Designing Saratoga

The Saratoga House: Falling in Love with Fall


Let Mother Nature be your guide and have a love affair with everything Autumn...

fall egg basket.jpg

As soon as the sandals are stored away and the air turns crisp and cool, my love/fascination with everything Fall emerges.  Lush leaf piles, plump pumpkins, bumpy hayrides, and the smell of apples and cinnamon all have me at hello...and so, of course, the results of this Autumn intoxication can be abundantly  observed  both inside and outside our perfectly imperfect Saratoga House. In a sense, one of the wonderful aspects of the Fall is that it is an imperfect time of the year--the flowers are drying out, the vines are wild and overgrown, the vibrant lushness of the Summer is replaced with the warm rich tones of transition, so a home that prominently wears its age just  fits in perfectly.

fall rocking chair.jpg
This cherished rocking chair has over the years been a variety of different colors and gone from the baby's nursery to the family room to the front porch...and is a prefect compliment to Fall embellishments.  The drape is an old tablecloth that helps incorporate the red of the chair.  

And why is it worth it to reinvent your decorating just for a season?  Because although we might be really pleased with the projects and makeovers we've completed that make our home our own, seasonal decorating keeps things interesting and exciting.  We might love a great pair of flats, but if we wore them everyday, they would lose their allure.  The same goes for our decorating for a season or a holiday, within reason, we keep our design ever evolving, and then after that special occasion ends, the solid foundation that remains feels new again. 

fall hay bale.jpg
Inexpensive hay bales make for great additional seating for the season.  One of my favorite materials to use in the Fall is burlap, and a strip of it across the hay makes for a comfortable perch.  Simple seasonal pillows and of course a selection of pumpkins and gourds complete the look.  My favorite pumpkin supplier?  A farm stand on Stafford Bridge Road--not only do they have a great selection and reasonable prices, but the Fall decorating displayed on the front porch by the stand always gives me great ideas!

When I look to decorate for Fall, I tend to focus my efforts on the front entryway, living room, and dining room, as to not overwhelm myself with all I want to accomplish since the decorating bonanza that goes on in December is not far off.  According to my neighbors, what becomes very abundant is the pumpkin collection that develops on our front porch--I can't pass a local pumpkin patch without picking up at least a couple (dozen) of these gorgeous gourds, and since they come in every size, shape, and color imaginable, the possibilities are really endless as to what types of projects and displays can be created with them. 

fall hurricane candle.jpg
I love having candles on the front porch for impromptu neighborhood gatherings, and this glass huricane candleholder makes an easy transition from Summer to Fall with mini pine cones, a plaid cloth napkin, and a small twig pumpkin wreath from the craft store.  Wreaths don't always have to hang verticially...they look great lying flat as part of a table centerpiece as well.

Fall decorating definitely does not stop at pumpkins and produce, however.  The season of Autumn really lends itself to a use of natural materials, which can be found just a few steps away in your own backyard or on a casual stroll through Congress Park.  Leaves, seeds, nuts, feathers, pine cones...they all bring a rich rustic-ness to your home that is quintessential Fall.  In addition to the found materials Mother Nature provides, Fall is the perfect season to use aged containers and furnishings in a new and different way.  Something that might have seemed headed for the yard sale or kicked to the curb can take on new meaning when combined with other Autumn elements.

 fall flower box.jpg
You can be inspired to decorate for Fall wherever you go--when I stopped at a local garden center to get my hay bales, I saw a set of long and narrow rustic baskets for fall flowers.  To create my own at home I used an old windowbox a previous owner had left in our garage, then nailed a stick from the backyard to either side to form a handle.  Ivy, mums, and ornamental peppers complete the look, as well as the addition of an old bird's nest found in one of our hanging flower baskets this summer.

And as always, I like to reinvent my seasonal décor each year like the fickle DIYer you hopefully have grown to love, so I try and be inventive and, well, frugal with the projects I take along with collecting natural materials which are usually free, I like using leftover supplies from other makeovers and projects, and can be found skulking through the garage and basement on the hunt for a cost-free version of the Fall feel I'm looking to fashion.

corks pumpkin vase.jpg
Last year I was given a Fall flower arrangement that used this faux pumpkin as a container...and this year its been reinvented with a monogrammed cloth napkin and a cork collection, perfect as a centerpiece for the trunk coffee table on the front porch.  The table runner isn't necessarily a Fall fabric, but its faded sage color and burlap underlay make it fit right in.

fall pillows.jpg
These new Fall pillows were all very easy to make and are just enough to dress the living room couch for the new season.  One is made with an old wool sweater and a random collection of buttons on one edge, another fashioned like an envelope with a ribbon clasp from a fleece blanket,  and a third using a sleeve of burlap and fabric rosettes that were made with a piece of felt as a base, a hot glue gun, and strips of leftover fabric. The leaf and feather pillows (inspired by a project in this month's Adirondack Life magazine) were made with actual feathers and leaves from the yard--I used a small sponge paint roller to roll a combination of orange, black, white brown, and red craft paint onto each item,placed each on the canvas fabric, then covered it with a piece of aluminum foil and pressed firmly...and I love the results!

fall frame.jpg
Sometimes Fall decorating is as simple as switching out a photo or two--this pic from an apple-picking excursion years ago sets just the right Autumnal tone.

fall bark flower vase.jpg
Fall design can also be very elegant, which is what I was looking for on my dining room table.  The "tray" is a framed Currier and Ives print that I picked up as is at a barn sale on York Street a few weeks ago, and although the combination of flowers from the Farmers Market and backyard are beautiful on their own, I feel like the perfect finishing touch was to wrap the vase with birch bark my daughter and I found on a girl scout hike this past Spring.  You never know when a found object might come in handy!

fall coffee table tray.jpg
Simple additions are often all that's needed...this tray with candles is a fixture on our living room coffee table, so autumn scented candles, a few gourds, and an old book we bought at an antique store for $1 dress it perfectly for Fall.

So this season, open yourself up to a little love affair with everything Fall.  I promise it's a relationship you won't regret!

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Kimberlee Billok
From humble beginnings redecorating my childhood bedroom every few months much to my mother’s chagrin, to years of life as a military spouse making short-term stops our own, to finding myself in Saratoga Springs in a 90-year-old home in need of lots of TLC, I have always enjoyed honing my home decorating and design skills in pursuit of making a house a home for the most important people in my world, my husband Mike and our three children. In pursuit of this goal/obsession I have put my undergraduate studio art studies to work, as well as the unofficial HGTV degree I’ve earned under the tutelage of Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder, Candace Olson, and the other pros who make us all feel as if we can create as they do. I’ve had the good fortune to have numerous colleagues, friends and family who have trusted me enough to allow me to design their spaces as well, and even redecorated the office of my children’s elementary school principal, which although intimidating, was quite a good time (think a juxtaposition of animal prints and sharpened pencils…luckily she loved it!).

Outside of the decorating/design realm I inhabit in my free time, I am fortunate to spend my days teaching 3 and 4 year old preschoolers here in Saratoga, who can’t help but inspire me to be creative on a regular basis. So since every part of life is an adventure, please join me on this one…combining form and function, design and real life, making each room feel beautiful, comfortable, classic, and personal. All wrapped up in a structure that has been in existence before the invention of spray paint (it’s true—I looked it up!). Here goes!!