Create a Beautiful Stylish Home of Your Dreams - Even When Renting!

When decorating for Fall, I've always loved decorating the fireplace the most! 

The mantel is such a perfect place to display the brilliant colors of the season with brightly colored garlands of leaves, adding ribbon to the mix along with pine cones, acorns, nuts and berries.

It reflects the season, the gorgeous turning of the leaves and brings the look and feel of nature inside. This is especially important to do when living in a place where the natural look of Fall is not immediately apparent outside, due to lack of trees in the city or when living in an area that doesn't reflect the four seasons, such as a sub-tropical environment. The brilliant use of color with the oranges, reds and yellows help welcome us into the mood of the season.

Here's a picture from my library many years ago when I created a Fall scape like this on my fireplace mantel. I had a gorgeous fireplace in this home and it was a joy to decorate it.

Fireplaces are one of the most gorgeous accents one can have in a home.

I just decorated my client's fireplace for the Fall and Thanksgiving holidays, as seen in the photo below. She will be hosting over twenty people in her home for Thanksgiving and it's important that the family room here greet her guests and fill them with the spirit as they gather together. 

Grandin Road creates this gorgeous garland and gather sign, the striking fireplace screen is from Horchow and the lantern from Pottery Barn.

It's wonderful when we have beautiful fireplaces like this to decorate, as they are a stunning backdrop in any home, especially during the holidays.  Over the years, I've enjoyed the homes that I've owned and renovated and decorated, especially the fireplaces, which are a symbol of warmth and reflect the heart of the home.

It's amazing when you own a fabulous home to work with and renovate. But what about when you're renting a space?

Today's society is more mobile and moving homes more often, which means a larger number of people are choosing to rent now instead of buying homes at this time.  In decorating this brings a different set of challenges, as rental spaces often can't be painted and many times they don't include wonderful focal points like fireplaces, and they certainly can't be renovated to create a certain style.

Or can they?

I'm a huge fan of the French style of decorating called 'Trompe L'oeil'. It means 'to fool the eye'. This is done by creating an illusion, through paint or other materials, that gives a three- dimensional impression of something grand existing that would be seen in architecture.

A well painted design could give the look of columns on a wall where there are none in the building.  Another example is a landscape mural painted on a wall with a scene that opens the room, giving the feeling that one is looking out towards this gorgeous view.  This technique was used by the Greeks and Romans in frescoes and was very popular during the Renaissance with artists creating murals. The style is still used today.

When renting, using trompe-l'oeil techniques can be a game changer in your home décor.

Let me show you an example that I've just finished creating.

Recently I sold my home and decided to rent for a while. I moved from a city environment to a more rural area, where views of nature surround me at every turn. 

With this in mind, I wanted to change my decorating style this year for Fall. As I open each window of my new home, I am dazzled with the brilliant colors of the trees turning outside, so the need to bring the bright fall colors into my home aren't as necessary, as they are all around me and seen from every view in each room.

The views are great, but the condo apartment itself is pretty basic, like most rentals. The walls are painted a somewhat neutral tone and they are very bland. There's nothing interesting to note about the rooms style wise.

After a couple of weeks living in a space like this, I realized... I couldn't live in a space like this, haha, and that I would need to do something design wise to make it interesting and appealing. 

What I missed most I realized, was having a fireplace in the living room, so I decided to create one using trompe-loeil!

Here's what I did:

On my very basic boring wall here, I found the center of the wall and decided to place a fireplace mantel here.

This is just the mantel, to give the look of a fireplace when none exists. Mantels like this can now be found in home improvement stores, architectural stores, at flea markets, consignment stores and many places online. Many of them are made now from composite materials instead of stone, making them lightweight and easy to move around.

I found a mantle in a style that I liked, from Horchow, and placed it here on the wall. Now I know it's never going to look just like a real fireplace, but it's close enough to give me the 'feeling' of one that satisfies me.  This is a good start, but look at the wall, you can see an old phone outlet and cable outlet sticking out there and that's just not attractive, to say the least.

To remedy this problem, I decided to play around with the wonderful peel and stick wallpapers that are out right now. If you haven’t tried them yet, do! They are so easy to install on the wall and really do peel and stick, unlike wallpaper that you may have installed before. Think of them more like contact paper that you place on a shelf.  I purchased this white brick peel and stick wallpaper from Wayfair. 

