It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The Romantic Homes November issue inspires your creativity with recipes, DIYs and décor that captures the magic of the holiday season. Take cues for opulent, classical Christmas décor from Carolyne Roehm, learn how to bake and display gingerbread creations with Marian Parsons, explore Rachel Ashwell's soft and sweet color palettes and tour Janice Marrow's flower-filled festive abode. A sweet bonus? She shares her recipe for German Gingerbread Cake!
Also: Joann Coletti's Project Refresh continues with a carriage house transformed into a practical and beautiful studio space. Step inside Liz Fourez's neutral and natural holiday farmhouse where meaningful décor creates Christmas magic to charm the whole family and escape to Bianca Planner's winter wonderland home filled with Old World charm and meaningful memories.
Welcoming guests to enjoy your hospitality or greeting you as you arrive home again, your front door always makes a first impression. Of all the ways to create a friendly and well-styled entry for the season, a wreath is the one of the simplest options. I collected and dried natural materials to craft these four DIY fall wreaths that beautifully bridge the seasons between summer and fall with farmhouse-inspired style.
Eucalyptus and Craspedia
Yellow craspedia is a cheerful addition to this wreath, made of two types of eucalyptus. I started by drying the craspedia a week in advance by hanging it upside-down in bunches. Fresh from the flower market, the wide and round leaves of the Silver Dollar eucalyptus and the long, narrow stems of the Baby Blue variety were woven into the wire wreath frame. These were allowed to dry on the wreath frame and will retain their shape and color over time. However, you’ll have to enjoy the fresh scent of eucalyptus while it lasts, as it diminishes after drying.
As summer turns to the season of harvest, greet it with a wreath of dried wheat! These golden stalks are wrapped with floral tape around a thin wire frame in bunches of three for a sleek silhouette. A hand-lettered “Welcome” is the final touch across the burlap banner that can be customized with any message. I recommend assembling this wreath with a vacuum cleaner nearby, as the dried wheat tends to shed quite a bit during the wrapping process.
A hearty flower that retains its shape and color from fresh plant to dried cutting, statice is both relatively inexpensive and forgiving to work with. Using floral tape and a small wreath frame, add each bunch of statice while keeping the flower heads close to the wreath frame. Once the circle is complete, wrap a gingham ribbon around it and finish with a sweet bow.
Cotton and Grapevine
Nothing says “farmhouse” quite like the cotton stem. The dried plant is elegant, earthy and easy to work with. I started this wreath by pulling a pre-made grapevine wreath in half for a less bulky look and securing the new, thinner form with wire. Next, striped linen cut into ribbons with pinking shears was wound through the vines, and cotton pods were placed over the lower half of the wreath.
When the cool breezes of autumn begin to blow the last remains of summer away, a definite shift takes place. Instead of late evenings outdoors, we begin to think of happy evenings indoors, enjoying good company and delicious comfort food. The rhythms of the seasons are so comforting, and these picks for your home perfectly capture the essence of the transition from one loved season to the next. With warmth and color, they are both practical and charming additions to your fall farmhouse decor.
When the days get crisp and the leaves start to fall, there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling up with a good book, a mug of something hot and a plate of sweet treats. This autumn, our plates will be full of Fabiana’s delicious pumpkin spice spritz cookies.
Warm weather in some parts of the country often allows for entertaining outdoors in late November. Living in southern California has permitted me to take the party into the yard to celebrate Thanksgiving on many occasions. This tablescape proves how easy it is to create an elegant alfresco Thanksgiving experience for your guests to enjoy, and best of all, these table setting basics can easily work indoors as well.
Take Your Gathering Outdoors
Using Mother Nature’s bounty as your backdrop, position the table in a spot that’s both intimate and pretty. This year our guest list is on the small side, so pulling together a table for six is easy as pie. With a larger gathering, set up several tables near each other and vary the tableware slightly to add interest to the overall look.
Set the Tone with Your Favorite China
Choosing the right plates for your Thanksgiving table is important because the patterns on your dishes will guide your choices for the rest of the table. In this instance, I wanted to create an elegant dining experience with casual overtones so I chose two subtle patterns of vintage Wedgwood china that work nicely together. Just a hint of gold on the salad plates offers the perfect seasonal accent and contributes a little sparkle to the fall color palette.
