Decorating for Fall Without Pumpkins

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

The shift from summer to fall is about deepening colors. Vivid reds, rich purples, and dusty shades of green emerge from beneath summer’s brilliant emeralds, yellows, and pinks.

When it’s finally possible to enjoy the relief from heat and humidity that comes with the release of cool, blustery weather, signal the change inside your home by bringing in natural, in-season elements. Our favorites this year are eggplant, artichokes, red pears, the dusty yellow blossoms of solidago, seeded eucalyptus, chocolatey buckeyes, and rustic pussy willow.

For the table Anchor the table with red and rusty hues against dark forest greens

For the table A bed of seeded eucalyptus with deep purple eggplant border the hammered copper pot

For the table Red and green pears, artichokes, and eucalyptus fills the table's centerpiece

For the table

For a centerpiece that can be set for just a single dinner or even weeks at a time, choose colors that range from deep to rusty. Try a copper pot (also consider terra cotta, clay, or materials in deep oranges and reds) filled with red and green pears, artichokes, and seeded eucalyptus (Eucalyptus cinerea). Around the the bowl, we’ve chosen eggplant and acorn squash as well as leafy eucalyptus.

This arrangement can easily be used for a sofa table, entry table, or sideboard in a dining room. Easily transition this autumn centerpiece into early winter by adding bright, bittersweet berries as they bloom.

For the table settings, crimson dinnerware and a red-stemmed glass echo the deep red of the pears in the bowl, unifying the tablescape. To balance the natural centerpiece and rustic wooden chargers, try antique flatware and glassware with delicate details.

For the mantel

Understatement is key when it comes to seasonal decorations, especially autumn decorations. Loud themes overpower the natural beauty of a room and easily cross over into kitsch territory. Especially if your mantel is within view of your table centerpiece, use similar elements but do not duplicate an arrangement in its entirety.

For this mantel, we’ve anchored each end with heavy pieces—on the left, mighty candlesticks in a dark charcoal, and on the right, an antique Peruvian vase stuffed with eucalyptus and pussy willow branches. Avoid eggplant apart from the table, which can feel more like a food element than a decoration when it’s out of place.

Scattered across the mantelpiece, we’ve mixed colors and textures—artichokes, red pears and green pears again (echoing the nearby centerpiece), goldenrod (Solidago), and buckeyes.

For the porch

For the porch, keep décor—potted semi-double chrysanthemum with cut goldenrod—arranged in an antique egg basket. If you use an antique piece for an outdoor arrangement, be sure to bring it inside during rain to prevent damage.

If you want to add to the porch without using traditional pumpkins, try forest green acorn squash with splashes of orange on their bellies.

More natural elements that bring autumn into your home

If you choose to forego artichokes and pears this fall, here are a few more natural elements you can try.

  • Bittersweet vine (Solanum dulcamara). Depending on your climate, bittersweet vines may not produce their trademark bright red berries until very late in the fall, closer to winter. These woody vines do well across long sideboards and mantels.
  • Lemons, clementines, kumquats, and purple onions can be a flavorful addition to table centerpieces if you like injections of more vibrant colors. If you do make playful additions, choose a single accent color to avoid looking like a wild citrus celebration.
  • Dried mung beans (which are gentle, dusty green in color) or roasted coffee beans can serve as an anchor to pillar candles in clear glass cylinders. Use these on mantels and on shelves.

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