Fabulous Outdoor Décor For Fall

I am astounded each year at how much money is spent on Halloween decorations for the outside. Surveys show that Halloween is by far and away the second largest holiday we decorate for. I know I am an old-timer but growing up, the most anyone did was put out a pumpkin that became a jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

Now, it seems that all front doors have at the very least a pumpkin per child in the family.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not opposed to this.  But, what for years and years was a one-night festivity has turned into a full-blown holiday season.  Manufacturers and retailers now provide us with every imaginable way to decorate for Halloween.  Lights, moving figures, spooky music – you name it, you can find it in a store to buy for decorating.

I love Halloween.  I will never forget the Halloween when I looked like I was carrying my own pumpkin because I was a couple of weeks overdue with my first child, Benjamin.  Or the time I was in charge of his sixth grade Halloween party.  I can still see him cringing in embarrassment as I turned the jam box volume up on “The Monster Mash”.  I think I was a tad too enthusiastic for him.  Those were the days…

And I am the first to admit that I do enjoy the varying degrees to which people decorate for the candy holiday.  Just the other weekend while driving to Wisconsin to go apple picking, my David and I laughed hysterically at the massive black spiders we saw on the roller coaster at Six Flags.  I mean they were HUGE even from the interstate!  Traditionally every Christmas season my family and I have driven around at night to see all the different holiday lights and decorations.  Now I find myself doing it during “The Halloween Season”.  See?  I even refer to it as a season without realizing it.

Go natural the day after Halloween

Obviously, the colors of Halloween are also symbolic of autumn.  Why not convert your outdoor décor to simple fall décor the day after Halloween?  Get rid of the spooky.  Get rid of the creepy.  Get rid of anything that has to do specifically with Halloween and think fall.  Let the front entrance of your home honor the season as we approach Thanksgiving.  Let the colors of fall emblazon your home and send a welcoming message to those that enter or merely drive by.

Seasonal Mums

Seasonal Mums

Nothing beats what nature provides for us.  Go natural with your outdoor fall décor.  Fill your planters and urns with seasonal plants such as mums, ornamental cabbages and pansies.  Keep the pumpkins, too- at least the ones you didn’t carve.  Ignore the fact that you are giving the squirrels a feast to nibble on everyday.  Do what I do and enjoy their show!  Add gourds, Indian corn and cornstalks.  Think Pilgrims!

One of my decorating mottos is less is more.  A simple natural fall wreath on your front door speaks volumes.  But, add whatever makes you happy.  Just make it unique and inviting.  Remember, the outside of your home is the first impression you give of how you live in your space.  Make sure it reflects whom you are.  As with all things you do in your homespace, honor yourself in this way.

A simple fall decor

A simple fall decor

As I said, I love Halloween.  I remember many years as a kid walking in the dark with my sister, Mary Ann carrying our pillowcases door-to-door for treats.  We walked until we couldn’t hold the heavy pillowcases much longer.  When my kids were young, Halloween signaled “Bat Stew” for dinner and then the night that the dads in the neighborhood took over.  Kids in tow, they walked the neighborhood while we mothers handed out candy and enjoyed the moments of alone time.  And, since 1987, I celebrate every Halloween lovingly remembering my own dad as we buried him Halloween afternoon and then took all the grandkids trick-or-treating that night on October 31, 1987.  My dad loved candy more than anyone I ever knew.  How fitting that he was buried on the candy holiday!

Happy Halloween to all of you and may tonight’s fun fill you with laughter and love.  And, cheers to you Daddy.  I think I’ll eat some Mary Jane’s for you!

Fall on the farm

Fall on the farm

To celebrating fall…

Bring The Glory Of Autumn Inside

Fallen leaves

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

By now if you have been reading many of my posts on this Blog, you know that I place tremendous emphasis on nature.  Almost without exception, each of my posts speaks to not just the beauty of nature but also, the absolute necessity to connect with it.  Time after time I remind anyone that will listen (or read) that as part of humanity we must both singly and collectively connect with nature.

As an Interior Decorator and a Homespace Coach, my goal is to bring nature inside and bring interior spaces alive with all that it has to offer season after season.  In one of my summer posts, Celebrate Summer And Bring It Inside, I gave my “Helpful Hannah” tips on how to do this.  The season of fall offers just as many wonderful ways to bring nature inside.

