Free Fallin

By Kate Riley September 10, 2010

cg viburnum on mantelI was determined this month to spend very little time, and absolutely no money, bringing the feel of fall into my home.

Why should I rush to the retail stores when the autumn leaves that were starting to turn on the branches in my own backyard provided all the inspiration and free fall decor I truly needed?

Over the summer, there was a lot of unnecessary *stuff* that had accumulated around our house.  I think this happens to most of us, regardless of our ‘clutter free’ intentions.  

The *stuff* in my home clung to baskets, and hid in dark corners where it thought it could hide. 

The *stuff* was wrong.


Several weeks ago, I purged my home of all things unnecessary in my continuing quest to live simply.   I find that when my home is clutter free, organized, and clean (a rare trifecta, to be frank), the pace around here flows a lot smoother.  Piles of meaningless *stuff* always overwhelms me.   Taking care of the *stuff* takes me away from taking care of my family, and that I cannot stand.  

white pumpkin on mantelAs I scoured my home during the purge, I marveled at how much *stuff* seemed to find its way indoors.  In a merciless two day cleansing sweep, I brought all that was meaningless to the garage, keeping only what was beautiful, sentimental, or useful.

After a successful yard sale a few weekends ago, I’ll admit, I’ve been enjoying the bliss of a decluttered home.  A home filled only with the things that I love, or that I’ve collected over time.  The things that are nostalgic ~ the things that I’ve treasured for years.

That includes holiday decorations from years past.  I was determined this autumn season to not focus on spending.  To not run out and buy accessories that I simply didn’t need.  To appreciate, and use, what I already have. 


autumn leaves fall living room


This year’s fall mantel is styled simply with clear vases and viburnum leaves from our backyard.  The same viburnum that gives glorious white snowballs in spring, yet also yields the prettiest early fall colors.

viburnum spring and fall


cg candles and leaves on mantel  


This year’s vignettes come from treasures and accessories from years past.  


fall blossoms in pitcher


‘Tis the season for amber glass objects previously stored away for months to make their appearance yet again.   


fall vignette


This year’s fall kitchen mantel gets enhanced with only a few vibrant branches from a ginko tree.   

  ginko white vase    

My bliss this week comes from free autumn leaves. 

chinease pistache in vase


And the reminder that I don’t need to go shopping to have a home filled with beauty.  I need only to steal a few clippings from nature. 

  emily bronte quote


Please enjoy your lovely autumn weekend. 

swirl snip

And as much as I’d love to spend this weekend taking leisurely walks appreciating the falling leaves, I have a very dirty job to do.  I am pleased to announce that the carpet on my staircase is doomed to destruction.  (Cackling with glee).  My hardwood steps arrive on Monday!  So as you leisurely watch football on Sunday, think of me, cause I’ll be pulling a zillion carpet tacks out of plywood steps. 

Cheers friends.





  1. Hi there, just a quick one. Do you know the type of viburnum you have? Always looking for plants with multi-season beauty. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for a wonderful post. Each season I look at all the “stuff” I bought last year to decorate, and think “Oh, that is so last year – I need new stuff.” When you think of it, the natural beauty of outdoors – colored leaves, pine cones, acorns, etc. can never be considered as “trendy or so last year.” This time I will be using what I have and going into the woods for my “new stuff.” Thanks for inspiring those of us who follow your blog faithfully.

  3. I’ve “fall-en” in love with that glass pear – divine.

    We cleaned out this summer too, but I had remind myself as I got purge happy that I couldn’t leave my closets completely empty, or I’d have nothing to play with to make different seasonal arrangements for free….where the fine line is between the two I have yet to find…;)

  4. Oh the joys of carpet tacks! You reminded of my of my husbands and I first home. This was a great read for me. I just came home from vacation. The house was clean when we left, but now filled with vacation treasures and half unpacked suitcases. Oh and stacks of mail that need to be sorted. Uhg! Feeling the clutter and feeling overwhelmed. Thanks for inspiring me to get busy. I do feel less stress when I’m organized. Here’s to the weekend. :)

  5. I’m all for purging clutter. It’s so easy to buy and buy without really thinking and appreciating, I find, and before you know it, the house is full.