Add Seasonal Touches
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little hint of autumn décor, but we don’t want to overdo it with turkey figurines and brightly colored pumpkins. For this table, a pot filled with natural dried wheat, multicolored grape leaves harvested from the garden and a few glittery pumpkins are all that’s needed to add that Thanksgiving flair. Natural wood in the forms of cutlery and charger plates add another fall-like element to the table and contrasts nicely with the white table.
Instantly Create Ambiance with Candlelight
Nothing can duplicate the magic of candlelight. Tiny flames flickering at table add the perfect dose of mystery and romance, not to mention candlelight makes everyone look more attractive! Brass candlesticks are the choice at this table, but votives, small lanterns and hurricanes work nicely as well. I love how the gentle glow lights up the vibrant amber glasses on the table too. Adding cozy candlelight to your surroundings extends the party ambiance into the yard and expands the whole alfresco experience.
Mix in a Few Romantic Elements
There aren’t many things that are more romantic than beautiful, fragrant roses. Three small ironstone creamers hold petite bouquets of white roses with one symbolic yellow rose in each. The yellow roses represent happiness and friendship while the white roses express remembrance. Family, friends and memories are an integral part of Thanksgiving, and these roses symbolize how important new friends are while we call to mind Thanksgivings of days past.
A great way to keep things running smoothly on Thanksgiving is to plan ahead. A few days before, lay your settings out indoors on the dining table so you can start formulating the look you’d like for your outdoor table. This way your plates, glassware, napkins and everything else will be ready to go on Thanksgiving morning, and then all you’ll have to do is transfer it outdoors. Enlist the help of friends and family members who may be eager to lend a hand. After all, the key to hosting a successful Thanksgiving gathering is being organized, that way you’ll stay calm and enjoy the day.
Crafting beautiful tablescapes is one of Fabiana’s many talents and passions. She regularly shares her inspiring designs on her blog, Ciao! Newport Beachand on instagram.
If you find an 18th century gem, it can be a challenge to update and make it your own without taking away its aged appeal. When Nora Murphy, designer and owner of Nora Murphy Country House, and her husband Rick moved into this 1767 home in Newtown, Connecticut 15 years ago, they fell in love with its location and structure and settled in with some initial improvements.
“Any house we live in, I let the house tell me what to do,” says Nora. “When we moved here, our previous stuff didn’t work with the feel, so I introduced an earthy palette.” Years later, when her son Conor moved out, Nora needed a change. “I call it Project Refresh,” she says.
Light and Bright
Nora draped the home in a white color palette, painting the walls different shades of white and covering all her furniture with creamy white cotton denim fabric slip covers and tying them with white twill tape bows. “[The slipcovers] are washable and easy to take care of,” says Nora. “I can now drag chairs to different parts of the house, and they’ll still work.”
Along with the easy care comes a casual elegance from the draped furniture that adds a romantic look to the outdoor accents. “The architectural simplicity of the home gave direction to what the inside of the home should look like,” says Nora. “I wanted it light, bright and nature inspired.”
Home in the Garden
Among the neutral color palette that Nora carried throughout the house is her outdoor garden theme. Wooden tables, outdoor lanterns and large-scale plants and florals grace every room of the home to add a touch of the great outdoors to her interior. Nora also collects vintage copper watering cans and antique gardening tools that reside in the hallway gallery. “Everyone is always asking me about my antique French harvest basket,” says Nora. “It’s perfect for holding seasonal flowers.” The gallery connects the 18th century parts of the house to the newer parts, creating a seamless transition with its checkered flooring, made to appear old.
They made additions to the home, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it. “The house was in good shape when we moved in,” says Nora, “but the bedrooms were really tiny and had low ceilings.” To compensate, they raised the ceilings and added large windows and doors to bring in natural light and showcase the surrounding nature.
Perhaps the biggest addition was their master bedroom suite that used to be a chicken coop. “We wanted an old structure for the add-on, so I looked up dismantled antique buildings and found a company that will take apart antique barns and build them back up at your location,” says Nora. The coop was built in 1857 and closely resembled the exterior of their home, blending the new structure with the old.
This look could not be pulled off without Nora’s sense of simplicity. “It’s a good thing to part with things,” says Nora. “The things that don’t fit anymore, I sell or give away. That prevents things from accumulating, as my tastes and style evolve.”
Creating a neutral canvas with her white slip covers allows her to easily decorate throughout the seasons with a few minor changes. “During winter, I bring in tartan wool pillows and change my artwork,” she says. “It changes the entire room.” This look ensures that your aesthetic won’t be static, but will instead change like the color of falling leaves in autumn.
