At least half of the people in the United States and all of Canada know the sensual comforts of autumn. Perhaps many in the Sunbelt region also experience a bit of the nesting instinct that comes when fall arrives, even if the weather stays warm. It is a very special time of year that inspires great interior design.
For many, autumn is a time to recluse, reflect, remember. As fall
nips the air, we tend to think of home, family and good times with
those we love. Many people also find that reading good books is
an autumn activity that pulls us toward cozy nooks and intimate
spaces, beautifully decorated and intellectually stimulating.
In the novel, “The Fledgling” set in Concord, MA, near
Walden Pond, author Jane Langton describes the changing of the seasons
connected with the sense of smell. With the pulling out of coats
and blankets from the closets, shaken out, spread on beds and pulled
onto chilly bodies, the smell of the furnace turning on and wafting
through the heat registers creates a sense of homey security. This
is a book about living close to nature, and was a landmark book
that made a development-driven nation take a look at preserving
nature and living with nature, especially autumn’s nature.
It also is a magical story. Magic is what autumn is all about. Something
stirs in many who remember that feeling from childhood—or
even still today—that nip in the air, the turning on of the
furnace or the building of a real fire or the flick of the gas log,
perhaps combined with a favorite hot drink or special autumn food.
This is the surrounding of familiarity that all combines to create
the absolute comfort of knowing that warmth will be found in the
home when the weather turns crisp. It’s a very sensuously
Fortunately, creating an autumn-like interior is something that
does not require fall weather. It is a look much loved all year
round. To make a deliciously rich autumn room, the formulas are
not mysterious. We know how to do it, and do it well. It is a matter
of evaluating the colors, patterns and textures of the autumn season
and translating them into the look, mood or theme that gives comfort
and earthy livability.
No two autumn rooms ever look alike, because in autumn no scene
is identical, no two sidewalks strewn with leaves are the same.
Autumn is about livability and individuality. It’s a look
that somehow just feels right, mostly because it honors nature,
mimics its complexities and provides a sense of security.
Autumn colors are two-fold. For background elements, autumn suggests
shades—hues plus black or brown. Browned colors are often
earthy and of medium or deep value and are complex, made of a mixture
of hues. Hence, they often elude specific names and may require
two or more words to describe them, such as “earthy golden-brown”
or “burnished copper.” Think of the complexity of leaves
that fall to the ground, creating a kaleidoscope of color overlaid
and intriguing as a composition. Try describing it. It’s difficult
unless the experience becomes more verbal, more descriptive.
The second direction is the use of colors that are brilliant accent
colors such as seen in the turning of deciduous leaves and the backlighting
of sunlight through them. These accents will be a touch of brilliant
gold or orange. Also color that scintillates is autumn-like. As
the sunlight reflects through the foliage in the fall, there is
an iridescence and a visual richness that can be translated into
interior accents of metal such as gold and copper seen in lamp bases,
chandeliers, art work and centerpieces, for example.
As nature is complex, so are the patterns that suggest autumn. They
may be overlaid or visually busy, much like leaves that fall and
overlap one another in a haphazard way. Tightly curved patterns,
such as paisley, are excellent choices that reflect this complexity.
Patterns that are masculine or rustic, such as African or primitive
tribal designs that connect the viewer to a close-to-earth experience,
are effective. Patterns may be angular, suggesting opposition. Geometric
patterns on fabrics may be echoed or complemented with three-dimensional
geometric shapes such as window treatment rods or holdbacks as accessories
provide substantially impressive design elements.
Autumn textures are tactile, inviting touch and a lingering feel.
Fabric textures that are decidedly autumn include chenille or velour,
tweed, twill, plaid, matelasse, tapestry, and woven, deeply textured
Wood is a major autumn element as seen in flooring, furniture and
window treatments. Wood colors that are natural to darkly stained
rather than light will create a sense of cave-like or reclusive
coziness. Wood elements often produce a psychological effect of
safety and security.
THE LOOK AND FEEL OF AUTUMN
Autumn is all about celebrating nature’s majestic beauty,
her splendor of deep color and the heady smells of harvest and home.
Indeed, it’s about coming home to a place that feels welcoming
and embracing. Overall, the feeling is solid, often masculine and
powerful. It is practical and physical. It can be primitive.
Autumn interiors may create a sense of somberness or seriousness.
It is an earthen effect—connected to soil, trees, rivers,
stones and wildlife. It may be dynamic with a heavy commanding,
pedantic effect. It appears anchored, sturdy and sometimes massive.
It is quiet, important yet filled with patterns and textures that
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of
design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books
including Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors:
An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies
& Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education