Friday, October 1, 2010

Easy Autumn Decorating on a Dime

(Note: This post has been updated with three new pictures since I originally wrote it in September 2008.  I also wrote a new photo in October 2012 with more items here: Autumn: A Pretty Home and Yummy Food on a Budget.)

Welcome to our home! I know it's technically autumn in the northern hemisphere, but it sure doesn't feel that way in Florida. We're thankful for any cool breeze that comes our way, and if we want an autumn atmosphere, we have to make it ourselves. And so we decorate...

Let's start with our front door. I had been looking at autumn wreaths at Walmart, but didn't have it in the budget to pay the full price of $10-30. I did, however, find leaf garland for $3. I knew I had a red berry wreath at home, which I had bought at Target last year for $2.50. So I bought the garland and had Lydia wrap it around the wreath and hang it on the door.  We unwrap the garland again to turn it into a Christmasy wreath after Thanksgiving.  Our metal wreath hanger puts it at just the height to overlap the window, so we can actually see the wreath from inside the front hallway as well. I found garland for $1 at Dollar Tree, but it was more silky and less shiny, and not as natural looking. I bought one, along with a wicker wreath and a roll of autumn leaf silk ribbon for my sister-in-law Sue so she could make her own door hanging.

For many years, I had wanted to buy an autumn-themed flag to hang outside our door; but I never wanted to pay full price.   
I finally found one at a yard sale in spring 2009, brand new with the tags still on, for $2! I bought some spring flags, too.  If you are willing to wait, you can usually find a good deal! 

Much of the key to thrifty decorating is using what you already have. I don't remember when or where I got this cornhusk doll & corncob wall hanging. It was probably a gift. However, someone could make one easily enough. It hangs in our front hallway, between the sets of closet doors.

I purchased a bag of ornamental gourds from Walmart for about $3.  They are coated to preserve, but if they get bruised, they will rot.   I paired them with Indian corn on a long table in our front hallway.  I put more Indian corner on a tall antique cabinet across from it, along with some grains in an oriental style vase with autumny colors. Something different and something the same each year!  These two last pictures are from 2010. 

(Now back to 2008!) Also in our front hallway is another collection of what we already had, with the recent addition of two leaf shaped votive candle holders which were a birthday gift from my nine year old son Micah. (He bought them at Dollar General.) The small decoration at the right says, "Give Thanks" which is always a good harvest time reminder. The heart on the basket says, "A joyful heart is good medicine." I originally made this for my mother-in-law Ann when she was dying of cancer. She kept it on her bedside table. And she did have such a joyful heart in her final months. You can read more about that here: Tribute to Ann Knowles.

On top of this cabinet is the arrangement in the last photo. It is an antique radio cabinet originally belonging to my step-grandfather, Dr. Howard R. Driggs, who was born in the 1870s. It is at least 100 years old, I think. The lacy cover is a pillow sham probably made by Thad's maternal grandmother Madeline Scerra. There used to be doors at the bottom of this cabinet, but they were so badly damaged that we removed them. I arranged handmade quilts in it to cover up the rough insides. Occasionally I nestle a few quaint teddy bears down there. The chair is an heirloom from the Hess / Ransom side of the family. Did one of my great-grandfathers make it? I don't remember, but it's beautiful. We never sit on it because it is too fragile. We have another one in the master bedroom. What can you find in grandmother's attic? I should also note that this cabinet stores many of our decorative items and wedding crystal. I have at least two vintage easel picture frames from grandma's attic in there, but I bring them out in the springtime since I put in a welcome sign with spring flowers that I had printed out from our computer.

Across from the "big cabinet" in that last picture is a dresser that we got at a garage sale. I covered it with an autumn table cloth that we probably got from my Grandma Hess when they moved out of their Florida condo back to my mom's house in Maryland. (This dresser is no longer here in 2010.  It has been replaced with the table with the gourds on it further up in this post.) Our dear friend Tim Schutz gave us the painting as a wedding gift in 1985.  As you've probably guessed, I like to gather related items for decorative groupings. I love baskets!

I include this closeup photo to show you the picture which I cut out from a magazine, mounted on dark green scrapbooking paper, and put in a $3 wooden frame from Walmart. The lovely basket, filled with potpourri is a gift from Thad's sister Sue.

My mom always said that fresh dishtowels perk up a kitchen. (You can read more about this in my essay "My Glorious Dishtowel".) A few weeks ago I gave some, along with matching hotpads, to my daughter Mary, in the tradition of my own mother. I just bought this one for a dollar at Walmart and hung it next to my sink, where I use it to dry my hands after I wash them.