Bring elements of nature specific to the season inside

Wonders of fall

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

I love all things found in nature.  I would much rather grace my homespace with “found things” than anything I can purchase in a store.  Just recently I put away my collections of seashells and starfish to make the transition for my fall décor.

What I enjoy so much is not just the fun of decorating but, the fun I get out of immersing myself in nature in order to collect fall’s treasures.  Being outdoors in any capacity feeds my soul and getting to bring into my homespace what I find in nature is what I call more toppings on the ice cream sundae of life!

Here are a few of the “found things” that  I have used to add natural beauty to my home:

Sarah, Ellie and Whitt Shrader

Sarah, Ellie and Whitt Shrader

  • Pinecones (placed in fun baskets)
  • Varying colorful leaves (placed on table tops after being pressed)
  • Dried grasses (used in floral arrangements)
  • Acorns and other nuts (placed in a glass bowl for display)
  • Fallen tree bark (hot glued onto candles)

Of course, the obvious things like pumpkins and gourds are also part of my fall décor.  But, instead of purchasing them from the store I have gone right to the source and enjoyed the fall excursion.  Why not do this for yourself or as a family event?  There is nothing like a trip to the pumpkin patch for memory making.  Year after year I enjoyed this with my children.  Hay rides, apple cider and pumpkins make for a wonderful day!

Make autumn come alive

Exploring autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

As with every one of the seasons, the sky is the limit to how you can bring nature inside.  One of my favorite long lasting ways to do this (that can be enjoyed year after year) is to take an annual photograph of you and your family specific to the season outdoors in nature.  Then, every year you can bring the past season’s photo out to enjoy and thereby create a family tradition called “The seasons of life”.  What fun to watch the yearly changes in these family photographs each changing season.  What better way to make autumn come alive year after year?

Get out there and explore.  Hike, bike or simply stroll through the wondrous beauty our earth has to share with us this fall.  Then bring it inside!

Enjoy the color…

Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home)

Tree changing colors in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

My David and I were taking an early morning walk in nature this morning.  The moon was spectacular and the breeze gave a slight chill to the air.  Awwwww, the hint of autumn!

I couldn’t help but be excited.  With my senses alive to this feeling of fall I said to myself, fall is the best season of all.  Then I laughed  because I say this at the beginning of each new season.  The truth is that I love each of the four seasons.  Each one carries with it special meaning, fond memories and a renewed sense of anticipation for things to come.

The first day of fall just happens to be tomorrow.  Let us all welcome the beauty that this season brings us by allowing it to restore our souls.

We can do this in many, many ways.  At the same time, we can bring autumnal feelings into our homes.

Letting nature restore you

I believe that nature has the ability to restore each of us time and again, season after season.  In my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things I quote one of my favorite Psalms from Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.”

Autumn is the time to restore ourselves with feelings of warmth and comfort.  Autumn’s purpose is to ready us for the coming winter.  It gives us the chance to focus inward and prepare for the coming changes winter is sure to bring.

Beautiful tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

With autumn comes a myriad of opportunities to embrace the season.  For many people autumn is all about football.  Others explore the wondrous beauty of the changing leaves by hiking and biking in nature preserves and greenways.  Regardless of the activity, fall is a perfect time to be outdoors.

I have learned the medicinal properties of nature personally.  I call nature the best tonic on the market.  And, it’s free!

When David and I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago I found a lot of free time on my hands.  Plus, I didn’t know a soul so I had days to myself to explore.  Who would have guessed that moving to the city would produce so much nature for me to immerse myself in?  I began to walk, hike, bike and even snowshoe (now my favorite hobby for sure) by myself.  Slowly but surely I began to notice a change in my attitude.  (OK, David did first but so what!)  I began to let things go, calm down and relax.  What an amazing transformation!

I even noticed that my music choices I made on my IPod while walking and hiking changed.  For a while I listened daily to all my faves- from the 1950’s to today.  Before long I realized I was only listening to soothing selections that you would normally hear while getting a massage.  Now, more often than not I don’t take my IPod on my walks at all.  The only music I want to hear comes from what nature provides- birds chirping, frogs croaking and the ducks quacking to each other on the water creates an awesome symphony.  Walking in silence brings the music of nature to an incredible volume!

Brilliant red tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

To say that getting back to nature restored me just doesn’t do justice to the truth of it.  Getting back to nature has done so much more.  I am walking, talking proof of its tonic!

