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simple solutions: just use pumpkins

 there are a million ideas for fall decorating floating around the internet right now,
but sometimes the BEST ideas are the simplest ones:
simple like sitting a small sugar pumpkin on top of every post on your fenceline.

the photo above is not staged.
i came across it last fall while still living in Washington state.
[of course when i see something like this, i have to jump out of the car and take a picture!
i am not daunted, even by the homeowner who is unloading bags of garden mulch from his truck in the driveway - i ask politely if i may take a photo of the fence. 
 he stares at me. i ask again. he nods, speechless.
it's a response i am used to. and i happily snap a few photos]

[sugar pumpkins are the ones that are heaped into a huge cardboard bin in front of  every grocery store in the fall.  they usually cost about $1.50 each.]

driving on down the street, i came across this setting - again, not staged:
i swear i did not touch those pumpkins - that is exactly how they were positioned when i drove by!

perhaps the homeowner placed them ever-so-precisely. 
perhaps the smallest pumpkin rolled off of the top step, down into that oh-so-perfect location.
then again, maybe they were plonked down there to be arranged later....

is this neighborhood inhabited by a bunch of photo stylists, i wonder? 
when you look at those elements, you can see how simple it is:
a container of grass and three pumpkins in two colors/two sizes.

the differences in size and color of the pumpkins keeps it interesting
the orange-y tone in the grass coordinates with the orangest pumpkin color
and all of it sitting on a gray background just makes the colors POP
[gray is a shade of blue - blue and orange are opposites - remember my last post?]
and honestly, the placement of them could not be more perfect.

oh, wait, it gets BETTER! just look at the house that those pumpkins were in front of:
the woman who lives here must have seven short roomates....


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'!


Tutorial: Bleached Leaves

I've had a few questions about the bleached leaves seen in my last post
so I thought I'd share some information... it's not hard to bleach real leaves!

it is up to the user to observe smart practices and use common sense 

while undertaking this craft project...
*make sure to wear protective eye wear, face mask, gloves, and long sleeves 
to protect from splashes and fumes.
*make sure to have a first-aid kit on hand - including an eyewash vial.
*make sure to work in a VERY well-ventilated area where fumes will not build up.
*make sure to keep ALL pets and children of any age away from this project
at all times.
*make sure to follow all of the safety directions below.

*a large rectangular Rubbermaid storage bin with lid
(you'll sit the lid on top but will NOT seal it closed)

*a gallon of chlorine bleach [generic brand is ok for this]
*an equal amount of cool clean water
*real leaves 

leaf-gathering  tips:
*waxy leaves don't do well. thicker leaves, like oak and maple, get the best results.
*use leaves that are as dried out as you can find – greener leaves get 'gooey'.

*don't raid from public places or your neighbors' yard without asking!
*check with local landscape service companies to get free branches & leaves from their yard trimmings.

*lay the branches of leaves as flat as possible in a large Rubbermaid-type storage container.
*fill container with enough 1/2 and 1/2 mix of COLD water to bleach to cover the leaves. place the container cover on top - but DO NOT SEAL IT.
***Keep ALL Children & Pets AWAY From This Project!***

*check on them every two hours or so. when they have lightened to your liking, pour a gallon of cool clear water into the container to dilute the bleach solution. 

*carefully dump or dip the bleach solution out of the container into a large bucket. dispose of the solution in your toilet or bathtub drain - NOT into your driveway, gutter, or yard.  

*rinse leaves in clear, cool water to get the bleach residue off.

*lay flat and let them air-dry.

*you may have to use a drop of hot glue to re-attach them onto the stem/branch.

*spray them with clear spray paint to 'seal' them against weather if you want.

this method works on cheap fabric leaves from the dollar store, too!

don't miss this NEWER blog content:


front porch fall decor: raid the garden shed!

 when it's time to spruce up your front porch decor for fall,
look no further than your garden shed or garage.
the stuff you have on hand out there will make seasonal decorating EASY!

look at that top photo. what do you see?
galvanized buckets. a watering can. a plant stand, maybe.
those are PROPS, people! and with PROPS, you can get BIG effects FAST.
here's the 'Fast, Cheap & Easy' scoop
  on how this vignette came together:

i grabbed an old black iron plant stand and literally slopped some white paint on it.
[go to ReStore or other thrift shops for paint for projects like this.
it doesn't have to match anything else, it just needs to be some kind of white or gray
or whatever color you want it to be. quarts for a buck, gallons for three - 
paint isn't cheaper anywhere. and you're keeping it out of landfills, too!]

one galvanized bucket sits in the plant stand, lined with with an old burlap bag.
one bucket went on the ground, upside down to serve as a pedestal.
[maybe you have harvest baskets, or wire locker baskets to use]

the rusty white metal watering can is balanced on the back edge of the lower bucket.
it leans against the wall. and it has no bottom.who cares?!

