Autumn At Home
It isn’t news to This 1870 House that autumn is my favourite season. With none of spring’s showiness or summer’s high expectations, autumn’s beauty is nonchalantly spectacular. After months of greenery, leaves curl ochre and crimson and hazel for what seems like just a moment before dropping, as if the season itself is shrugging, saying “what, these old things? I’m just getting rid of them, actually…”
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But as beautiful as the world around us becomes at this time of year, the greatest reason of all to adore autumn is rediscovering the loveliness of Being At Home. As a fair-skinned introvert, nothing fills me with dread more than an approaching summer weekend with a perfect weather forecast. The pressure of having the perfect plans, of not missing the rare sunshine, of making the most of the weather in crowded beer gardens and loud lidos. I’m exhausted (and have prickly heat) just thinking about it.
In autumn, staying home with books and blankets and baths are acceptable plans once again. Bedrooms too warm to sleep are a distant, sticky memory and we don’t shun our ovens for fear of accidentally over-heating.
I’ve distilled my love affair for autumn at home into a list of definitive reasons that this season tops the list of any sane person. Or, perhaps, just the list of any introvert. If you want a longer list – and the best home buys of the season – there’s also 50 (fifty!) ways to update your home for autumn to browse.
1. A Rich Colour Palette To Revel In
Warm and rich and deep and full of substance – a description both of the perfect autumnal colour palette, and the perfect autumnal casserole (see point 5). A pleasing update to the ochres and umbers for 2019 is the addition of bolshy coniferous green and an inky navy blue – most often in the form of a frighteningly expensive velvet sofa longer than my entire house. But jewel colours on the cooler side of the spectrum balance the warm autumnal scheme without sacrificing any of its richness.
2. Dialling Up Texture
You don’t need me to tell you that adding blankets, throws, rugs and cushions is the quickest way to soften the ‘edges’ of your home in autumn, adding warmth – literal and figurative. This year’s autumn-winter textile trends have played with contrast – organic, woven jutes against soft velvet; firm embroidery against yielding canvas. Layering fabrics and furnishings at home can create perfect pockets of cosiness – those corners that call you like a siren as soon as you step in the door, whispering: “crack the spine of a book, open a bag of Malteasers and get under this blanket until you are just a head floating on yards of cable knit.”
3. Turning Up The Heat
We’re lucky enough to have a faux woodburning stove in our living room, and curling up in front of the crackling and flickering is one of my favourite ways to spend time in this house. Last year, when our heating broke in the midst of an autumnal cold snap, it was the only way we could heat the place as we camped out in the living room. Autumn was made for fireplaces. But in their absence the joy of coming in from the cold to a warm home – or even a slightly chilly one and quickly turning up the heat, feeling it warm around you as you shed coats, flick on lights and wait for the kettle to boil – is a joy in itself.
4. Hot, Healing Baths
Sometimes coming in from the cold means coming in from the really cold. The kind of cold that has chilled the marrow of your bones, left your fingers clumsy and your words slurred by numb lips. The only course is a deep, hot bath and a towel left to warm on the radiator. Feeling your joints relax and tension uncoil in the heat is the ultimate autumnal self-care and my favourite way to transition from a day in the office to an evening at home.
5. Food That Nourishes
For me, the food of autumn isn’t about particular dishes – it isn’t characterised by stews or soups or roasts. Instead, it’s a food experience; something I can eat from a bowl with one hand. I don’t want to sit at a dining table, I want to sigh into a sofa with blankets and cushions. Sometimes that means a worthy casserole that I’ve tipped the last of the veg box into, but just as often it means porridge with maple syrup for dinner.
6. Candle Light
The soft flickering and warm fragrance of scented candles represents the ultimate home comfort to me in the darker months. Growing up, our home was full of never-lit scented candles “kept for best”. They’d be reverentially burned for a few hours on Christmas Day, then blown out for another 364 days. I absorbed this habit until a couple of years ago, when I resolved to stop Keeping Things For Best. Now I burn scented candles with abandon, constantly from September to April-ish. Just me and the cat home alone on a Tuesday night? Candles lit. Of course, it means I buy very cheap candles…
7. Burning Through Books
I have no good reason for not reading more in summer – there’s certainly no conscious decision behind it. But every year, like going back to school, I up my reading game around September. I burn through paperbacks, book in one hand, fork in the other, bowl of pasta balanced between knees. I take impractically large coffee table books to bed and flick through the full-spread photos. I read cook books cover to cover on a Sunday afternoon, wondering what to cook that evening – I’m fooling myself; it’s pesto pasta again, but the thought is there.
8. Lighting The Way
In the summer months, it’s easy to sort of… forget about the way we light our homes. It’s light enough in the mornings and evenings to rarely flick a light switch. But as soon as September rolls around, we face down those long, dark nights and gloomy mornings and suddenly we’re reliant on bulbs again. It’s an often overlooked part of creating mood in the home but if yours isn’t quite right, this is the time you’ll notice it and should change it.
In an otherwise perfect, cosy room, switch on a blue-ish light and everything is off. To fix this, try to have lighting solutions other than the main ceiling light (table lamps, wall-mounted lamps and standard lamps) and fill them with warm light bulbs. The lower the Kelvin rating, the warmer the light, so 1,500K is akin to a candle flame whereas 10,000K is a cool light like a clear day.
9. Plants Go Low Maintenance
Homes filled with plants may be an expression of the millennial struggle to join the job market, but they’re also good for our psychological wellbeing. In autumn and winter, most common houseplants go into a semi-hibernation (same), which means you won’t see as much of that peculiarly satisfying, shiny green new growth. But it also means you can wind down your watering routine, taking a weekly watering down to as little as monthly for a monstera.
My green-fingered houseplant consultant (who used to receive frequent panicked Instagram DMs about how to revive a flailing fiddle leaf fig until I reformed my plant-killing ways), recommends a single dose of plant food for all houseplants at the beginning of autumn, followed by simply scaled back watering until spring.
And the one reason autumn is a terrible time to be at home?
1. Uninvited Lodgers
There is – without exception – always a spider in the bath from 1st September onwards. In October, the biggest spiders you’ve ever seen (50% bigger than last year, every year – why is no one looking into this??) are suddenly just…on the walls? Until I moved into a Victorian terrace, I didn’t know that giant house spiders came in the same size as my cat. It was also unfortunate to discover that said cat likes to uncover them and then herd them towards us to show off his latest find.
And yes I know they keep away flies and other small spiders and are a critical part of a vastly complex ecosystem. I’d just like them to fulfil this important role somewhere that doesn’t stop me accessing my kitchen for a whole day because there’s one on the ceiling right there and C won’t be home to remove it for hours.
If my home could be somehow spider-proofed, I’d happily have year-round autumn. I’d potter and read, light candles and eat from bowls, plump cushions and drape blankets forever. But of course, it wouldn’t be the same. It’s precisely autumn’s brevity that makes it so magical, so blink-and-you’ll-miss-it.
Right now, I have a bath to run and a book to read in it until the water goes cold. After I remove the spider, of course.