So, I challenge you to find ways to give yourself daily doses of the outdoors.  It could be as simple as eating lunch outside while at work, walking your dog, doing your exercising outside (instead of the treadmill) sitting on the porch or taking off to the woods.  A small dose of nature’s elixir will go a long way!

Nature has mental, physical and spiritual benefits just waiting for you!  Give yourself a chance to reap from it all!

Bring the glory of Autumn inside

I have espoused time and again in recent posts such as Two Colors Every Homespace Needs the importance of bringing nature inside.  As I have said before, we humans have distanced ourselves from nature and have created a false reality.  Our homes and offices are full of gadgets and gizmos that have nothing to do with nature.  What a travesty to ourselves!

Loving color

Photo Credit: Susan Muehl

By bringing nature inside we allow ourselves to stay connected to it.  It is that simple.  And, it is simple to do.  My “fall line-up” of posts will give you lots of ways to achieve this.  Look for Becky Balzer’s post on the best indoor plants for the home environment.  Chef Ryan will treat us to his idea of a great tailgating party.  Hector Benetiz will offer you suggestions on outdoor exercises to coincide with the season.  I will be sharing many different ways to infuse nature in your homespace through decorating.  And, that’s just the beginning.  Stay with us and enjoy the season of autumn!

Think color…

An Asian Inspired Relaxation Garden

When my wife and I were house hunting, for myself, it was not the great neighborhood, yard or even the house itself that had me sold.  They were all wonderful, but it was the courtyard in the center of the home that sealed the deal.  When we bought the house the courtyard held a fish pond, but I knew it would only be a matter of time before the pond became a garden.  It was the perfect space to bring the outdoors in and was destined to become a place to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet.  In fact, I am enjoying the courtyard as I write this.

Koi in pond

Japanese koi in pond

The most important point to take away from this article is not how to create a garden with an Asian theme, but rather to inspire you to build your own relaxation space.  Japanese gardens speak to me the most, so our space would incorporate those aesthetics.  Your relaxation garden should also be personal and may be completely different – a shady spot in the backyard, an ivy covered alcove between buildings or a rustic bench by a lazy river.  What matters most is that it is a space where you can get away to enjoy some personal time.  We all need to recharge and what better place than in your own garden.

Designing Your Relaxation Garden

Since our goal is to create a space to relax in, the following are suggestions to keep it that way.

Create a Simple Garden

Regardless of the type of garden you design, my first suggestion is to keep it simple.  The Asian garden would draw from nature and use subtle tones for a calming feel.  Incorporate a natural color palette and pay attention to the textures you plan to include.  You do not want it to be too busy.  For example, I love variegated plants, but an entire garden of them would be distracting.  Instead, use them sparingly as accent plantings.

Keep it Low Maintenance

Cat on mossy stepping stones

Pets need quiet space too!

While I find gardening therapeutic, this space is meant for relaxation.  Select plants that are hardy, easy to grow and that do not require a lot of special attention.  Our garden is shady, so we included hosta, ferns and Solomon’s Seal.  You may prefer grasses for sunny spots or cacti for areas where water is an issue.  I recommend perennials that return year after year, but it helps to “grow what you know.”  You do not want to be worrying about whether your plants will do well.  Plan the garden and consult a nursery if you have questions.

Since this article touches on Asian gardens, I feel compelled to steer you away from planting bamboo.  And that is coming from a self-confessed bamboo addict!  Unless you keep it in pots or really understand what you are planting, it is best to use the canes as decoration or to stay away from it entirely.   Other potentially invasive plants to avoid would include aggressive vines and groundcovers like Vinca.

Mulch and rocks are useful in low maintenance gardens.  Mulch helps control weeds, keeps the soil moist and adds nutrients.  This means you will be spending less time weeding, watering, and your plants will be healthier.  Rocks are virtually maintenance-free, so think about incorporating a nice specimen or decorative gravel.

Develop the Mood

Consider all your senses to help enhance the mood of your garden.  Ours has a stone lantern that is nice during the day, but adds something special to the garden at night when lit.  We also have a moss-covered pathway in our courtyard that we use to get from our living room to the kitchen.  Moss between rocks feels great on bare feet, or substitute with Corsican mint that gives off a minty fragrance when you walk on it.  Flowering plants offer an unlimited variety of smells to work with.  Plant something that only blooms during a particular time of the day, like a Moonflower, for a special treat during your time off.  Water features are great as well.  Even a simple fountain, like a boulder or pot that recirculates water, can add a very soothing touch.  If you want something really unique, build a suikinkutsu.   Choose bells or chimes if you prefer those sounds.

