Decorating for fall is one of those simple, inexplicable, and reliable pleasures that has its chance every year, regardless of any trials and tribulations (we’re looking at you, 2020). Richly scented candles and warm-hued throw pillows are particularly attractive around this time, and with the official start of fall already behind us, it’s the moment to pull out the autumnal table runners and throw blankets.
Farah Merhi, designer, author, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Inspire Me! Home Decor, and the first-ever Designer Looks Style Expert for Value City Furniture, gave Travel + Leisure her tips on styling a home for the season. We’ll all be spending more time indoors over the next few months than we probably have in previous years, so heed her advice and make your space the best it can be for you.
1. A dining table is no longer just a dining table.
“People are rethinking how their living spaces function for them in this new world by investing in quality, comfy, and versatile foundation pieces like dining tables and sectional sofas that meet their new needs,” Merhi says. As we spend more time at home, people are more focused on furniture pieces that make a statement, but will withstand everyday activities that happen at home.”
She adds, “For example, dining tables are no longer being used just for daily meals. Activities like homework, arts and crafts, baking, playing board games, and so on are all happening right at our dining table.” In the same vein, couches are no longer just restful places for many — instead, they’re work stations and classroom seating areas. Because of this, these investment items have to be high-quality and durable as well as beautiful.
To buy: amazon.com, from $125 ($925 for the complete set)
An all-wood dining set with a bench is an especially chic investment for smaller homes without large dining rooms, as it won’t fully partition a space like a table with tall chairs.
way to keep your dining table from fully partitioning a space (an especially good investment for smaller homes without dining rooms). Drape a faux fur runner over the bench for a supremely cozy look and feel.
2. Get personal with your investment pieces.
“Customization in furniture is at an all-time high, in an effort to design rooms that reflect [personal] tastes and styles,” Merhi says. “Homeowners are now also seeing an opportunity to revamp their homes and make it a reflection of who they are and what they love.”
allows customers to choose from four different sofa styles, 36 different fabric materials and colors, and a variety of sizes in order to customize their perfect sectional “without breaking the bank.” Brands like Joybird also offer furniture customization opportunities, so you can finally get your hands on that burnt orange velvet sectional you’ve been imagining.
3. There is a trifecta of autumnal decorating “musts.”
“When it comes to fall, there are three things that are a must for me,” Merhi says of her seasonal decor.
To buy: amazon.com, $13 (set of 2)
“1. Decorative pillows with lots of texture, like velvet and metallics.”
To buy: amazon.com, $38
“2. Faux fur throw blankets for those chilly fall nights.”
To buy: amazon.com, $40
“3. Scented candles to bring those warm, crisp fall scents into the home.”
If you’re stumped on which direction to go in terms of a color palette, Merhi reminds us that neutrals never go out of style, even for seasonal decor. “I’m seeing…lots of white, cream, and gold colors for the season…which makes sense during these uncertain times as neutral colors offer a sense of calmness and peace in the home.” Merhi suggests throwing in some gold and brass accents with your neutrals — a move that’s very popular right now.
4. The holidays deserve a gathering space.
“A holiday season at home needs a quality dining table with statement details to add something extra to the room,” Merhi says, pointing to VCF’s Charthouse dining table with intricate scroll detailing on the legs. “The holiday season may look a bit different this year, but with all the time being spent at home, it’s worth investing in a dining table that you love.”
To buy: valuecityfurniture.com, $100-$2,180
5. Draw inspiration from your travels.
“I grew up in Congo, Africa, and have traveled to many different countries throughout my life, and I know these experiences have molded me into who I am today,” Merhi says of her worldly upbringing. “I have learned the art of entertaining from my Lebanese roots, I have learned to appreciate life and hard work growing up in Africa, and I have learned to focus on holiday traditions and what they mean to us from my travels to Austria.”
She adds, “I draw inspiration from all my travels and am a huge believer that there is so much to learn from different cultures and countries around the world.” Merhi’s deep interest in cultural and architectural history, “specifically the way people live within their homes around the world,” is evident in the way she approaches interior decorating.
Think about the homes of those who have hosted you around the world, even your Airbnbs and vacation homes. Don’t be afraid to do a little research on the history and roots of certain practices that have moved you. (Editor’s note: Since living in Japan as a child, everyone in my family has separate footwear for wearing indoors and outdoors. Not only is it a sign of respect for the space and those in it, but it keeps the space tidier and all of us more comfortable.)
6. Go with your wanderlust.
“I am most excited to go back to France,” Merhi says of where she is most looking forward to traveling to in the future. “I cannot begin to express how much inspiration came out of that trip — the coffee station in my kitchen at home was inspired by the coffee station at the hotel we stayed in Paris, and I plan to design my front door based on an accumulation of beautiful doors I took pictures of during my walks in the streets of Paris.”
To buy: amazon.com, $158
A well-curated coffee station, complete with beautiful tools (see below) and personalized design elements such as plants and decanted coffee beans, will be your favorite part of your house for fall.
To buy: amazon.com, $75
A Le Creuset French press coffee maker is as much decor as it is a high-quality culinary tool. Display it on your coffee station for an inviting, cold-weather-appropriate area in your kitchen.
Related: The Best Cookware Sets You Can Order Online Right Now
Take some time to sift through old photos from your travels and find inspiration that way. Channel your cravings for that salade niçoise from Lyon and check out the plate it’s on in the photo, or even the placemat underneath. Often, we appreciate the thing we have our sights set on the most, so try picking up on the details you pass along the way and allow the inspiration to strike.
7. If all else fails, here are some of Merhi and T+L’s favorite products.
To buy: Goal Leaf Tray, inspiremehomedecor.com, $70; White Velvet Pumpkin, inspiremehomedecor.com, $88
Merhi shops mainly from her own retail store, Inspire Me! Home Decor, especially since “every piece is hand-selected by [her] and is styled in [her] house.”
To buy: luluandgeorgia.com, from $160
Try layering rugs for a bit more depth in a room’s color story. This also adds layers of cushion, so you can stop sitting on your bedroom pillows while working.
To buy: amazon.com, $560
A green velvet couch is a stunning statement, ultra-cozy, and surprisingly easy to integrate into most interior design styles. You can even match your pillows to your couch for a cohesive, monochromatic look that’s easy to play up or down, season to season.
To buy: amazon.com, $26
Edison string lights can be hung both indoors and outdoors to add a warm glow to any space. While not confined to a specific season, string lights like these are an elevated way to liven up a space, decorate for the holidays, or even prepare an outdoor space for socially distanced gathering.
To buy: burrow.com, $295 (originally $395)
Rugs can entirely change the feeling a room inspires. A warm-hued contemporary option like this one from Burrow adds energy and movement — something that is especially important for a holiday season spent with only a few people.
Kendall Cornish is an e-commerce editor at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Instagram at @kendall.cornish — her DMs are open to all things fashion, food, and beauty.
Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we’ll send you our favorite travel products each week.