    I bring in bare-stemmed twigs with red berries on and put them in a tall vase. Gorgeous!

  6. Oh how I envy you for getting to remove the carpet on your stairs. That is something I have wanted to do for years, but I haven’t quite convinced the hubby yet ;o) Your Fall decor is also very lovely. I would love to use nothing but natural things, but I have nothing in my yard that reflects the beauty of Fall.

  7. Your Free Fall decor looks beautiful! We are not quite in the season yet. My air conditioner has been on almost every day and the leaves haven’t decided to change yet. When they do I will surely be out there picking them up to use in my home. I have so much clutter in my home too and lately its been driving me nuts. Simplifying sounds great:)

  8. I love all the things from nature you used! I am so over the “faux and plastic”, especially the cost!! Good luck with the staircase. We did our back stairs a few months back…waaaayyy to many staples to count.

  9. Love your autumn decor – so simple and beautiful! You’ve really inspired me. Even though we don’t have a ton of fall decor with this being the second year in our home, I’m sure I can make do with what we have! :)

  10. Gorgeous clippings! Our leaves are just now starting to turn slightly, I can’t wait to feel that crisp air!

  11. Beautiful! Wish I had leaves like that in my yard – they look stunning in your house. I am in the process of decluttering myself in preparation for a yard sale in a few weeks. It is amazing how much “stuff” I have hidden away in closets and drawers (and the attic, the garage, under the beds, etc.) Looking forward to some simplicity around here like you have achieved!


  12. Kate, your home is stunning with the addition of the fall accents! and I still love those stamped book covers. I was blissfully happy to also be able to purge and donate so much unnecessary stuff when we recently moved. Nothing like a new house to bring the idea of a fresh, clean, and uncluttered home to fruition. Looking forward to seeing the stairs. What a big job!

  13. Not only are you the most amazing decorator, but your photographs are stunning! Magazine-worthy! You rock! And you inspire me daily!

  14. I did a lot of purging this summer myself, doesn’t it feel good to simplify?!!

    I love that you used your creativity rather than bringing more items into your home, after all, you just organized the house, why bring in more clutter.

  15. THis decor is absolutely breathtaking! I just love how you didn’t spend anything to make your home so fall’ish. Will the leaves and branches last throughout fall or will you have to get new ones? I might just have to use this idea once our leaves start turning here in Texas…

  16. I did succumb to a garland and a couple twig pumpkins from HGs’ It’s so hot here in the south that we don’t have any fall foliage just yet.
    I love your clean look against the blue-gray walls, so fresh!

  17. This was such a delightful post, full of sentiments (freeing yourself of clutter) dear to my heart and images (such beautiful photography) that made my soul smile. All the more impressive since I’m one of those that doesn’t want summer to end! Thank you for the loveliness.
    – Michiganhome

  18. Your posts always inspire me and now I’m determined to bring some fall nature into my home this weekend. I’m also planning on making a head board with nail head trim and will be using your tutorial as a guide. Thanks for the inspiration and have a great weekend. Good luck with the carpet removal project!

  19. I agree about decrapification being the way to go. In fact, I am contemplating throwing out a whole lot of old decor items that are dated. haven’t the time to re-furbish them. Someone else can find them at GW and do that!

  20. When my parents moved into this really old home(100+) when I was in high school they decided to pull up all of the old carpet…..guess who got stuck with the pliers to pull the tacks out?? I feel for you this weekend, but your new stairs will be so nice!!

    I love the leaves too…still waiting for them to change colors here….

  21. are we allowed to decorate for fall before it is even fall?! i am determined to hold off on decorations until leather boots until September 22… but once that day comes, I will be copying your decorations!! do you spray them with anything to preserve their color or keep them from falling too soon?

  22. Beautiful as always!! We are in the process of selling and buying…I love when we move because we only bring the things we love and get rid of all the “stuff”. Looking forward to using lots of your decor ideas in our new home. Have fun with that carpet. I will be looking forward to your posting about it!

  23. Hi Kate,
    Your photos today look like they were taken from a magazine. You have a beautiful home, lovely accessories and great style. TFS! Sheila

  24. The simplicity of your mantel is wonderfu. It seems many of us have been on a mission to “de-stuff” our houses. I love the feeling of less things around and think everything I do have around seems more important.