Think Seasonally

Snow in Japanese garden

Our courtyard in winter

My final suggestion is to remember that your garden will change throughout the seasons, so keep that in mind when you are planning it.  Pay attention to which plants will be seen during each season and their colors, as they may change.  Use evergreens for consistent color and texture.  Flowers, trees and shrubs can all be used for seasonal color.  Select plants that bloom at different intervals to have something blooming throughout the season.  Also, try to think past blooms and foliage – specimens with interesting bark can add color and interest even in the dead of winter.

Under the Asian Influence

If you are truly interested in designing an Asian garden, I suggest starting your research with the image search on Google.  Save images you like in a folder to refer to later.  Keep an eye out for features that make a garden distinctly Asian and learn more about them.  A few of my favorites include:

  • Asymmetry – Asymmetrical balance is a core tenet of Japanese art and culture.
  • Shakkei – Concept of “borrowing” scenery to make your garden appear larger than it really is.
  • Wabi-sabi – Incorporate weathered objects to give your garden an ancient feel.  Paint moss on lanterns and rocks to simulate aging.
  • Yūgen – Partially obscuring objects to suggest their beauty. This leaves something for the imagination.

Regardless of the type of relaxation garden you design, keep it simple and personal.  The most important thing to remember is to enjoy it.  Visit your garden often and experience the changes throughout the year.

Happy gardening relaxing!

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Oddly enough, I have chosen an “electronic platform” to teach the importance of getting back to the basics in our homes.

But, with the frantic pace of invention- for example, the constant introduction of newer and better computers, newer and better TVs, newer and better phones, newer and better electronic games- we continuously move away from the simple beauty that is around us.

Thus, we need to become ever more mindful of infusing nature in our homespace.

Over the lifetime of this blog, I will offer tips, ideas, and plans to help you shift your space to a more nature centered space.  As the months go by, so do the seasons and I will emphasize this in my postings.  The photography for each post will pay homage to these seasons as well and visually give you an idea of the calming aspects nature offers to us.  Each season brings us wonders of it’s own- embrace them!

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Here’s a quick summary of some of the topics I plan to address.

  • Your home is an extension of yourself.  It reflects aspects of you going back to your earliest memories.
  • Your home can express your spirituality and bring you more in tune with nature.
  • There is a close relationship between our environment and our physical, mental and spiritual health.  (Discussions of Vastu Shastra and Feng Shui)
  • Our homes are the outward manifestation of what we are and feel on the inside.  Creating harmony in your space will create harmony within.
  • A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.
  • A beautiful home is not the result of material consumerism.
  • Clutter in your space clutters your mind!
  • Color your world.
  • Shape, texture and placement of things can balance the energy in your home. What works best for you?
  • Don’t give in to following the trends.
  • What about your shoes?
  • See your home through the lens of a camera.
  • Take the smell test.
  • Noise pollution in your home.
  • Music speaks what the soul feels.  How music impacts your homespace.
  • Absolute Do’s and Don’ts.

Product reviews and shout-outs

Along the way I will offer to you guest writers on some of these topics. I will also give product reviews as well as shout -outs to companies and organizations that I have found to embrace the truth of getting back to the basics, honoring our earth and furthering the global shift of consciousness.

Helpful Hannah Tips and Ideas

At times on this blog I will offer what I call my “Helpful Hannah” tips and ideas that you might find interesting to incorporate into your homespace.  These will range from decorating tips to household cleaning tips to spiritual tips- all to create more balance and harmony in your homespace.  I will also provide photographic examples of “before and after” work I have done to show how you can change space to bring on the warm fuzzies I believe to be so important in the homespace.

Pay it forward

My greatest joy will not only be that these words and photographs of nature inspire you but that you share them with others and “pay it forward”.  In life, it is the giving to others what we learn for ourselves that holds the most value. I hope you will agree.

One thought…

The home is truly where the heart is.  Where the heart is you will find peace. Let there be peace on earth. Let it begin with you by living in perfect harmony.

Keep decorating…

Photo credit: Susan Muehl