16 Nature-Based Decorating Projects for Fall and Winter

By Staff
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By Laura Gaskill, Houzz

As the days become shorter and the light fades, we naturally want to hunker down indoors with cozy throws, hot drinks and good friends. And while shopping for new goodies to reflect the season can be fun, you don’t need to spend big to bring the look and feel of the turning seasons into your home. Here are 16 project ideas (most of them quick and ridiculously easy) that make use of whatever natural elements you have on hand, from found feathers to firewood. 

Related: Bring in Warmth and Character With Reclaimed Wood 

Envi Interior Design Studio, original photo on Houzz 

You Have: Feathers 

Project: Fill bud vases with feathers.

A single feather tucked into each of a cluster of bud vases makes a poetic dining table centerpiece or bedside adornment. The most fun and meaningful way to collect feathers for your vases is by looking for them during nature walks — though you can always find them at the craft store if foraging proves fruitless. 

You Have: Bare Branches, Twigs or Firewood

Project: Fill a nonworking fireplace with wood.

Fill an unused fireplace to the brim with a neat stack of firewood for a look that’s warm and cozy even without the glow of a fire. You can purchase perfectly round birch logs for this purpose, but regular firewood looks more rustic and real. Always inspect wood for signs of bugs before bringing it into the house. 

Project: Shelve your firewood.

Filling a bookshelf or two with firewood works whether you need to store some for use this winter or just want to add some rustic charm to your space. Use smaller, kindling-sized pieces to fill in the gaps. 

Tomas da Silva, original photo on Houzz 

Project: Entwine a branch with fairy lights.

Bare branches hung above a headboard with clear fishing line give off a beautiful glow when entwined with fairy lights. Using a larger section of a tree limb that has multiple branch sections, as shown here, makes it easier to wrap larger lights; if you’re hanging a small, slender branch, use tiny fairy lights. 

You Have: Fall Leaves, Grasses or Evergreens

Project: Fill a floor vase with fall foliage.

An oversize vessel — try an umbrella stand if you don’t have a large vase — makes a strong statement when filled with an armful of colorful fall branches. The leaves will add interest to an entryway or other spot for weeks. If the leaves have already fallen where you live, collect a few evergreen branches to display instead.
Tip: Weigh down tall vases with sand, gravel or river stones to prevent tipping. 

Project: String up a fall garland.

Make your own lovely seasonal garland to adorn the dining room at your next fete, inspired by this beauty from The Wreath Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo. You can use whatever materials you have on hand. The finished product can be as long as you like, and will look stunning laid down the center of the dining table or hung around a door frame. 

Terrat Elms Interior Design, original photo on Houzz 

Project: Fill a vase with ornamental grasses.

The feathery fronds of an ornamental grass make an unexpected and long-lasting bouquet — most grasses dry well and will look good indefinitely in a vessel without water. Cut some from your own yard, ask a kind neighbor if they’ll share a frond with you or pick some up from a local florist. 

Project: Leaf print placemats.

This is a quick and fun project perfect for casual autumn and winter gatherings, and it can be done with children if you like. You’ll need a batch of freshly fallen leaves and evergreen sprigs, paper placemats, a tray or baking sheet for holding paint, and tempera or craft paint in your chosen color. Experiment with dipping your leaves and making prints on plain paper first to get the hang of it. If you want to make a permanent version, you can repeat the steps using fabric paint on plain cotton or linen placemats. You may need to launder or press the placemats before the first use, so be sure to check the fabric paint manufacturer’s instructions. 

Project: Frame a leaf.

Old picture frames can be found for next to nothing at yard sales and flea markets — you may even have a few lying around your own home. Put them to work in a quick, seasonal display by hanging a cluster of empty frames on the wall and affixing a leaf or two inside each using poster tack or double-sided tape. Add to the mix with other small items, such as bird’s nests and bits of moss. 

You Have: Berry Branches

Project: Adorn a chandelier.

Give your dining room light fixture a new lease on life by artfully draping it with a few bright red berry branches or bittersweet vines. Just beware of berries falling into the food: Take the branches or vines down when berries start to drop, or use faux plants instead.

Mary Jo Bowling, original photo on Houzz 

You Have: Fresh Herbs or Seasonal Produce

Project: Set the table with herb bundles.

Make small bundles of fresh-snipped herbs and tie each to a cloth napkin with twine for an easy, elegant and fragrant table setting. No herbs? Use whatever you have on hand from the garden or produce bin — Jerusalem artichokes, lavender, wildflowers and ferns are all lovely choices. 

Project: Repurpose wine bottles as vases.

This is the perfect excuse to hold on to a bottle with a really pretty label. Collect a few of different heights and display them together, either on their own or bundled with twine. The narrow neck of a wine bottle makes it perfect for displaying one or two branches — try olive branches, grapes on the vine or long sprigs of freshly cut rosemary. 

Decor Aid, original photo on Houzz 

You Have: Succulents or Air Plants

Project: Make a succulent centerpiece.

If you prefer not to spend loads of time arranging fussy flowers at the table, consider a set-it-and-forget-it arrangement like this succulent planter. A long, narrow planter in a beautiful material like copper works well. Use potting medium designed for succulents to ensure proper drainage, and be sure to protect your table with a drip tray. 

Project: Highlight a collection under glass.

A cluster of glass cloches and other vessels makes an artful tabletop display when filled with small natural treasures and air plants. Be sure that air plants and succulents are in containers that have some air flow, not a closed-top cloche. Fill out your display with seasonal farmer’s market finds like unshelled nuts and unusual fruits.  

You Have: Pinecones

Project: Fill up a vintage pail.

Once you’ve collected more pinecones than your arms can carry, tumble them into a metal pail and tuck it into a blank corner to add textural interest all season long. Galvanized metal buckets (used for harvesting grapes and olives) have an especially interesting texture, but any vintage container will do nicely. 

You Have: A Camera

Project: Embrace nature in a photograph.

A photo of a favorite spot in nature can make a meaningful, soothing addition to your home. Take your camera along on your next day trip to a beautiful area (or out to your own backyard) and challenge yourself to take a frame-worthy shot. Taking photos in the early-morning light will usually produce the best results. And don’t be afraid to take a lot — it’s not uncommon for a pro to take a hundred photos to get just one great shot!