Thinking Outside the Gourd: Alternative Autumn Tables

Don’t get me wrong: I like a nice weird gourd as much as the next guy, but the onslaught of harvest-inspired table décor ideas can be relentless at this time of year. And yet there are so many lovely, perhaps less hackneyed ways to evoke that spirit of rustic warmth and coziness that we all crave in these autumn months.

One approach to an alternative fall table is to craft your centerpiece from unexpected elements, choosing seasonal botanicals that have managed to avoid becoming stereotypical harbingers of autumn. Another way to go is to use the typical, often very pretty fall materials—burnished leaves, wacky-shaped gourds, wispy grasses—in new ways, favoring simple, modern techniques and vessels. Here are some specific ideas to borrow and tweak:

1 – Choose simple and minimal over typical abundance. Absurdly abundant fall cornucopias tend to be the norm this time of year, but colorful fall leaves are so much prettier on their own, when their dazzling variety of shapes and colors can really stand out. This display of leaves in basic glass hurricanes from Martha Stewart would be exceedingly easy to create, and it looks both chic and inviting.

2 – Go for colors outside the autumnal palette. Nobody doesn’t love a nice pumpkin, but by the time November rolls around, I get pretty sick of looking at them, which is why these “pop” painted pumpkins from Happy Mundane are so appealing. By using clean lines and non-autumnal colors, Jonathan Lo makes a centerpiece that evokes the fall spirit with a witty modern edge.

3 – Rethink your bunch of branches. Autumn branches can be pretty just bunched on their own in a vase. But for an updated look, why not consider displaying a single special branch on its own, with a base of birch bark or mounded moss? This branch centerpiece from EcoLectic Events is decorated with handmade rice paper flowers, but you could use anything that strikes your fancy: seed pods, mosses, what have you.

4 – Think outside the squash. Vegetables used in fall centerpieces are most often squash and root vegetables, but there are so many other gorgeous edibles available this time of year. Figs, for example, are lovely on their own in a simple white bowl or arranged with other flowers and plants. I adore this cake stand of figs and flowering vines (also from Martha Stewart). Just use a little piece of wet floral foam in the middle of the stand to keep the vines hydrated. Wind the vines around the foam to disguise it, and add the figs around the edge.

5 – Try a woodland theme. Mosses, ferns, and bark have a rustic, cozy energy that seems perfect to me at this time of year. Try terrariums for your table (like this one from Once Wed), using mushrooms in warm fall colors for an added autumnal vibe.

6 – Feathers and flowers. Adding subtle feathers to florals can give your centerpieces that little bit of autumnal spirit without going completely over-the-top. I love the way the feathers in this bouquet from Once Wed almost feel like a breezy afterthought, and yet they add so much in the way of texture and mood. Pheasant feathers in particular, with their rusty hues, provide a nice fall-flavored look.

7 – Try an herbal bouquet. Certain herbs in flower arrangements feel more like spring or summer, but earthy, fragrant herbs like rosemary, thyme, and nasturtium can be reminiscent of brisk autumn days, especially when mixed with seasonal flowers. And the use of edible materials always conveys that feeling of abundance without the cloying cornucopia motif. (Bouquet is yet another one from Martha Stewart“>Martha.)

8 – Break out the funky old vessels. Tarnished vintage vessels, containers, and props convey a cozy warmth that’s perfect for brisk evening dinner parties in the fall. I love the old scale used in this photo by Tanja Lippert, and all it needs is a few shiny apples and some moss; the vessel itself is the key element here.

Got any unexpected ideas for your fall table? Please share below!

Images: Martha Stewart (1, 4, and 7); Happy Mundane; EcoLectic Events; Once Wed (5 and 6); The Knot / Tanja Lippert Photography