Let’s get cozy

It’s human nature (or maybe it’s clever marketing), but somehow, every year, the beginning of fall inspires just about everyone to get excited about cooler weather. We gleefully pull our sweaters and scarves out from our closets and begin to fantasize about warm cups of tea while snuggling in a sunny window with a book. What’s puzzling is our universal amnesia regarding how miserable the cold can be, and how the winter goes on and on and on … but we digress. Fall can be the time to enjoy the cooler weather by turning our homes into cozy sanctuaries, so we spoke to award-winning interior designer Maria Bortugno for tips on how to do that. 

The Big Picture

Just as we swap our wardrobes for seasonal changes, we should consider changing up our homes’ decór to reflect what’s going on outdoors. Bortugno, the lead designer for B Designs Interiors, describes the task as “setting the mood” for the change of seasons.

“We’re going from summer — where you want things more spartan and cool — to fall, which is when you start to cozy up the house,” she says. “So, for example, I use linen for [decorating during the] summer in my house, but then I use velvet for fall and winter.”

A vase of green faux hydrangeas sits perched on a coffee table.
Photo courtesy Maria Bortugno/B Designs Interiors.

The idea is not to perform a total overhaul of your interior decór, but rather to add subtle signs that the seasons are changing. Bortugno suggests starting with swapping out any faux flowers you have to make sure they reflect what would be available in nature. “Even if you have silk hydrangeas, you need to make sure their colors are right,” she says. “As the weather gets cooler, real hydrangea blooms fade to a pinkish, burnt-orange color, so anything else is gonna scream ‘fake.’”

So, keeping in mind that even small changes can make a difference, here are some simple ways to make your home cozy for fall.  

Toss in Some Throw Pillows

The quickest way to refresh a room is to change the throw pillows on the couch. Swapping out your old standbys (which, let’s face it, could probably use a wash) doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Bortugno says stores like Home Goods are great places to find affordable throw pillows. “I can actually get finished pillows there for less than it costs to buy filler inserts at wholesale cost,” she says. You can also buy pillow covers from sites like Amazon or Etsy for reasonable prices, or you could even try your hand at sewing some yourself. 

a cozy, slept-in looking bed has a soft, grey fleece blanket and several textured throw pillows in neutral hues. On the bedside table there is a small vase with dried grasses, and books

The couch isn’t the only place that can benefit from a throw-pillow makeover. Add some soft, fluffy accents to your bed, and you’ll want to nestle down for a long winter’s nap in no time.

Textures like chunky knits, sherpa fleece and faux fur are great for creating a cozy fall environment, as they add softness and warmth to everything. You can add these textures with your new throw pillows, or go even cozier with a smattering of blankets. These can be artfully draped over the arm of the couch, hung on a blanket ladder, or rolled up in a basket by the fireplace. 

If textures aren’t your design vibe, you can opt for decorative accents in a different seasonal color scheme. Bortugno says hues like amber, terra cotta, olive green, and marigold are popular this year, and can provide aesthetic depth to any space. They’ll also serve as a much-needed source of color when the wintery grays threaten to overwhelm you. And don’t be afraid of patterns! Swap your crisp, summer linens for some microfiber ones in plaid, moody florals, or toile. 

Thinking more vintage can make a space cozy, too. Soft tones like mauve or dusty rose or items that have that aged just beg you to dive in and snuggle up. According to Bortugno, embroidered designs and tapestries are coming back, too, and they’ll be here to stay. 

Add Candles

There’s nothing cozier than candlelight as the days grow shorter, and the more candles the better. Optimally, aim for a variety of heights and types and then arrange them to create an area with a warm glow rather than a lone light in a dark corner. You can do this just about anywhere, but our experts suggest placing them on mantels, built-in shelving, surrounding fireplaces, or as part of a centerpiece on an entryway table. (Safety tip: if you’re placing any candles near flammable objects or in high-traffic areas, spring for the battery-operated ones. They make them look extremely realistic these days, complete with flickering flames, and some can be set to a timer so they can make your home cozy without any effort.)

one way to make your home cozy for fall - a basket sitting on a countertop, filled with tiny pumpkin gourds and lit candles

Candles are wonderful for setting the scene visually, and they can send olfactory cues to your brain as well. “Go get a pumpkin spice candle, or, you know, an apple cider-scented candle. It’ll make your house smell like fall,” Bortugno says.

Embrace the Season 

You don’t need to wait until Thanksgiving to create a fall tableau for your home. Use seasonal produce, fall foliage, and dried flowers to invoke the bounty of the harvest. This can be as simple as keeping a bowl of pears on the kitchen counter, or going as far as making an elaborate centerpiece on the mantel with lanterns, ornamental gourds, dried grapevines, and tiny vases stuffed with mums.

Start by taking a walk outdoors. You’ll be amazed at the items you can find this time of year that are perfect for gorgeous arrangements: branches of bittersweet with bright red berries, dried vines, pine cones and wildflowers, not to mention multihued fall leaves. Most of these will dry nicely without much effort, or you can stick autumn branches into a vase to help them last a bit longer. For something with more lasting appeal, consider spraying the leaves with a sealant to preserve their color (or go wild and spray-paint them gold or bronze for a bougie look).

Fall tablescape: a long table set with a garland of magnolia leaves and deep maroon taper candles
Photo courtesy Maria Bortugno/B Designs Interiors.

Things to Keep in Mind

For Bortugno, decór is all about color and texture, and she’s quick to point out that whatever you do to decorate for fall, it has to work within the color scheme of your home. “There are certain colors that are popular right now in the design world that work great with neutral decór — which most people have anyway — but you need to make sure whatever you buy makes sense for the rest of the home as well.”

The benefit of sticking to colors and textures is that you can adopt them for different themes throughout the year. For example, burgundy pairs well with brown or copper for fall, and it also works beautifully paired with gold and forest green at Christmastime.

Featured image courtesy B Designs Interiors.

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