some of my large 'slopped-on-white-paint'-ed  pumpkins
(one terra cotta, one resin) are the focal points in both galvanized buckets. 
a few cream-colored resin pumpkins sit on the ground, just for good measure.
[Dollar Tree stores have small sizes of resin pumpkins - for a buck.
look for bigger ones at thrift stores. and yes, you can paint them!]

and here's the best part: that COOL grass you see in the bucket?
dead daylily leaves. yep. 
after summer was over last year, the foliage died.
i cut it off the plants and put it on a shelf to save it.
(that may stretch into the realm of hoarding, i'm not sure...)
but it was FREE 
and the dark color contrasts so well with the gray siding and the white pumpkins!
so, handfuls of the foliage went into the top bucket and the watering can.
[what about using plain old grasses/WEEDS, 
the ones growing on the roadside?]

some small bunches of real bleached oak leaves tuck in to finish it all off.
[get these at a craft store, like Michaels or JoAnns or Ben Franklin]
you can also get fabric leaves at the Dollar Tree store 
and soak them in a bleach & water solution until they are colorless.
keep them away from kids while doing this!
[or head to a vacant lot, your yard, or a friend's yard to gather leaves from trees. 
just don't raid your neighbor's yard without asking!]
the 'fall' tag was made using a white index card and some scrapbooking stickers 
[from the Dollar Tree store]
it hangs from the watering can handle with a metal shower curtain hook.
[if weather would have affected it, i could have covered it with clear packing tape]

that's all it takes to style your front porch for fall!

so tell me....
what's in your garden shed, waiting for the spotlight?!
this photo was shot THROUGH the screen door... 
i love how the screen texture ages the look of the image.

might be a good idea to print that photo and hang it inside,  
so i can enjoy my porch decor as much as my neighbors!

psssst: see what i did for my holiday season front porch decor

shared online:

 Debra's Common Ground | Fabulous Fall Fun

Cupcakes & Crinoline | Project Inspire{d}


bountiful pumpkin harvest!

many of you have ordered a set of the Original Sweet Sweater Pumpkins from me(thank you thank you thank you!)
and now you might be wondering... "ok.... now what do i DO with 'em?"
here's a quick rundown of ideas for displaying Sweet Sweater Pumpkins
with photos from some of the displays i've created over the years in my home and at shows....

As shown in the top photo:
1. pop a glass dome over them!
place a selection of pumpkins on a silver charger, china plate, or glass cake stand,
and as my friend Sue Kirby says, "DOME IT, DARN IT!"
it's a great way to create a simple centerpiece that is easy to move
 2. heap them into an urn!
 this is a simple metal garden urn that i PAINTED to look rusty, crusty, and aged.
it sets off the softness of the pumpkins perfectly.
grand as a dining table centerpiece, on a counter, or on an entryway table.
 3. mix them with natural elements and glassware
this photo shows a glass footed bowl, filled with pumpkins of several types,
bleached leaves, a bird nest, and some dried roses.

there's a lot of texture here to keep it interesting... rough, smooth, natural, man-made.
this is on a sideboard, but it would also work in an entryway on a table or shelf.
 4. go simple: lay a few on a white ironstone tray, or a wood bread board
perfect for display on a tabletop or shelf.
this is the photo that appeared in FOLK Magazine's fall 2011 issue.
 5. mix and match
pumpkins made from several different materials (sweaters, clay, resin) 
are placed together in a small vignette atop a sideboard.
 7. spill them out of harvest baskets
this works great on a porch, a sideboard, a large counter space, or in a retail display.
real fall leaves create a soft bed for them to sit on.
 7. go for the gold!
gather baskets, containers, candleticks, and pedestals... and paint them GOLD.
heap baskets full of pumpkins, lift a pumpkin up on a candlestick,
and bring a bountiful harvest to your table or display.

the photo below is a close-up of the shot above,
and hones in on some of the details of the display:
lace doilies under some of the pumpkins and vintage sheet music tucked into baskets as a liner, 
and the different levels that the pumpkins are displayed on. 
so those are a few of my ideas... not all of them, tho ;0) more to come.

 i ALSO have some posts coming up that show how you can 
ADD details to your pumpkins to personalize them! stay tuned!

