The arrival of the autumn season heralds shorter days, crisp weather, crunchy golden leaves, pumpkin-spice flavours on the menu, Bonfire Night, and Halloween celebrations. In the home, it's all about transitioning from summer and making the living space feel warm and cosy.
Going by the meteorological calendar, autumn always begins on 1st September and ends on 30th November, but astronomical autumn differs, beginning on 23rd September 2023 and ending on 22nd December 2023.
From preparing your outdoor space to deep cleaning the house and making seasonal autumn decor updates, there are lots of little jobs to do to get your home in tip-top shape before the arrival of winter and Christmas. These autumn home ideas will help as the nights get shorter.
'Autumn is the season in which you want your home to feel as cosy and comfortable as possible,' says Yvonne Keal, senior product manager at Hillarys. 'There are many jobs around the home you can do in the lead up to the cooler time of year to make your home autumn ready. It's better to get ready early, rather than leave it too late!'
1. Deep clean the house
We often think about giving the house a spring clean but we forget that the autumn season is an ideal time for a deep clean, too. Wipe down the skirting boards and dust commonly forgotten areas like lampshades and the top of cupboards and shelves. Start with the living room and work your way around the house. Once you start on the kitchen, don't forget to deep clean your oven and fridge too.
It's also a good idea to give your windows, and window treatment (curtains, blinds, shutters etc) a little love.
'Roller blinds are extremely simple to clean,' says Yvonne Keal, senior product manager at Hillarys. 'Just roll the blind all the way down and use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum, similar to curtains, to gently remove any build-up of dust or dirt.
'For wooden blinds, the quickest way to keep them free of dust is by using a feather duster or dry microfibre cloth. Simply close the slats in one direction and lightly sweep in a downwards motion. Do not rub too hard as the varnish or paint on your wooden blind may be affected.'
2. Don't forget the gutters
Autumn is a great time to clear your gutter. Checking for falling leaves and twigs will help to avoid water not being able to flow correctly.
'During the autumn season, leaves are constantly falling from the trees, meaning it is an important time to ensure that gutters and gullies are being cleared,' says Charlie Avara, managing director of All Done Design. 'These should also be checked after autumn and cleared again to avoid build up from the continuous amount of fallen leaves.'
If you want to keep costs down and clean them yourself, Matt Nourse from Toolstation recommends putting a piece of hardboard at the bottom of the downpipe to prevent debris from getting into the gully or drain where it could cause a blockage.
'Scoop out any debris with the trowel and take care to not let anything drop into the downpipe and try to avoid debris falling down the walls because it may cause stains that could be hard to remove,' says Matt. 'Remove the hardboard or rag and pour down three or four buckets of water slowly into the gutter at the furthest end of the downpipe. You could use a hosepipe to lead water there too.'
3. Clean the fireplace
If you're planning on using your fireplace this autumn, line the area with newspaper and remove loose ashes and dust with a shovel and broom. Then, use a wire brush to clean off the soot from the brick, and use baking soda and warm water on a sponge to clean the remaining soot and dust.
4. Insulate the home
'A well-insulated house can help to significantly reduce your energy bill, especially during autumn and winter. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to make your home more energy-efficient is to insulate and draught-proof your external doors,' says Marc Husband, purchasing director at Leader Doors.
Ensure your keyhole has a purpose-made escutcheon with a fitted cover to prevent heat loss, and install a letterbox brush if needed. Do you have gaps between the door and floor? A brush strip draught excluder will prevent heat from leaving, and the cold from coming into your home, whilst if you have gaps between the door and its frame, fill it with fit foam, a brush strip draught excluder or wiper strips.
5. Check boilers and radiators
Arranging to have your boiler serviced is the best way to make sure your central heating is operating safely and efficiently — especially ahead of those cold, frosty days.
'Since the boiler may have been redundant over the summer months it is important to ensure everything is working properly ahead of autumn/winter,' adds Charlie. 'Don't forget to also bleed your radiators to get any excess trapped air out of the system. This will mean the water can circulate more efficiently and you are not wasting energy usage.'
6. Declutter and streamline your living space
Donate unwanted furniture, homeware and electrical items, plus clothes and shoes to charity, and have a good clear out of your kitchen cupboards. You can donate all your in-date but unwanted food to food banks, where those in need can make use of them. You should end up with an uncluttered, streamlined home, giving you more space to enjoy the calm, cosy surroundings that the autumn season brings.
7. Set the atmosphere with scent
Candles and diffusers create the perfect cosy setting for a relaxing night in, just add a few dotted tealights or go for large pillar candles.
'There is nothing more comforting than an autumn scent running through the air on a rainy evening. Trendy mason jar candles with scents of ginger, pumpkin pie, cinnamon, and cedar wood complete the ultimate autumn vibe,' says Sylvia James, interior designer at HomeHow.co.uk.
