I’m often asked to write trend columns. In the design press, they accompany the change of every season. This has more to do with the demands of newspaper and magazine editors than the needs of homeowners, of course. Just because each successive fall, Christmas, and spring is new doesn’t mean there’s a trend to go along with it – not one worth paying attention to, at least.
I’ve never felt a greater need to reconnect with my home than I do this fall. For the month of August I house-sat for family friends on Vancouver’s west side. The home was huge; my entire apartment could fit easily in the great room. The terrifying thing about luxury is that you get used to it.
Coming home was like pulling on jeans two sizes too small. The stuffed cupboards and closets made me feel cramped and awkward. It was hard not to cast a disdainful eye on my apartment.
My movement from a large space back to a small one is a good analogue for the contraction that begins in fall. This is the time when everyone returns to indoor living from their summers outdoor, and the reverse exodus can be distressing. Long days become short days. Limitless fresh air becomes stale, pushed through a furnace. And the landscape’s warmth and invitation become frigid and forbidding.
Good news: There are rituals that reconnect us to the comfort of our homes as we creep toward the shortest day of the year. Not trends, these, but sure-fire tricks to rekindle our affection for the spaces we retreat to.
Purge what you can, tuck the rest away
Spring is famous for its cleaning, but fall is actually the better time for rooting through closets and cupboards and ridding yourself of the clothing, the purses, the extra vases.
Think of it as creating space for the heavier atmosphere coming. Before, your zone of comfort was all of outdoors; now you’re stuck in your cave. And room for the impending hibernation will make you a more agreeable bear.
Packing up the summer sundries is a melancholy enterprise, but it’s one improved by efficient storage. This season, I’m investing in common linen-covered boxes that can easily be labeled and line the upper shelf of my closet.
Retouch your linens
Summer is ripe with colour and texture. But when the season subsides to fall, it’s time for tactility that’s nearer at hand. Your first points of contact are the items that touch your skin every day –your bed sheets, towels and kitchen linens. I should have cut mine up for rags long ago, but in the lazy procrastinations of summer, the chore seemed daunting.
Now I’m making the bed with crisp new sheets and a heavier coverlet. And amid the fresh whites of the bathroom hang a new favourite of mine: Turkish bath towels. These hand-woven models are larger than a standard hand towel, and come in white (or neutral with blue stripes). They look beautiful draped over a hook and they’re light and lovely to dry off with. I love their organic, handmade quality.
Deepen your scent
Summer for me is the scent of fresh grass and ripe fruit, the barbecue smoke from Kitsilano Beach, B.C., drifting in the open windows. I’m a summer baby and rue the arrival of crisp air, the scent of dry leaves. One way I ease out of the beach and back into my living room is to change the way my home smells.
In the warmer months, I prefer tangerine, but in fall I want weight and spice. Incense is my go-to during the colder months. My favourite one is the popular Nag Champa, which smells of spicy, smoky cinnamon. This year, I’m also changing the hand soap in my bathroom to sandalwood or rosemary, swapping out the Thymes-brand eucalyptus I’ve used all summer.
There’s always a balance of inside and outside energies. During summer, when the world is full of heat and lush foliage, we dress in thin garments and move lightly. And then comes the reverse: the world cools, is stripped bare and in response we protect ourselves in warmth and lush fabrics.
Use fall as an excuse to add decorative elements that make you feel cozy and enveloped. In the living room, I’m adding wool throws, throwing extra cushions on the sofa, and tucking extra blankets in a basket on the floor.
Many stores will try to tempt you with acrylic blankets and polyester cushions in the colour of the season (this year it’s likely gold), but the wise will avoid them. Chintzy fabrics are scratchy and, as fashion items, their life is short. Invest instead in quality textiles in timeless weaves. You’ll have them forever, and feel joy at the ritual of pulling them out each year.