Style: How to warm up home decor for winter

Mary Carol Garrity

When you have a crazy lifelong obsession with decorating, like I do, and you get to play with new styles, colors, patterns and decorating trends at work all day, it’s hard to pick the one look for your home that’s your favorite. Maybe that’s why I tweak my home decor on a regular basis, especially when the seasons are changing. Right now, as the weather is getting cooler, I’m adding little touches here and there to make my cottage warm and snug.

All about the plaid

I am over the moon about all menswear fabrics. Show me a paisley, check or stripe, and my heart races. I love how these sophisticated, timeless patterns blend together to make a space rich, complex and unique. But my favorite fabric for fall and winter, hands down, is plaid. You’d think that after I’d been interned in Catholic school for years, dressed in that infamous plaid skirt uniform, every ounce of plaid passion would have been squeezed from my heart. But plaid and I, we are married for life.

As the weather gets colder, I swap out my lightweight summer pillows for fall pillows, with their heavier weights and richer colors. Every year I indulge myself in some new pillows just to keep things fresh.

My new favorite, easy-as-pie trick to instantly warm up my decor is to poke in throw blankets. Especially when they are plaid! I always have at least one blanket on the arm of my sofa or tossed over the back of a chair. I keep a basket filled with throw blankets tucked under a table in the living room so I can pull one out to wrap up snug while I’m drinking my coffee every morning.

Dining room set for fun

These days, Dan and I are a little less formal and a little more spontaneous when it comes to entertaining. I love to have friends over on a whim. To make instant dinner parties stress-free, I decided to come up with a tabletop design I would keep in place all season. The place settings are at the ready, so all I have to do is swoop in after work and dish up the carryout!

Instead of a tablecloth, which is harder to launder, I topped my table with two fabric runners, nestled under the place settings so I don’t need place mats. My rule of thumb is to use only two runners on the table, then to put place mats under the table settings at the ends of the table.

My centerpiece is about as easy as it gets: A potted plant I grabbed from the floral section of the grocery store flanked by two hurricane lamps. For fun, I looped a fall ribbon through the stack of plates. The ticking napkins are really dish towels. I like their generous size and that they launder so well. When I change my table design for my holiday look, these cuties are going to replace the nasty, worn out dishtowels I’ve been using for way too long.

I can’t seem to ever set my table without using my set of simple white dishes. I’m caught up in their magnetic field, and I can’t seem to extract myself because they are so darn fun and easy to decorate around. Everything looks great with them! I added some texture with my go-to wicker chargers and dotted in some color through these majolica dishes.

Outdoor spaces dressed for fall

This is our second fall in our little lake cottage. But I wanted our garden to look full and mature, like it had been in place for decades. Since I don’t know the first thing about gardening, I hired Bill and Richard to come up with a landscaping plan. Some women overspend on clothing, shoes or jewelry. Me? I have sunk every dime of my little nest egg into paving stones, bushes and flowers.

I love to spend time outdoors on crisp fall evenings. Most nights, Dan builds a fire and our neighbor wanders by with her dog Augie, our dog Lyric’s best friend. While the dogs run around the lawn, we gather by the fire, wrapped up snug in blankets, unwinding after a long day at work, in our little cottage by the lake. Thanks for joining me at Innisfree, during this quiet respite before the hurly-burly fun of the holidays!

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at