  25. Wow – another fabulous post, as usual! Thank you for all your terrific ideas. I love opening my reader on Fridays and wondering what cool project ideas I will come across by my blog “friends” :)

    Enjoy your weekend too. It does sound rather envious…ripping out carpet on stairways *sigh* We have a similar situation at our house, so I know where you’re coming from. Best to you and your family.

  26. What a wonderful post! I loved reading about your quest to not only simplify – which is a big goal in and of itself – but to adorn your house with things you already own or can be found for free in your own yard. Beautiful pictures, once again! Thanks for the inspiration. :)

  27. Absolutely gorgeous. I am beyond jealous that leaves are changing in your backyard… We are in Southern California and don’t see much of that around here. So I head over to Michael’s wear the leaves always change! :) Your house is beautiful… thanks for sharing. :)

  28. Absolutely gorgeous. I am beyond jealous that leaves are changing in your backyard… We are in Southern California and don’t see much of that around here. So I head over to Michael’s where the leaves always change! Your house is beautiful… thanks for sharing.

  29. I love your low cost decorations! I too am trying to live a simpler more clutter free life. My husband and I recently decided to stay in our 812 square foot condo a little longer than planned and purge unnecessary items.

    I recently painted our dining room grey with white trim and LOVE IT! As a lover of color I have always had colorful walls but thought a more neutral pallette would work throughout the house for a sense of calm and I can add color as accents as the seasons change. Let’s face it, throw pillows with a small wardrobe of slip covers is a lot less expensive and easier to store than a huge piece of furniture that is not so easy to change.

    Great space!

  30. WOW! I am indeed inspired by your post. Thank you.
    Question. Your living room mantel mirror is superb. I especially like your choice of white paint.
    Where might I find it for purchase?
    And thanks again for sharing your talents. Lauren

  31. So simple yet so gorgeous! Love all the inexpensive ways you reused items. Your home looks great all dressed up for fall!

  32. Hi Lauren. The mantel came painted. We installed it several years ago. I can’t even remember the name of the company. . . something nagging in my brain says ‘Mantels Direct’ but I recall using a local supplier.

  33. How inspiring!
    As lovely as my boyfriend’s dirty socks are as a living room centerpiece, and as fragrant as the litter box is, I think I pull a little nature in from outside to cozy-up the place while I’m staying here.

  34. I love your mantel. I can’t wait to go home and see what is in my yard. Simply and beautiful! Do you know what color your walls are in the mantel photos?

  35. I love everything you do. You’re fall decor looks amazing. I’ll admit I had to purchase a few things this year to help me along the way but next year not so much. My 8 year old son wants to make the falling leaf project you did. He said it was beautiful. Hopefully ours will turn out as cute as yours.

  36. I love how simple and pretty everything looks! I so need to de-clutter. Mostly, I’ve realized I need to de-clutter my living room walls. I have a very similar mirror as the one above your mantle, except mine is in a little-seen part of my entryway. I think it’s time to move it upstairs so I can enjoy it!

  37. Thank you for this post. Thanks to one of your giveaways from simplify101, I am enrolled in a organizational class and am finally taking charge of our home! You are absolutely right about the pace of life being so much smoother :) Also, I adore autumn and love the fact that you’ve decided to decorate with what you already own–that’s my new goal too!

  38. Kate, your living room is stunning! The touches of fall color are beautiful. My kids and I may be going on a nature walk later this afternoon to search for decor :)

  39. Great minds think alike! I too am spending the next couple of weeks removing all sorts of clutter from my life. It sucks the energy out of me to have to store all of these things. Beautiful arrangements, thanks for the inspiration.

  40. Beautiful. What more can I say; just beautiful. I often go into my backyard; take cuttings and decorate around the house with them. It’s such a lovely way to create beauty without expense!

    Hope you will follow my blog. Love to share….


  41. I (like so many others!) have read probably 100 posts about fall this week. Your mantle has got to be the one that is absolutely fabulous. The simplicity of it is incredibly beautiful!
    Have a great Weekend,

  42. It just looks beautiful – simple, elegant, beyond what can purchased at any store! You are a woman with a vision and an eloquent way of sharing it with all of us fortunate enough to be paying attention. Thank you for the inspiration!!!

