The first thing to do is set out all of the decorations you have; this will help you start thinking about what you need and where you can place them. The two framed pictures were the first things I placed; the one on the left I put flat on the mantle, while the one on the right is raised up a little bit. These pictures are ones that I painted but there is no end to the things you could use here - how about a cheap piece of scrapbook paper (less than $1) with beautiful fall colors in a dollar store frame? why not google fall pictures which can be printed and framed? a simple scrapbook sheet with a fall poem or saying printed on it? (one of my very favorites is "October's Party" by George Cooper ~ if you haven't ever heard of it, you should read it) After the pictures, I gathered up some of my fake pumpkins (all from the Dollar Tree) and put three of them at different levels - this gives them a little personality and helps to hide the fact that they're all identical (this year, I'm going to try a little paint on the pumpkins to make them look a little more realistic). In front of the other picture, I placed a bouquet of gorgeous (fake) fall flowers and some cattails all in a mayonnaise jar wrapped in burlap (how's that for cheap?). I went through my house and picked out some candles that had nice fall colors, a jug of maple syrup and a rustic candle holder that is now holding a large pinecone (far right, but you can see it better in the close up below). On the right side, I took a simple orange vase (99 cents at Sally Ann's) and filled it with pinecones (from my yard). I then took several more of the flowers (as used in the vase), leaves and pinecones and scattered them randomly across the mantle, changing and rearranging until I had it how I liked it. Of course my dancing couple, my plaque and the bears had to stay. Some people like to decorate so that everything is uniform - each side of the mantle mirroring the other. Personally, I like to make it asymmetrical and put things at varying heights (as with the pictures and pumpkins) - I just think it has more personality.
Close up of the left side (the glass pumpkin is one that I made at a glass-blowing course at Hands-On Glass in Corning, NY so much fun and reasonably priced so check it out if you're ever in the area!)
Close-up view of the right side (please, if you decide to use cattails as I have, use artificial ones...trust me, I learned this the hard way: the real ones eventually puff up and explode all over lol)
This is the perfect time of year to access your local thrift store! (who am I kidding? thrift shopping is a year-round treat for me!) Sally Ann's puts all of their glass/plastic decorative items together by color; this makes it easy for you to scoot right over to the fall colors and pick up some cheap accessories! Look for colors and shapes that you like - they don't have to be specifically fall decorations just grab things that would work well in your home. Don't limit yourself!! Be creative and try looking at things in a different way. In fact, part of the fun of thrift stores is finding the hidden treasures ~ that neat wicker basket, the beautiful orange vase, anything that makes you think of a beautiful fall day - think warm and cozy and nature.
This is how I decorate our home at the beginning of September; as it gets closer to Halloween, it's easy to edit your mantle and other decorations to reflect a spookier look, and after that, you can take out the ghosts and ghouls and transition it into Thanksgiving with just a couple easy changes. The key is to have fun with it and make it something that you and your family will enjoy!
Several years ago, I went grape picking with some friends along the Finger Lakes Wine Trail. As they picked grapes, I decided to pick up the grape vines that were no longer attached to the plants and weave them together into grape vine wreathes. I made several simple wreathes during that visit that I used for years. I like to take the wreathe and change it's decorations depending on the season; for fall, I would add leaves, small pumpkins orange tulle, a small scarecrow, maybe a crow for irony - most of which can all be found at your local dollar store. If you don't happen to have access to a vineyard, a thrift store is a great place to find a cheap one - even if you have to remove the decorations that are currently on it (just make sure the wreath itself is in good shape).
** Important tip: When you think you have everything where you want it, take a quick picture of it and then look the picture over closely; for some reason, this makes everything much more clear and I'm able to change things around to get a look that I like better! This is also what I do with my paintings.
Blowing glass at Hands On Glass
Final touches on my punkin
My wreath in it's Valentine's Day garb (I can't believe I couldn't find a picture of it dressed up for fall!)
My first mantle display
(I like the other one better but I was
sad that my green glass vase broke)