All year long, you can use my tutorial, to make some of your own: CLICK HERE


over the tablescape!

here's a quick decor tip that truly works any time of year:
i just happened to do this in the fall with the 'Tattered & Torn' room scheme
that's been featured in a few recent posts...

i had a perfectly serviceable chandelier
[mine was an old brass one from the 1980's, bought for a few bucks at a thrift shop.
it sticks to EVERYTHING]
that i popped some wicker 'top hat' shades on, but it needed some more pizazz

i simply screwed in a few cuphooks up in the ceiling and hung some curvy old wire lampshade frames from them.
yes, i meant for them to hang crooked and wonky - it's more interesting that way!
stagger the sizes, the distances, the heights.

in this photo above, the frames hang ON the hooks.
in the top photo, you can see how  i dropped those wire shade frames down lower
by suspending them with velvet ribbons.

they work either way - AND you can also embellish the lampshade frames!
add ribbons, flowers, crystals, or add some vintage photos & papers 
using wooden clothespins to hold them on. 

what else could you hang like this?
birdcages. branches. baskets. wire garden fencing. bike wheels.

i just HAVE to share this here (already did on facebook):
i saw this cool wood wall made from RE-CLAIMED old wood in a casino on the las vegas strip! yes, i did!
[my logo wasn't on it]

you know that old door that i showed in my last post?
i say go big or go home - do a whole WALL of old doors or wood planks,
then add old hooks up high to hang seasonal decor from!
what a backdrop in an entryway!


taking a page out of Deb's book...

this last post for a series of photos shows a few more ideas for simple seasonal changes...

the table up above is a round wood pedestal table, painted green.
It was just an 'ok' table until I added some detail to it:

a selection of pages from old dictionaries, ruined books, sheet music,
and miscellaneous items like vintage bingo cards and postcards
are laid out artistically on the table top and reflect the brown tones in the fall decor.
then the glass top from a round patio table is laid over it all to protect it all.

what else can you do with old book pages?

*paper a wall or a wainscot below a chair rail
*use as matting for photos in frames
*paper a CEILING (pretty advanced stuff)
*decoupage onto furniture
*cover lampshades
...and i know you must have some of your own ideas, so
share a link to your projects in the comments!

[i love buying old or damaged books for pennies at libraries as they are sold with missing or torn covers, ripped pages, etc.
i never feel guilty about using the pages in crafting & decor projects, because it is giving the books a second life]
i found this old door at a salvage yard for TEN BUCKS!
[ReStore is the architectural salvage end of Habitat for Humanity.
they re-sell used building supplies - often antique & vintage items -
to raise funds for their building projects. it's a GREAT cause to support!]

i was lucky - there were four old coat hooks already on the top of this door.
[but you could add some old hooks to any door for the same effect]
i simply leaned this perfectly peely door against my wall,
and then used it as a 3-D 'inspiration board' and organizer next to the front door.

it holds baskets and assorted items that change with each season:
you can see some leather purses and bags,
along with natural materials like bleached leaves & grasses,
that coordinate with the fall palette in the rest of the room.

it's an easy change with every season, using items i have on hand...


Gettin' Scrappy

in a previous post, I shared some simple ways to change the look of a room for fall.
here are a few more photos and ideas from that 'tattered & torn' room...

sofas are just more comfy filled with pillows, don't you think?
i love pillows that add texture and interest to a room,
so i usually make my own covers from scraps of miscellaneous fabrics i have on hand.
the ones shown here are made from .... oh, come on, you know this... old sweaters. o yeah. i did.
i had some really soft, comfy old sweaters in creamy colors that i loved -
but they had stretched out a bit and i couldn't wear them anymore.
[i had streched out a bit, too, but let's not go there....]

i thought that i could still enjoy the softness of the sweaters if they were covering pillows, so...

The How-To:
*cut the arms off of the sweaters and flip the sweater body inside-out 
*sew a line up both sides and across the neck hole
*turn the cover right-side out, and pop a throw pillow form inside
[you can get cheap pillows at Ross, Marshalls, or the thrift store.]
*hand-stitch the bottom edge closed

*when you want to wash them, cut the threads and the pillow comes out -
and because it is the bottom hem of the original sweater, it doesn't unravel in the wash.
*put the pillow form back into the cover, and re-stitch it closed.

i didn't make these as 'envelope'-style covers because sweaters SAG,
and when i am cuddled up on the sofa on a rainy fall day,
i don't want the sweater cover sagging and falling off the pillow under my head.

another of the pillows is covered in a muslin fabric, and i DID sew that one with an envelope closure.
[i had some remant scraps in a box, but you could just as easily buy the fabric -
muslin is about $3 a yard.] then i tied a thick piece of string around it for interest.
another thing you can do with fabric scraps is change the look of your lampshades!
it's simple, really - wrap a bit of fabric around the shade, and pin it to help it keep its shape.
no glue, no fuss, no muss.
the two lamps shown above have two types of fabric on each shade,
just layered over one another and then pinned together.
[the fabric is pinned in smaller at the top, so it doesn't fall off the shade]
a simple string tied around adds interest and keeps the fabric in place, as well.
you could also use removable tape to secure the fabric.

mine is loose and unstructured - yours might be cut to size and crisp.
or maybe you will use strips and tie them vertically around a wire lampshade frame...
[i actually have another post planned to share ideas like that!]
just match your own style!

and i have to say, the ivory fabric over the white shades made the light in these rooms GOLDEN.
[i looked ten years younger in those rooms! man, i miss those lamps.....]