  43. Kate, your tribute to fall is perfect. I’m so with you regarding “less stuff” – I love to use what I already have. Your post demonstrates beautiful ways to do just that.

  44. I feel for you with the staple-pulling, but it will all be worth it. Just wear gloves!

    I get very overwhelmed with piles of stuff, too, even if it’s out of site. I recently thinned my furniture stash and it was so liberating.

  45. Thank you, thank you for the inspiration! I have clear vases a plenty and I had no clue what to do with my mantel other than the candy corn wreath I made the other day.

    The amber pumpkins made my heart skip a beat!

  46. Too right! We may not get the vast myriad of Autumnal colors that other states do, but we still have a lot of “falliciousness” to choose from! Personally, I am obsessed with the super tiny Liquid Amber leaves, which I hunt for {not without odd looks from passersby;} and scatter…liberally! You home is looking fabulous!

    m ^..^

  47. Kate, everything looks gorgeous! I love the crisp white with the warm fall colors. Kind of an unusual combination, I think.

    I live in Houston, so there are no fall leaves/branches for me to use in my decor, but I do like to collect pinecones to put in a bowl on one of my bunching tables. It’s still the end of summer here, so it’s still seashells and starfish in my house!

  48. Just love the fact that you used what you had and real leaves in lieu of the fake stuff that is churned out by the industry to get us to spend more money and creates more waste for our landfills. You’ve inspired me to decorate for fall now…was so not ready for summer to end and hate that the stores are pushing all the decorative crap and holiday stuff before summer is even over.

  49. Beautiful pictures. I like the contrast of colors and the simplicity in your decorating. I like to purge as well. The new season of “Hoarders” definitely helps with that. I usually do a toy purge when my kids go back to school. I go through and clean out and get rid of a lot of their toys. It has to wait a bit this year until I am done recouping.

  50. Hi there,

    I am so happy that I found your blog! Your post is absolutely beautiful. I am kind of new to blogging and am inspired by the many blogs out there. Thanks for posting the lovely Autumn photos. Please visit my blog when you find some time.

  51. What a great idea! Those leaves look gorgeous and with all those great accessories there is no need to buy anything else. I am right there with you on the purging feeling. And I am hoping that all the carpet tacks are goners and you are ready for those gorgeous stairs!

  52. Gorgeous photos! I really miss the color seen in northern climates. The leaves are lovely and I really like that amber pear with the light falling through it.

  53. Love the blue paint…love it all! Thanks for sharing your creativity with us. Would love to know the shade of blue that your used.

  54. You did it again and I must admit that the women in this family are amazingly talented and you are my new hero! Fall is my favorite time of year to decorate and love the simplicity of the branches in in glass, so beautiful! I have been sharing your blog with my friends in Idaho and they are so impressed! Take Care!

  55. It’s all so beautiful. If only we had Fall leaves to use this way. I use to live where I could walk and pick bittersweet and rosehips and had plenty of leaves to choose from. Now, I’m doing the best with what I’ve got. You did a great job!

  56. Visiting from the Nester! I LOVE the mirror over your mantle, and your pleated skirt slipcover on your sofa, and the beautiful twigs/leaves you have used (I have always hated using fake fall leaves), and the amber glass items you have, and and and… :) Your room has such beautiful colors and textures (and not just from your autumn items!)

  57. Love these ideas!

    Would you mind sharing with me how you keep the leaves alive and how long do these arrangements last? Did you have to spray the leaves?

    Thank you,

  58. Leonardo da Vinci said it best: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Your autumn decor is classic beauty, truly elegant.

    Thank you for sharing.


  59. I absolutely love the mirror above your mantle! Would you mind emailing me and telling me where you got it? Thank you!!


  60. I too would love to know where that mirror is from. We’re building our home, and that would work perfect for us!


  61. I’m visiting via Hooked on Houses via The Inspired Room. I love your simple, elegant mantle. Thank you SO much for sharing the beautiful secret of the viburnum! I wasn’t familiar with them, but will definitely check to see if they will grow in my area.

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