1–2 rounds pre-made pie dough
1 (9-inch) pumpkin pie
Turbinado sugar (optional)
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Using fall-themed cookie cutters (such as maple leaves or pumpkins), cut out as many dough shapes as desired.
Arrange them on the pie to compose your own design.
In a small dish, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water until well mixed.
Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the dough shapes. Then sprinkle turbinado sugar on the shapes, if desired.
Bake the pie on the top rack until the dough become golden brown.
Easy Meringue Topping
Think meringue is just for lemon meringue pies? Think again! This fluffy topping is a lighter-than-air alternative to whipped cream.
Prep: 5 minutes Bake: 7–8 minutes
What you’ll need:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) pumpkin pie
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they start to foam. Add in the cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
Add in the sugar a tablespoon at a time, mixing on high until stiff peaks form. Add in the vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds.
Using a spatula, layer the meringue on the top of the pie, spreading right up to the crust. Pull the spatula upward to create peaks.
Bake until the peaks of the meringue turn light brown, 7–8 minutes. Watch carefully, as meringue burns quickly. Serve within 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 1 day.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Topping
The bitterness of ultra-dark chocolate cuts the sweetness of the pie, but you can always add a dollop of whipped cream to mellow things out again.
Prep: 2 minutes Simmer: 5 minutes
Chill: 1 hour
What you’ll need:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 (9-inch) pumpkin pie
What you’ll do:
In a medium mixing bowl, set aside the chocolate.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the cream starts to simmer. (Do not let the cream boil.) Immediately remove from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth and creamy.
Slowly pour the ganache over the top of the pie, smoothing with a spatula so that the ganache extends all the way to the crust.
Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
Bourbon Caramel Topping
Maybe we’re biased, but bourbon caramel might just be the Best Pumpkin Pie Topping. Follow the link to find the recipe and two sprinkle options that give a classic pumpkin pie two completely different looks.
What a dramatic difference paint colors and finishes can make! When Rachel Paxton, editor and designer of the website, Maison de Pax, and her husband were shopping for a new home in Austin, Texas, they were surprised by what they found inside this two-story house with a traditional, white-brick facade.
“It was head to toe yellowish beige with a Tuscan feeling—lots of faux travertine tile and warm buttery ceilings and walls,” says Rachel. “It’s just not our style. I love warm wood tones with lots of whites and grays, so a big part of what we did was changing the palette of the space.”
So, she set out to redo all of the colors and finishes of the home to make it appeal to her taste and function well for a family. All the upstairs rooms had a pale beige carpet, for example, which wasn’t going to work for their family, which now consists of four kids, ranging in age from seven weeks to seven years. “I’m not going to be able to keep carpet that clean with a bunch of kids,” Rachel says. “Before we moved in, we replaced all the beige carpet with wood floors.”
Most noticeable in Rachel’s home are the antique furnishings and decor with a fresh, old-meets-new look. “We spent a couple years living in France, and I have a love for French things, so I like to give little nods to French style, [like] the dining set has a French flair,” says Rachel.
One lovely focal point in the home is a fireplace wall with bookcases Rachel had built in their living room. Formerly a freestanding fireplace in the middle of the room, Rachel switched it out with a double-sided fireplace and bookcase. “We built the bookcase next to the fireplace to close off half that opening and the double-sided bookcase acts as a wall between the living room and family room,” Rachel says.
Having enough shelf space for books was important, as Rachel’s husband used to teach high school English, and they both have a love for literature. Antique books—some in English and some in other languages—have beauty and character in and of themselves. That’s why Rachel chose to display them backwards with their spines facing out to show their color and age.
“I thought it was neat to see that side, and it gave a more neutral feel to the bookcase,” Rachel says. “We have tons of other books elsewhere that we read on a regular basis [and aren’t on display], so it’s easy to keep these turned around. A lot are antique books with irregularly cut pages. I think they were hand-sewn, and you can see the texture of the pages. I thought it was pretty and just went for it.”
Neat and Kid-friendly
Much of Rachel’s home has a stylish rustic vibe, and her antiques lend a sophisticated touch to the aesthetic, but she’s careful about making everything kid-friendly.
The china cabinet and table in the dining room are very special, as they once belonged to Rachel’s great-grandmother. She previously had some upholstered chairs from her great-grandmother in there, but they’re packed away for now, considering the small children. Those were replaced with a wooden bench that not only has country charm, but is more practical for the little ones’ meals and schoolwork when they homeschool part-time.
