Preparing For Autumn: Five Essential Updates
Autumn has arrived in Yorkshire and it was quick. Very quick. One day I was sanding the floor in Havaianas, the next I was wearing trainers and complaining of cold ankles. When we lived in the South, I can remember sitting outside in the garden barbequing in October. Here in the North, the only reason you would light a fire at that time of year would be to stop your frostbitten fingers from falling off.
Leo, my eight year old, has only lived in Yorkshire for four years of his life but he's hardcore. Last year he was one of only two boys in school who wore shorts all year round. The other boy has never owned a pair of long school trousers and is now in Year 6 so it was fierce competition. Even when there's sleet and snow stripping your cheeks and blowing a gale, Leo will be there with his legs out, simply because he refuses to give in to a pair of M&S chinos. He's well on course for a career in extreme sport.
Anyway, Autumn brings changes for many reasons. Firstly, I can put the heating back on. I hate that middling time when it's chilly enough to sit with a blanket but not chilly enough for Joe not to shout at me as though I'm committing some heinous crime by whacking up the thermostat. Secondly, my flip flops and Birkenstocks are finally discarded in favour of boots and trainers. Preferably NEW boots and trainers (yay for Zara and Stan Smith). Thirdly, it's reality TV season - whether you're a Strictly fan, X Factor or my personal fave, I'm a Celeb, it's time for some serious sofa action. And finally, the supermarkets start selling Christmas chocolate. Damn you, Asda and your tempting two for £7 offer. Cue Saturday nights scoffing Quality Street like a woman starved, crying at the X Factor sob stories and shouting at the dog to stay away from the tub.
It's also an excellent excuse to make some interior updates. The change in the weather means we want to nest and make our surroundings appealing. Feeling cosy and cocooned becomes a key factor in our decor and there are plenty of ways we can achieve this without spending loads of cash.
1. The Basics: Candles
Candles are synonymous with the colder months. Who doesn't love a candle? Whether you're a Diptique diva, Jo Malone mad, or prefer a simple pillar candle, they have an immediate impact on the atmosphere in your space. Joe has absolutely no patience with candles whatsoever. If I attempt to set the scene with some scented loveliness, he immediately starts waving a fire blanket and ranting about health and safety.
Before Ella was born, we had a terrible candle experience that Joe has never recovered from. Joe's mum had bought a handmade candle wreath from a local florist as a glorious centrepiece for the Christmas table. We left the table after lunch to smoke copious Silk Cut but we'd barely managed more than a couple of puffs before we realised the fire alarm was sounding. The room was engulfed with flames due to the candle wreath of doom combusting and the dining room had morphed from a scene of perfect Christmas Cheer into The Towering Inferno. Joe and his dad managed to contain the fire but not before it had inflicted enough damage for the entire room to require complete redecoration.
Anyway, since this event Joe considers candles to be akin to Satan. And, of course, they can be really expensive. I have to also admit that on the few occasions that I have bought what I would call 'an investment candle', I have never admitted the price. Candle costings are revealed to your spouse on a need to know basis, in my opinion.
After being sold by the mass Insta excitement regarding Aldi's new fragrance range, I recently popped the Reed Diffuser No 4 in Freesia and Pear into my trolley. Immediately smitten with the black and cream packaging and the fact it was called No 4, giving it an exclusive, glamorous feel (yep, I'm a marketeers dream) I decided it was worth a bash at £3.99. After collating advice via stories (Two sticks? Four sticks? To fan or not to fan?), I installed it in the downstairs loo and waited for an aura of scenty loveliness to accost anyone who visited. Four days later the verdict is in: Sorely disappointed. Definitely more Glade Plug It In than Jo Malone. Sorry everyone.
2. Texture Is EVERYTHING
I know this is a styling basic but it's SUCH a good one to transition you into the chilliness of Autumn. The very moment the first leaf had fallen off the tree, I'd removed all my summer cotton cushions and dragged out the knitted and velvet ones. Texture is an important part of making us feel cocooned and comfortable when the weather is on the turn. The sofa is the perfect focal point for seasonal change. Get out the blankets, bring out the sheepskins and create a warm and welcoming environment in your sitting room. In the summer, it's all about light and bright but come the clock change, the reality is that by the time we sit down in the evening, it's time to draw the blinds. I'm really drawn to muted colours in the Autumn - navy, teal, burnt orange and pops of pink are all colours I've used in my new Revamp Restyle Reveal project room.
There's plenty of well priced options in the shops to choose from for a quick and easy update.
