold the honor of being the traditional flower of 20th wedding anniversaries.

Blooming in late summer through fall in most climates across the U.S., asters are easy to grow and can be found in colors ranging from white to pinks and blues, lavenders and purples, almost all with yellow centers. Purple asters are my favorite, even though the color purple itself is not one I tend to use at all in my own interiors and have yet to use for a client.

["Asters and Pumpkin", 10x8 oil by Jan Blencowe on The Painting a Day Project]

This year, and right now as we enter fall especially, purple seems to be everywhere. In fashion, furniture, paint and other finish materials as well as accessories for both your wardrobe and your home. Like the aster, the color purple is associated with magic and mystery and creativity. Light shades of purple evoke romantic and nostalgic feelings while dark shades can cause feelings of gloom and sadness. A true "royal" purple symbolizes nobility, luxury, extravagance, ambition and wisdom.

["Asters and Fruit on a Table", by Henri Jean Fantin-Latour, 1868]

According to color theory as found on, "purple is the most enigmatic of all colors". It is a combination of the excitement and energy of red and the calm tranquility of blue. It the most complex color of the rainbow and the people who choose it as their favorite tend to be complex as well: artists, performers, mystics, non-conformists, designers, and eccentrics. Are you a fan of purple? To which of these groups do you belong?

["Aster de Chine", Pierre Joseph Redoute', original work published in 1833]

Some surveys, as reported on, show that 75% of pre-adolescent children will say purple is their favorite color. Preferred and enjoyed by highly creative types, the color purple, when used in children's rooms, is said to help them develop their imaginations. And we all know a fanciful little girl (maybe it was you) who insisted that her room must be purple... or at least purple and pink!

["Asters", Claude Monet, 1880]

As with any color, there are a wide range of hues in the group we call purple. From the palest lavender and the pinkiest mauve to almost-blue periwinkle and the grapey purples used by athletic teams, there's a purple out there for just about everyone, even me. As I said, I am not a fan of purple for my own home, but I can certainly appreciate it from afar. Let's take a look at some interior spaces, and a few other items, appropriate for lavender lovers of all ages:

I love periwinkle blue. So a purple that leans periwinkle is just fine by me. Throw in some orchid and gold plus pattern on decor and fabrics, and I just might be able to live with it!

This girl's room found at Pottery Barn Teen is sweet without being syrupy. I think it's the green furniture and graphic pattern on the purple sheets that does the trick.

Pre-teen heaven: large doses of purple plus other equally vibrant accents, cool paper lanterns and a trundle for overnight guests!

Here's another large dose of purple that's decidedly more grown up. If you look back at the previous photo and then again at this one, you'll notice immediately that it is the style of the furnishings and accessories that make the difference. The paper lanterns and cottage style of the bedroom furniture are youthful and fun while the patinaed antiques and finer fabrics used above give the room age and elegance.

On the other hand, purple can bring a sense of youth and fun to even the most grown-up space. If you didn't see this home in a recent issue of Elle Decor magazine, you might be surprised to know that the purple swirls above were painted by the homeowner herself in an attempt to bring new life to a well-worn (and a little bit stained) area rug. That this room is in the home of the oh-so-serious Washington DC commentator George Stephanopoulos (along with his actress wife Alexandra Wentworth and their two daughters) may be an even bigger surprise!

Paired with lots of white, dark woods and a not-too-sweet floral at the window, purple can be every bit as calming and relaxing as blue.

Another soothing purple bedroom with a completely different, more modern personality.

Again, purple stands in for the watery blues and greens most of us would probably choose for the relaxing bathroom of our dreams. The texture of the boards that wrap around the floor, walls and ceiling plus the very traditional fixtures, do a nice job of keeping this room from feeling too cold.

And here, the warmth of wood cabinets and flooring balances the cool whites and mauves and chrome.

A casual tablescape looks like the perfect setting for a spring luncheon.

A purple wedding table set in the garden. Flowers continue the theme and the fresh greens provide the perfect counterpoint.

A purple kitchen? It seems the lighting in this space plays a big part in wrapping this room in a cool purple glow. Not my cup of tea. Is it yours?

Ah, this is better. More purple in the garden.

I couldn't resist this chair I found at Purple done like this could definitely grow on me!

Fantastic wallpaper. And such a smart idea to paint the base moulding to match.

I love Anthropologie. Doesn't everyone? This velvety purple settee is romantic and whimsical, even in such stark surroundings.

Also from Anthropologie. Did you know they sell one of a kind art like this platter full of purple flowers? Click on the photo to learn more about this artist and her wares.

Okay, now here's where purple loses me completely. Garish and bright and unnecessary—but that's just my opinion. If you love purple and Halloween, this could be the look for you!

And I definitely draw the line at purple for Christmas. I am a traditionalist through and through when it comes to this holiday. The colors are pretty, and I like the ornaments dangling from what I assume to be the chandelier, but this table and tree do not say "Happy Holidays" to me. You?

Finally, to erase the memory of purple Christmas, here is the image that is my favorite of all that I found for this post. I love everything about it. Even the wacky light fixture and that crinkly little bonsai-looking thing on the table. Okay, maybe not so much that one thing. Perhaps a vase full of purple asters would be better.

Which image here is your favorite? Do you use purple in your home? Are you a September baby? (Happy Birthday if you are!) How do you feel about asters? Talk to me.

My apologies for not citing the interiors I've pictured here. I was a lazy blogger today!