“We use our dining room table for art projects all the time, and the china cabinet houses everything from crayons and markers to school books, glitter and Play-Doh. We just keep it all behind that door and put everything away when we’re done,” Rachel says.
She’s also mastered the art of curating décor and carefully hiding away things that should remain hidden. Upstairs in her boys’ room, they converted a closet into a reading nook with wooden crates repurposed as a bookcase styled with vintage books and a few toys.
Downstairs, they have catchall storage for kids’ stuff that won’t clash with the home’s charm or coziness. “We have baskets downstairs that we hide toys in, but we try to not let the house be completely overrun with toys,” Rachel says.
When it comes to decorating floor space, large pumpkins are your best bet for maximum visual impact. Courtney uses heirloom varieties with mottled and multicolor surfaces that complement her love for patina. Look out for the blue/gray shades of Jarrahdales, the peachy pinks of Porcelain Doll Pumpkins and the subtle pastels of the Fairytale or Cinderella varieties
Courtney packs quite a bit of detail into a small space with this vignette. When too much color could easily overwhelm the area, she uses small white pumpkins that help show off the surrounding shades of gold and pale pink. Casper, Cotton Candy, Lumina and Baby Boo are options that make for the perfect autumn touch when only white will do.
Blue and white are a classic color combination. Here, Courtney pairs the steely shades found in the Jarrahdale, Queensland Blue and Triamble with white types such as Baby Boo, Vilenciano and Polar Bear. This vignette feels like fall with a freshness that only cool colors can provide
For a look that blends earthy and ethereal with storybook-worthy results, opt for old-fashioned varieties of French extraction. Pastel Cinderella (also known as Rouge Vif d’Etampes) and Fairytale Pumpkins (or Musquee de Provence) have distinctive shapes with well-defined ribbing that are reminiscent of the enchanted coach’s humble beginnings. A bonus? These two varieties are also deliciously flavored! Courtney uses candles and a blue Jarrahdale to add to the whimsical scene.
Few things symbolize the spirit of autumn quite like a traditional, orange pumpkin. Howden and Connecticut Field are among the varieties you’ll expect to find at your local pumpkin patch. Courtney carted her haul in a wheelbarrow that makes a festive outdoor display. Whether you choose to carve Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween or keep them intact till after Thanksgiving, the ubiquitous orange pumpkin is guaranteed to make you feel like fall is in the air.
For many of us, fall is a favorite time of the year. The changing colors, crisp air, cooler weather and abundance of pumpkins all make up the season’s splendor, the inspiration of poets and nature lovers alike. So, what better way to pay homage to autumn’s glory than by bringing nature’s golden harvest into your own home?
A stroll through a wooded park or your neighborhood can yield a bounty of decor opportunities in the forms of fallen pinecones and acorns, as well as branches of changing leaves. Here are our suggestions for bringing the nature indoors.
Snip thin branches baring leaves that have transformed from green to their autumn hue.
These can be arranged into tall vases with stunning results as seen in Nora Murphy’s dining room tour or assembled into garlands and wreaths for the table, front door or something less expected, such as this chandelier.
Like flowers, fresh leaves may not last very long once they’ve been cut.
If you plan to use fresh leaves as a centerpiece while you entertain, take into account the time involved with process of putting the centerpieces together.
Thankfully, these branches look lovely with little effort for an elegant and naturally imperfect style.
Pinecones and Acorns
When it comes to pinecones and acorns, where one is found, there are generally dozens more nearby. This makes a large collection easy to find all at once for a “more is more” approach to decor. Shallow bowls or clear glass centerpieces allow these natural artifacts to show off for full effect.
However, if you do choose to find these in the wild, be sure to check them for critters that would be unwelcome in your home. KariAnne of ThistleWood Farms has a funny story about one such mishap that you can read here.
Potential problems can be exterminated during the cleaning and drying process. First, soak your finds in a solution of vinegar and warm water for about an hour. Next, lay them out until they are dry to the touch. Finally, spread them out on an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet and set your oven at 200 degrees fahrenheit. An hour should do the trick, but we recommend checking the progress half-way through to turn your acorns and pinecones over. Drying in heat will also cause pinecones to open, or bloom. Don’t be afraid to add drops of essential oils like orange, cinnamon, or nutmeg to capture wonderful fall scents.
To be fair, a stroll through your local craft store will also produce these items in everlasting faux varieties.