8. Incorporate autumnal colours
Mix subtle yellows, rich oranges and deep red tones with earthy browns – all colours associated with autumn – to create a warming, homely environment. Marie Goodwin, head designer at Prestigious Textiles, explains: 'Whether painting a whole room, reupholstering a sofa or adding new accessories, utilising these colours will instantly bring the autumn indoors.'
9. Add cushions, throws and a new bedspread
Layering is a brilliant styling device for your bed and it's essential come autumn. There's nothing better than curling up under a throw when it's chilly outside and layering with cushions and chunky wool blankets.
Choose autumnal-themed soft furnishings or go with brighter colours to offset the drabness of outside. And instead of buying new cushions, just invest in cushion covers so you can easily switch the look at very little cost (H&M do a great range). Similarly, a new bedspread can change the look of a room and perk you up if you're tired of seeing the same sheets every night.
10. Add a fresh lick of paint (or transform with wallpaper)
Since we're likely to spend more time indoors during autumn and winter, it's a good idea to give your rooms a fresh lick of paint (if you haven't already done so). Whether it's your home office or bedroom, giving your walls a new lease of life, even with wallpaper, a wall mural or perhaps new artwork, will brighten the space and be more pleasing to the eye.
11. Choose warm lighting
Layered lighting should always be a key consideration in the home, but especially with longer nights on the horizon, focus on warm lighting for that cosy feeling.
'Change to warmer LED bulbs and place more floor and table lights around your living room,' says Sylvia. 'If you have a fireplace, make this your primary light source for cold evenings. If you have a small niche in your living room, you can transform it into a snug area. Insert a small bench, cover in throws and cushions, and add a mini pendant light.'
12. Buy an air-purifying houseplant
Ensure the quality of air in your home is up to scratch with new houseplants. Not only are indoor plants a trendy and decorative accessory in the home, but according to NASA’s clean air study, a number of plants are also proven to help with indoor air quality by detoxifying the atmosphere in your home. Try philodendron, calathea, ficus, snake plants, peace lilies or chrysanthemums.
13. Create a cosy outdoor living space
There's no reason why you have to stay indoors and neglect the garden just because it's getting a little chillier outside. In fact, in our previous Big Gardening Poll, 56 per cent of House Beautiful readers said they plan to use their garden all year round.
'The days are starting to get shorter and chiller, so picnics and alfresco dining are soon to become a distant memory. To ensure you can enjoy the great outdoors and all the seasons have to offer despite the cooler weather, I'd recommend creating a lounge area in a garden room or greenhouse,' says garden stylist Selina Lake, who worked with Alitex to dress its Ickworth greenhouse at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021.
'To keep it compact opt for two armchairs and a coffee table to set the scene. A wood burner, or if you have access to electricity, an electric stove, adds warmth – in terms of both ambience and temperature! Once you’ve arranged the furniture, add some accessories – a vintage standing lamp, a basket filled with rolled blankets ready to cosy up with and some cushions to add colour to plain fabric chairs.'
14. Refresh an unloved corner with flowers
Beautiful fresh flowers can add a summery feel to your home in autumn. To stick to an autumnal theme, opt for reds, burnt oranges, ochres and soft greens.
'A simple fix I make to my home as the warmth of late summer yields to the embrace of a cooler autumn, is to update my floral arrangements,' says Jane Landino, creative director of Taylor Howes. 'I love to pick the seasonal flowers which offer a myriad of textures and colours to be harvested. My favourite seasonal blooms are dahlias which I am looking forward to gathering from my own cutting garden. A quick tip for the perfect autumnal bouquet: intersperse foliage, branches or seed heads within the displays to create more depth.'
For more floral-inspired ideas, buy or make an autumn wreath for your front door and an autumn garland for the mantel or sideboard. Dried flowers, such as pampas grass and dried hydrangeas, are also ideal for autumn. You can find lots of dried bunches online from the likes of Etsy, Bloom & Wild and Notonthehighstreet.com.
15. Prepare the garden
Remember, autumn is one of the most important seasons for gardening. Cut back perennials that have died down, divide herbaceous perennials, make leaf mould, move tender plants into a greenhouse or conservatory, and harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts.
Speaking about the environmental impact of making leaf mould, Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the RHS, explains: 'Leaves often vex gardeners so no wonder two out of five consign them to the green waste bin, but leaves make the finest soil improver as leaf mould. Making leaf mould helps the environment by eliminating the cost and carbon emissions associated with green waste collection.'
16. Prioritise garden security
Keep security front of mind and ensure that trees, bushes and overgrown shrubbery are trimmed, and invest in security lighting to brighten up your garden when motion is detected. The security experts at Yale stress the importance of robust fencing during the autumn season too. The harsh British weather can cause havoc with fence panels, which can give burglars an easy route into your garden. Check to see if any panels need repairing or replacing, ensuring that your garden offers the best protection for your home, along with good gate security.
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