On Friday and Saturday this week, I will swing the door of my historic home in Atchison wide open and welcome thousands of guests for my annual Fall Open House. I hope you will be among them! In the days leading up to this free tour of my home and garden, dressed to the hilt in lush seasonal displays, the creative team at Nell Hill’s is hard at work, coming up with new looks for my interior and exterior. While the displays vary year to year, sometimes over the top, sometimes edited and simple, we always dress up a few highly visible, high-impact areas inside and outside because they offer a lot of bang for the buck. Even if you are pressed for time this year when you decorate for autumn, be sure to add a touch or two to these three important areas of your home’s exterior.

High-Impact Spot 1: Create Some Fanfare on Your Front Walkway

Before your guests even get to your door, let them know you’re excited about fall. Find a spot on your front walkway to tuck in a fall display. My historic home was build into a hill, so the first thing you see when you pull up in front is the sturdy old retaining wall, complete with pillars on either side of the steps that lead up to my front door. The top of the pillars are wide and flat and make an excellent spot to hold a fall statement. My favorite trick is to select two large lanterns, then fill them with an attractive seasonal display. It might be a battery operated pillar candle surrounded by fall foliage with a cute fall ribbon tied onto the lantern handle. Lantern displays take just minutes to pull together, but look fetching. If you don’t have a natural spot to place a fall display up close to the road, put a lantern on your front stoop.

I also like to do a little something near the entry to the walled courtyard behind my home. The wall is large and open and just ripe for a lantern. Flat back wall lanterns work nicely because they hug the wall and don’t flap in the Kansas wind. If you don’t have a wall, dress up your garden gate.

Let your creativity run wild when coming up with a display to put inside the lanterns. How about a figurine of a bird? A bird’s nest? Maybe a piece of artwork that features fall images? Or, just take some fall picks and intertwine them with strands of bittersweet. Finish off with a great seasonal bow. I’m partial to burlap ribbon because I love how it looks with the organic elements of fall.


High-Impact Spot 2: Make Your Front Door Fun and Inviting

If you have time to only decorate one outside spot this fall, make it your front door. It’s here that you set the stage, giving everyone who visits a glimpse of what they can expect inside. This year for my Fall Open House, I’m concentrating my energy on decorating the sides of my door, keeping the display on the door itself pretty simple. We are going to secure fallen branches to the light fixtures that flank my door, using zip ties (my favorite way to tie up branches because zip ties are easy to use and strong enough to hold the weight of the branches). Then, we will weave in faux foliage sprays and picks, following the lines of the sticks so they look natural. I’m not going to give away any more … you’ll have to come see the rest for yourself!

If you have only minutes to spare for decorating, tap into the power of the wreath. Good in a pinch, they always look lovely. I hang mine from my door knocker.

When you hang your wreath, you can just secure it to the knocker with some zip ties or florist wire. Or you can hang it with fall ribbon. I think the ribbon adds a nice touch and gives you a chance to include a bit more color and texture. If you can’t tie a pretty bow, no worries – I can’t either. That’s what inspired this cheater look, which I now adore even more than a picture-perfect bow.

Don’t like wreaths? Here’s another fast and easy idea: Find a bundle of twigs in your backyard or at a park, cinch them together into a small bouquet, tie them up with a fall ribbon, then hang them upside down on your front door. Sometimes understated treatments like this are the most powerful because of their simplicity.


High-Impact Spot 3: Add a Bit of Intrigue to Your Garden

Adding a touch of fall to your garden is obscenely easy. All you need to do is augment the display Mother Nature has already created. Pile up some pumpkins around a tree. Fill a birdbath with gourds. Top a pillar with a pumpkin.

I use a mix of real and artificial pumpkins and gourds when I decorate my home. I love the real pumpkins and gourds because they are so crazy looking, full of interesting colors and imperfections. But the fakes are so good these days, it’s often hard to tell them from the real. And, if you put up your fall décor before the weather turns cool, you don’t have to worry about them rotting.

I invested in a set of iron pillars a few years ago, and I’m so thrilled I did. I use these guys constantly in my outdoor decorating, reinventing them season after season. Sometimes you’ll find them holding serving trays. How about a cachepot filled with a fall mum? Or lanterns? That’s the beauty of versatile decorating tools like these: You can use them a million ways.

You can also place decorated lanterns in your garden beds or on the edge of your garden walkways. Don’t overdo – one or two usually is sufficient. For this great display, which brightened up the brick sidewalk in my courtyard, we started with an inexpensive white pottery chalice, added a mini faux pumpkin and filled in with a few fall picks. Done!


Next Week … Faux fall foliage is a key tool in our seasonal decorating arsenal at Nell Hill’s. I’ll show you how to use these artificial but awesome vines, sprays and picks to perk up your home for fall.

P.S. Don’t miss a bit of Nell Hill’s news – stay up to date on my favorite finds, new arrivals at the stores and all our special events by checking the Nell Hill’s Facebook page every day. You don’t have to have a Facebook page yourself to look in on the fun, but if you’re already on Facebook, “like” us today!

