Creating Effective Seasonal Indoor Displays

Effective seasonal displays invoke the best of you, your spirit, your style – not that of the local homegoods store. Above is the November display outside my dining room: gourds from the garden, art books from collections or places I’ve visited, and some of my antique bottle collection. Granted, this may not be for everyone, but it works here because it’s real and speaks about me and my interests.

Every year at this season my mailbox bulges with questions about how to create effective indoor seasonal displays. I’m always a little loath to give advice on this subject, for fear of going down the Martha Stewart road. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of much of Martha, but a little goes a long way. Just because Martha prefers this or that color, or this or that arrangement, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right one for you. To my eye, too many seasonal decorations wind up looking like homegoods store front windows: generic collections of lovely little chatchies that could belong to anyone. So here are my thoughts on creating truly effective seasonal decorations for your home.

1) First of all, find the right spot. Seasonal displays look best where they would occur normally, and, where they will be seen: plants massed against a windowsill, for instance; a fall display in the corner of the front hall; Christmas decorations on a door or porch. Resist the temptation to plunk things hither and yon; it just starts to look like decorations exploded from a box. In my house there’s a long bench along the hall that runs past the dining room from the kitchen that I use for my seasonal decorations. Its central location on the main drag of the house makes it an ideal spot for changing displays of cut flowers, bulbs, produce and other materials from the garden and greenhouse. (Here was what this same spot looked like last February.)

2) Use changes of height and level. Five gourds plunked in a row on a table do not make an effective seasonal display. Some type of staging material, such as a stool, pot, or bench that creates a difference in height will allow you to set decorations at different levels and create a much richer visual effect.

3) Stick to your personal style. It’s like that old Donnie & Marie song: “She’s a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock-and-roll.” Whatever you are, embrace it, and make sure your interior decorations reflect that as well. Nothing looks more out of place than attempting to transplant someone else’s design ideas onto your own style palette.

4) Show off what you love. At any time of year, I revel in the hard-won achievements of my garden. My fall display includes all the various squashes I’ve raised this summer (and plan to consume this winter, one by delicious one) along with books, and antique glass bottles, two other passions. These happen to make a pleasing visual combination in any case, but are even more effective here because they say something about the me, and not Martha.

5) Keep it natural. The store shelves are overflowing at this time of year with fake leaves, plastic gourds, synthetic flowers.


Nature abounds with beautiful decorations at this time of year, all for the taking: gorgeous berries, colorful leaves, interesting twigs and branches. A small, natural arrangement of even the simplest kind speaks volumes more than cheap plastic from China.



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