You don't need more stuff. We all have enough stuff. When your space is looking bland and you want to decorate your home or table, look around you. The best table centerpieces (well, besides gorgeous flowers) are dual-purpose items. Suit your taste in more ways than one by decorating with food.
Yes, we know mini pumpkins, other interesting fall squash, and autumn leaves are beautiful, easy, and affordable in-season items for decor, but there are other ideas that could possibly be even easier. Check your grocery list. Are there any fresh herbs and spices there? Use that. Place vases of herbs instead of flowers on the table. Cinnamon sticks and star anise are quite interesting to look at. Or grow your own herbs indoors, for cooking and decorating.
"Make use of left-over cooking herbs by using them as decor on your table … or around the house," says event stylist and décor expert Amanda Saiontz Gluck on Fashionable Hostess. For instance, "placing rosemary at each person’s seat smells so fresh and adds a beautiful pop of green to the table."
Fall's herbs include: basil, bay leaves, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme. The spices we associate with fall are usually: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and star anise. And you can use fruits and vegetables such as these: fall squash (of course), apples, cranberries, grapes, pears, persimmons, and pomegranates. Now, what to do with them?
Mini Potted Herbs for Your Table
"Mini potted herbs are a great alternative to fresh-cut flowers, and they can do double duty as kitchen spices or gifts to send your guests away with at the end of the night," says Liz Lynch on My Domaine. "To keep it feeling seasonal, pick more traditional fall seasonings like rosemary, sage, and thyme."
Hang Your Herbs for Drying and Decor
Wrap some twine around your fresh herbs to make bundles that can hang upside down from a string, rope, ribbon, or whatever, as long as it's draped across your wall or window like garland or a clothesline. You can attach each bundle with more twine tied in little bows or use clothespins. After a few weeks when the herbs are dry and brittle, place them in glass jars, whole (because they keep better that way), and store your dried herbs in a cool, dry place for use all winter.
Use Something You Already Have in a New Way
Or, that coffee mug rack or coat rack can serve as an herb-drying tool and decorative piece. It'll be like potpourri as the herbs dry upside down, and you can easily grab what you need for each recipe, eliminating the waste of fresh herbs you can't use fast enough.
Cinnamon Stick Candles
Vanilla-scented candles are ideal, but the goal here is to not buy more stuff, so if you have candles already, whatever size or scent (or unscented), use those. They don't have to look perfect, especially as you might grab a stick or two from the candles as you're cooking this fall and winter.
Make a Leafy Green (or Fall Foliage) Table Runner
"Skip the vases and create a 'green' table runner by draping lush leaves down the center of your table," Lynch says. "Accent with hints of color by adding a few pumpkins or gourds in unexpected hues."
Use Whole Spices, Nuts and Fruit
Put nutmeg, and especially star anise, inside glass vases or jars and stick some twigs out of them or put little candle votives inside on top of the spices. Nuts, acorns, cranberries, and corn kernels work well too.
Consider how you can use nutmeg — star anise especially — cinnamon sticks, dried orange wheels, or even oranges peeled in swirly designs and pierced with cloves.
For a fall-themed centerpiece, gather some focal points, like the pomegranates and apples in your fridge as Chica of Chica and Jo did, plus a bag of walnuts in the pantry. "You could easily adjust this to what you have on hand, and use items like mini pumpkins, gourds, cinnamon sticks, pears, or anything yummy and autumnal," Chica says on her blog.
Select a base, like this long, shallow, oval platter in a nice shade of brown. But you can "use just about anything you’ve got on hand, and I’ve had great luck in the past with shallow glass bowls, elevated cake plates, and wooden platters," Chica says. "Can you imagine how gorgeous and elegant this would be on a fancy copper platter? Just look around the house."
Of course, you'll need to go outside and pluck some leaves. Because what is fall without foliage?*
*Those of you in the Deep South and Southwest, whatever you find is OK: palm fronds, banana leaves, or fake autumn leaves from the craft store. Do what you can. Just no flamingos on the lawn, alright?
— Head photo: Fashionable Hostess.
Amy Sowder is a New York City-based food and fitness writer who's also on Chowhound's editorial staff. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Ice cream is a strong motivation for her running habit. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.