I can't apply this peel and stick wallpaper directly to the wall, as it would not lay correctly over the phone and cable outlets. So I purchased white foam board and applied the wallpaper directly onto the foam board. I then tucked the foam board behind the mantel and voila, I've created a brick backdrop look for my fireplace!

Tell me how close do you need to look before you can tell this isn't brick

I added the iron candelabra, purchased on Amazon, at the bottom with candles that operate on batteries, which can be set with a timer to come on at the same time each evening or turned on when wanted with a remote.  Because my apartment has carpet, I didn't want to have open flame candles lit so near the floor. It's also safer this way if one has pets or children, so that if the candles are bumped into, no one is hurt.

I could have taken this a step further and added a very large piece of stone or marble at the bottom here underneath the mantel, to give that hearth feeling, but because I am moving around and want to keep what I move with me light and easy, I decided to forego that look at this time.

Next, I flanked the fireplace with two green velvet chairs and some artwork and  began to decorate the mantel. Since the bright colors of Fall can be seen in all their glory outside all of my windows, I decide this year I could temper my seasonal style indoors with a more subdued display.

My decor inspiration this year was Scottish Highland. I imagined how Fall might look in an old European manor, where branches and berries and leaves were gathered together and placed on the mantel in a family heirloom vase. Next to these items I pictured books gathered and candlesticks with pumpkins and gourds. The effect would feel 'decorated', but natural, a classic gathering of the outdoors moving in, in an elegant way where home and nature blend in a sophisticated Scottish style.

Are you ready to see the finished product?

Here's my Fall Faux Fireplace look in my now not so basic rental space:


I gathered twigs, leaves, branches and berries and artfully placed them in my very colorful Mackenzie Childs' vase. The colors of the vase accentuate and unifiy the black and white theme of the fireplace mantel with the warm fall tones.

In the center of the fireplace are these gorgeous Scottish Law books, which I purchased from a used book store. They create the perfect authentic feel and add a sophisticated look on the mantle. My pedestal stands are from Grandin Road, the black color adds a bit of sophistication and the staggered heights provide great interest.  The pumpkins sitting on top of these stands are from Pier One, as is the white velvet pumpkin that I added to bring a bit of glam into the scene. The art plaque hanging above the fireplace mantel is the Smithhouse Indoor/Outdoor Medallion from Ballard Designs.

Throws on the green velvet chairs and pillows from Mackenzie Childs complete the look along with the artwork. The gorgeous scene on the right is from artist Rick Reinart. I purchased his piece titled Sunlight through the Crepe Myrtles on stretched canvas from Ballard Designs. 


On the left side of the fireplace is a poster when I taught about auras and did a book signing for two of my books at one of the grandest hotels in the US, the Grove Park Inn, which I adore. It's important in intuitive interior decorating to bring in something personal into the room, that reflects the spirit and personality of who you are.

I love to share decorating that does double duty and this fireplace really hits the mark here. As a focal point, I enjoy it year-round as it really enhances the look and feel of this very basic room. 

When decorating this year, I created this Fall scape in September to enjoy, added a few more pumpkins and some spooky décor for Halloween and then cleared the space again for Fall like you see now, which carries it through Thanksgiving. That's three solid months of a great seasonal look.

This example is the first in my intuitive interior décor series where I'll be sharing with you how to use trompe-loeil and other tips to decorate your home. These tips are especially useful when renting a home or when owning a home and major renovations just aren't in the budget at this time.

Anyone on any budget can create a beautiful space and add color, texture and good design. I went a little glam with the pieces I choose for my fireplace, but a similar look can be created on a smaller budget. Together, we'll explore a variety of ways.

I'll be sharing a few more posts here about Fall décor, but let's cut to the chase. Everyone this year is in the mood for the Christmas holiday season already and that includes me.

You'll be seeing Christmas décor posts from me very soon, some with more Scottish flair as I love that plaid is back in a big way! 

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Wishing you the happiest of holidays, filled with love, joy, hope and of course, great décor!


#grandinroad #pierone #horchow #ballarddesigns #mackenziechilds #wayfair #amazon #groveparkinn

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