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21 Responses to “Fall for Fall Outside: 3 High-Impact Spots to Decorate”

  1. Pam Milam Says:

    Mary Carol, we’re so excited! We’ve visited your stores several times, but this is the first time we’ve been able to plan a trip to coincide with an open house. We live in California and were all set to come to last year’s fall event, but had to cancel the trip at the last minute due to a family health emergency. But we’ve rescheduled and I and my (very patient and willing to go to a ‘women’s thing’ if it makes me happy!) husband, Bill, will see you on Friday – hooray! After we get our Nell Hill’s (and KC) fix, we’re going on to Florida on Saturday for some long-awaited beach time, so it should be a terrific trip – see you soon!

  2. patti g Says:

    I love your style MCG! Your friends that are so lucky to work with you must wake up smiling everyday. Three years ago my friend and I were blessed to come to the fall open house. I still think about it – and NEVER will I look at a branch without knowing the possibility that lies in it.
    Good luck – hope the weather smiles on you.

  3. Wayne Meier Says:

    Are any of the wreaths pictured above for sale by mail?

  4. Debbie Price Says:

    I love your bundle of twigs idea. I have three pecan trees in my front yard and am constantly gathering sticks. Now I will put them to good use. Thanks for the great idea.

  5. Robin Frank -- Vision Interiors Says:

    YIPPIE….. Bringing van load of crazy ladies both Friday and Sat . ….. Thank you gal for another open house ! You are just terrific to do this AGAIN !!!!! See you then …and love from all of us

  6. mi chelle reeves Says:

    All wonderful ideas. Affordable, for most.

  7. Cathey Bost Says:

    Mary Carol,

    The examples you showed of outdoor fall decor made me happy that fall is here (although it is still quite warm in North Carolina) but the photos and text also made me so sad that I cannot be with you and all your thousands of friends/fans at the open house this weekend. I beg you to have someone take photos that can be posted to your blog or Facebook. There are millions of us, literally, who cannot get there for distance or work or other reasons, but we read everything you write and study all the photos that go with the words. We want to feel as though we were a part of at least some of the action. I hope I am not speaking out of turn or stepping on anybody’s toes, just want to make sure you know that there must be masses of people (OK, most would be women!) who regret they cannot be at your historic home that we all feel we know inside and out. It would steal my breath to actually be there. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. Helene O'Cain Says:

    Gorgeous! I love Autumn. Keep posting!

  9. Jane Wise Says:

    I have admired your iron pillars for a long time. Do you offer them for sale at either store?

    I admire your creative mind and gracious personality.

  10. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Wayne,
    The only wreath as shown in the first picture is only available in brown. Call 877-746-4320 for all the details.

  11. Mary Carol Says:

    Jane—I too love my iron pillars, however, I have owned them for a long time and they are not available in the stores—so sorry.

  12. Sandi Lane Says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Mary Caro,l for your inspiring photos of your home! I was stuck on letting go of summer and had some
    outside fall wedding planning to do for a friend – and when I opened up your site with your ideas of your home – I am ready to go and excited about fall. Thank you again for always inspiring me in my decorating and for others. Respectfully, Sandi Lane of PA! We have always said… – we have a little bit of Nell-Hill here!!!! Creating and being inspired by Mary Carol and company!

  13. sheila collier Says:

    Wish I could be there!! Plus the 7th is my birthday. Things good great,I love the fall. But I live in Florida now and It’s still 90′s ever day! I have to wait until Oct. to fell like fall. Still wish you could open a store down this way. Look into the The Villages!!

  14. Ana Says:

    Do you have the flat back laterns for sale at your store or online? I didn’t see them online. Thanks! You have such amazing ideas! God bless!

  15. Mary Carol Says:

    So pleased we have inspired you this week for fall—Enjoy decorating Ms. Sandi of PA . Hopefully, the weather will cool down for you–love to be in PA myself!

  16. Sydney Martin Says:

    Love this blog! Chock full of wonderful ideas and fabulous pictures. Fall 2012′s Open House will go down in the history books – one of the best ever!!! It was a feast for the eyes – at the Garrity home, Nell Hill’s and Garrity’s. So thankful for your hospitality,graciousness and creativity. We’ve been blessed more than you can imagine!

  17. Brenda Says:

    Mary Carol,
    I was one of the lucky ones who got to tour your home on Friday. I must say I was a little uneasy when the sirens started going off, but I was lucky enough to be able to take lots of photos outside just before the rain started.

    Today I posted photos of your dining room on my blog, and in my photos it appears that the dining room walls are black, but I remember them being navy blue last year. Is it just my photography, or did you repaint? I was in such a zone to take lots of photos that the paint color in the dining room did not register in my brain.

    Thanks for opening your home for all your fans.


  18. Mary Carol Says:

    Enjoyed every one of you, and thank you for attending our Fall Open House this last weekend.

  19. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Brenda—You are absolutely right—my paint color in my dining room is still our Nell Hill’s ‘Twilight Blue’ color–available online or in the stores. Thanks for attending the open house— we all had great fun. PS. Sorry for the scare with the sirens.

  20. carol Says:

    Hi Mary Carol,
    Can you tell me where you purchased your iron pillars? I love them!

  21. carol Says:

    whoops. sorry I didn’t read the replies before I sent mine.. Looks like someone else liked the iron pillars too…

    you’re AWESOME Mary Carol!!!!!

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