When writing this blog post I asked Leo, my eight year old, what he considered an Autumn change and his first response was 'the launch of FIFA 18'. His second response was blankets on the sofa, Dominos Pizza and Collin's Key on YouTube. I'm just waiting to receive my Parenting Award now.
3. Bring The Outside In
I'm pretty shocking with plants for most of the year but I still like to have a bit of Autumnal greenery around the house during the colder seasons. For me, the perfect flower is the dark red or green tinged Hydrangea. It's blowsy beauty looks perfect by candlelight and it's one of the few flowers that look as good dried as they do fresh. Eucalyptus is another year round winner that is perfect in a seasonal setting and has the added benefit of lasting for absolutely ages. Our local flower seller has plenty of twigs and berries in stock at this time of year so it's easy to update a room.
If you're looking for plants that will survive in a low lit environment, apparently the best ones to go for in terms of hardiness are ferns, Monstera, the Peace Lily and Mother In Law's Tongue. I've googled this, obvs, since my own plant knowledge barely extends past a faux cacti.
One plant that I have serious issues with is the bastion of Christmas drinks party gifts - the Poinsettia. Whether it's the colour or blandness of the leaves, I honestly don't know, but they send me into a spiral of trauma. My dislike is illogical, but for me, the worst thing about them is that they are totally unkillable. They literally last FOREVER. For anyone who has ever brought one of these plants of hell to my house as a generous present, I apologise now, but they've gone straight from my home to my mothers. Or occasionally straight into the bin. Cue mass Poinsettia lover unfollowing.
4. All Hail Nigel Slater
Come October, I'm always ready to start cooking again. After a Summer of BBQ and salad, it's so brilliant to get back into the one pot meal and stew situation. Summer is fab, don't get me wrong. The simplicity of Summer dining is great while it lasts but you can't beat having people for dinner when it's cold outside, the candles are lit and the food is of the comfort variety. Last weekend we had friends to stay and I made a huge fish stew with crusty bread and followed it up with cheese. Stodge perfection. The Kitchen Diaries, written by the God of Comfort Food that is Nigel Slater, are the perfect accompaniment to a change in the weather. I LOVE Nigel Slater. He's got a recipe for everything, he's not obsessed with low fat, low cholesterol, clean eating, raw eating boringness. Plus he's got the best kitchen on our screens with crittal windows TO DIE FOR. Always interiors.
Autumn also brings changes to your dining table. Joe and I have always been huge dinner party people and as soon as the heating is on, I'm booking dinner parties like they're going out of fashion. Dinner parties NEVER go out of fashion, btw. So how to update your table to reflect the change in the season? Here are some fab ways of doing so without breaking the bank.
Muted colours and natural textures are perfect for a dinner gathering. Use large boards for bread, slate is ideal for presenting cheese and fruits. Handy Tip Of The Day: At our Styling Your Home workshops, we use huge rectangular slate tiles from Topps Tiles for serving salads and they look super effective. And WAY more expensive than the £3 they cost to buy.
5. Pimp Up The Bar Cart
So it's important that we get our priorities right and one of the things that I've been doing as part of the Revamp Restyle Reveal project is planning a bar cart for my entertainment room. Picked up in the charity shop for a tenner, a bar cart is perfect for when you fancy a quick drink but can't be bothered to walk to the kitchen. The story of my life.
White wine and rose are drinks of the summer and come the chilly nights, we need something that will warm us up. Obviously we could just turn on the heating and use our blankets but it's far more fun to pour a drink from the bar cart. I'm a big fan of Prosecco (not exactly a newsflash for York Hospital A&E after an embarrassing incident in the Summer when I fell directly on to my head and hit an artery whilst dancing under the influence on a concrete floor - very uncool) and an excellent update for the colder weather is Prosecco Royale. Combine Prosecco with Creme De Cassis and fresh blackberries, a perfect seasonal addition. Pears are another fruit that are perfect for Autumn. Try a Pear Mojito - mix vodka with lime juice and simple syrup, chop pears and add mint then top with soda water. Yum.
Decorating your bar cart is the fun bit. Here's so fab pieces you can pick up that will take your bar from Moe's to the Met Bar.
Today I drove 20 minutes to Waitrose on Foss Island simply to buy small glass bottles of San Pellegrino and Fever Tree to put on my bar cart. Plastic bottles just didn't cut it. I think I'm almost ready to join Styling Obsessives Anonymous. Or Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the two.
So those are My Top Five updates to swing you into Autumn. After a fairly rubbish August, it's quite nice to have no expectations of the weather and to totally give in to inside living with no guilt that you should be sitting out in Force 10 gales wearing a blanket and huddling under a sun umbrella just because it's still officially Summer. Bring on Autumn Living. Just make sure you blow your candles out.