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fall mantel: from still life to real life

it's been said that 'art reflects life'
well, i'm about to tell you how to make your DECOR reflect ART.

creating vignettes / displays in your home is fun. it's inspiring.
it's like playtime when you think spatially and visually.
but to some people, it's frustrating.

if you look at the photo above and think to yourself 
"i can't do that - i don't know how to arrange things"
well, let me tell you what - i've got a simple solution for you: you can cheat!

go to Google images and search 'still life paintings'.
 images will pop up and you will see all kinds of inspiring compositions by master painters.
[or just click here - i did the search for you]

just find one you like, and copy what you see in it. 
take, for example, this still life masterpiece by the artist Claude Monet:
 here we see a composition that can teach us a LOT:
*there is height on the left in the standing blue delft plate, which coordinates with all of the other dishes used in the setting.
(they don't 'match', but they do have similarities)

*the medium height of the large melon on the right balances the standing plate.
in front of the plate, there is a stack of peaches - in the same orange color and round shape as the melon.

*grapes in the foreground 'break' the edge of the composition - everything else is on a plate, very contained. the grapes are 'escaping' and lead our eye out of the frame.

*Monet has also used the 'complimentary' color combination of blue and orange
(opposites on the color wheel, and they make one another more vibrant)

maybe you'll have to use 'stand ins' for some of the elements in the original painting, 
but what you really want to do is to look at the composition and notice these things:

*the way there is a mix of  tall things and low things and round things and flat things... 
*look at how fabric is placed and how it gives a sense of movement to the painting
*notice where 'soft' flowers or food are in relation to the 'hard' books/plates, etc.
and then copy the way the items are assembled and arranged. 

this is how we learn - in art class, anyway. 
look at the masters, see how they do it, and do it that way. 

so that Claude Monet masterpiece up there could easily be replicated on YOUR mantel!
you could use blue and white Delft (Dutch) ceramics and pumpkins -
you'd still have the same shapes and color palette as he did, to get the same effect.
add in some gold and orange fall leaves to 'break the edge', instead of the grapes, 
and you've become a master artist! 

"ok", you say - "but what do i USE in MY composition?" that's easy.
everyone collects SOMETHING!
i collect pumpkins, and you can see some of the ceramic ones on the mantel above.
maybe you collect art glass, or BOOKS, or crowns, or hats... ???
so, let's start there: use your collections

*art glass in warm earthy tones compliments the season -
 fill vases with fall leaves & flowers, stack mini pumpkins on glass plates or bowls.
lean a plate against the wall and place a small pumpkin in front of it.

[the ceramic pumpkin 'top' seen in the photo above is the lid from a soup tureen. the tureen was smashed to bits and the lid survived... though it's not functional, it's still a great decorative accent.]

*select books with covers that either coordinate with or contrast the colors of fall.
you could choose all neutral browns and creams, or blacks and whites, or even the rich jewel shades of eggplant, chartreuse, and avocado
to mix with gold, persimmon, rust, and brown leaves.
stack them, line them up, mix them in a vignette with some leaves and pumpkins for fall.
if you have some great fall TITLES, or cover art, make sure you highlight those by showing them off.
[yes, you CAN judge a book by its cover for this idea!]

*add various sizes of pumpkins and gourds to your mantel, entryway, 
and dining table displays. then perch your crown or hat collection on TOP of the pumpkins.
this little bit of whimsy will spark up your decor in no time!
[i love the look of white pumpkins wearing a black top hat and a black eye mask.  
pick up simple eye masks at the Dollar Tree store in white, black, and silver.]

even if you collect white ironstone, you can work color into your displays
by filling them with interesting textures and shapes of leaves and grasses.

and that, students, is art class #101 for today...
go get inspired by the masters, and create your own decorative 'art'!


  1. What a great solution! I hear that from clients all the time that they just can't arrange things. I'm going to refer them to your mini-tutorial.


  2. Thanks for the art class Deb! I really struggle with this and often get frustrated...I need you to write a book please!!
    BTW, I got my sweet little pumpkin on Sat and am in LOVE!!!
    I'll be giving you a shout-out on my next blog post!!!
    I love you to pieces!!! You are a decorating and pumpkin making Rock Star!!

    Keep up the wonderful work...I hang on every word! Oh, and I love the way you mix up the fonts and throw in a little pumpkin color here and there!

  3. Some really great ideas! Love the blog,


  4. Thank you so much, ladies - I really appreciate your feedback. I've spent a lot of time in art classes (taught a few, too!) and discovered that there is a lot of wisdom in art!