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Autumn changes everything. The world becomes cooler and the trees burst with color. The scent of apples and cinnamon and chocolate float on the breeze. Shops turn their lights on early as the days become shorter. The holidays are just around the corner. Everything feels slower, as though day-to-day life slows down with the change of seasons.

It’s the perfect time to mellow our your home with these unique autumn decorating ideas. Whether you gravitate toward the bright colors of an early autumn or long for the snow flying outside your window while you sip hot cocoa, these autumn decorating ideas can pay homage to fall, inside and out.

Make good use of the autumn colors

While it can be tempting to spend a boatload of money on the things that remind you of autumn, you can create your own fall decor by simply stepping outside and looking at what nature has to offer. The bright orange pumpkins, yellow gourds, leaves of every color imaginable, light brown corn husks, and even the special blue of an autumn sky are all perfect inspirations.

Bring them inside with a nice slipcover on your couch, colorful leaves collected in a wide, flat basket and a collection of small pumpkins on the windowsill or dining room table. Now is the time to pull out the quilts and decorate the chairs by throwing those unique fabrics over the back. If you can change out the color of your area rugs, do it — and celebrate fall with an earth-tone shag carpet that gives you something to sink those chilly toes into.

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Don’t forget to take advantage of the lack of light, too. While it might seem burdensome, the early sunsets and late sunrises give you an ample excuse to invest in that gorgeous floor lamp or light up the candles on a blustery night. If you have a fireplace, even better! Before it’s cold enough to light the fire, replace the logs with large candles that cast a romantic glow around the room.

Create a room outside

Rather than tuck yourself away inside the house, greet the colors of fall with autumn decorating right there in your backyard — or front porch, or patio, or even your sunroom. Creating a room outside is a big way to usher in the autumn. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or slam your pocketbook. It just has to be attractive and cozy.

Start with a good piece of furniture, preferably two. Liven up that wicker furniture with new, plush cushions. Include a small end table that will hold that hot mug of cocoa or your favorite crossword puzzle book. A small basket can be helpful too. Put an all-weather rug under your feet, and throw an old quilt over the back of the couch or chair for those days when you really need to bundle up.

If you are creating your outdoor space on a patio or deck, you can go even further with a small fire pit. Choose one that is meant for patio use so as to keep everyone safe and happy. Don’t forget the scented goodies, such as cinnamon packets, that you can throw on the fire to create even more ambiance.

Finally, welcome any and all visitors to your outdoor room, including those who spend their winters outside all the time. Set out ears of corn for the squirrels and invest in a bird feeder or two for the feathered friends.

Go with the autumn decorating flow

The idea of autumn decorating is to bring the outdoors in. This might mean you want to see more wood in the house. It might mean you prefer to see vibrant colors of fall against your typically pale backdrop. The rich colors and fabrics should reflect what fall means to you, so give it some thought before you take the plunge. Who knows: You might be so happy with your autumn decorating results that you decide to hang onto the look all year round!

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.