Moving on to the living room, we find more silk flowers, which I bought for about $5 at Walmart a few years ago. Next to it is a reprint of a picture of my great-grandparents, Charles and Mary Hess with two of their children, taken about 100 years ago. I mounted it on decorative scrapbook paper, and put it in a simple wooden frame. This picture usually sits on a shelf in my bedroom, across from my favorite reading chair. I don't like to leave it down where Melody can mangle it. The little round table is from Thad's family and was used as the communion table in Mary's wedding. I am looking for a round lace table cover to replace the one we misplaced there.

I found four of these small pillows at Target for $2.50 a piece last year in their "Dollar Spot." I bring them out in the autumn for a change from our usual ones.

Our home is filled with bookcases. This one in the living room has picture books, Bible story books, and lots of good paperback literature. The top shelf is reserved for heirloom books, like our Harvard Classics, as well as Live Language Lessons by Grandpa Driggs, Hero Tales from History (which belonged to my Grandpa Henry Hess when he was a boy), Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Aesop's Fables, Uncle Wiggly and His Friends (which belonged to my father as a boy), and others. Many of these books are about how people (and rabbits, in the case of Uncle Wiggly) are resourceful to use what they have. We can do that, too! We also use these shelves for country decorations. The fabric heart and wooden "faith, hope and love" angel were gifts from my sweet sister-in-law Dana, who is married to my brother John. There are two candles in jars, as well as a pair of artificial apples, an apple plate (a gift from my daughters), and an apple basket. You can see my other apple basket in the picture of my front hallway.

Our piano is below a window, and we use the sill for decorative items. The "Love is spoken here" sign is from the Target clearance shelf. I bought it to remind my children to speak with love, because they don't always do this. Most of the other pictures are nature photos that Joanna or I have taken, but Mary and Ryan's wedding invitation is there, too! A basket on the piano holds old hymnals.

My seven year old daughter Naomi painted this autumn tree for me.

In our bedroom, I hung a needlepoint that my sister Barb made for our autumn wedding in November 1985. Beneath it on the dresser is a candle arrangement made by my sister-in-law Sue. On a platter, she put a large glass vase. Inside this is a pillar candle with a silky ribbon tied around it. Then, around the vase is an assortment of chunky lemon-mint potpourri and ivory colored votive candles. I put the arrangement on a lace doily and added a few small jar candles around it. The other picture on the dresser is a greeting card of a praying woman that our friend Sue Schutz gave us when she married Tim, who gave us the painting in our front hallway. It's a great reminder for me to pray in reverence! The two doilies were most likely made by Thad's Grandma Scerra. It's always a challenge to keep flat surfaces like this clear from clutter, so they stay looking attractive. You can read more about that in the next blog post down, A Place for Everything. There is a digital clock in this dresser too, but it wasn't quite picturesque enough for my photo journal!

I hope that you have enjoyed this little tour of our autumn-decorated home. The things I hope I communicated with you in this blog post are that you can:

  • Decorate with things you already have, especially family heirlooms and thoughtful gifts.
  • Group related items together into a pleasing arrangement.
  • Create wonderful aromas with candles and potpourri!
  • Rotate your decorations seasonally so you have something different to see.
  • Use baskets for a homey look, especially since you can put things in them!
  • Gather new items little by little, and you will have quite a collection after several years.
  • Make your own decorations using materials from a dollar store, Walmart, or a craft store.
  • Keep your house tidy, since clutter distracts from beauty.
  • Frame family photographs, greeting cards, magazine photos, or nature pictures that you take.
  • You don't need anything fancy or expensive! Simplicity is beautiful!
I'd love to hear your ideas, too, so feel free to post a comment or two!

You can also see my holiday decorating from last year at Christmas Decorations. Same house, different season!
Virginia Knowles


  1. Thanks for these ideas! I love decorating for the fall as well. One thing I have learned to do is to decorate with "red" and "orange" so that when I'm ready to decorate for the Christmas season, I just remove the orange stuff and fill in with Christmas items. Of course, I always purchase "fall" items at the end of the season when I can get them up to 75% off!
    I love your blogs and have gained so much from your wisdom through the years. May God continue to bless you and your family.
    Bonnie from Louisiana

  2. Love these ideas! I usually go from summer to Christmas decorations because I'm not partial to the color orange. Certain shades of it are really nice though. Thanks!!

  3. Love all the home decorations you have shared. Great ideas too.

    Paula M

  4. I love all of the beautiful pictures of your home! Your decorating style is so delightful!

    Deirdre G

  5. Thank you for your kind words, everyone!


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