Text and styling by Charlotte Safavi
Northeastern Virginia’s colorful fall display is very distinctive, and it’s a natural glory that interior designer Alison Giese likes to exploit in her cottage décor—especially with her favorite holiday coming. “The fall is very specific here,” says Alison, who lives in the Fairfax County town of Burke with her husband, Ben, and their three young daughters. “The beginning of fall brings the cooler weather, the beautiful colors, and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. It’s so easy to decorate for it here, as we have such a true fall.”
For Alison, fall décor begins with the home’s front stoop, where she likes to make what she calls her “fall statement.” She stacks graduated flat-topped pumpkins in neutral hues and surrounds them with colorful ones of different shapes. She also sets out dried corncobs and a bale of hay, paying tribute to the season’s harvest. “I treat fall decorating like straight-up decorating,” she adds. “I do a mix of colors, textures, and sizes. I also like to add unexpected pumpkins, like the Cinderella ones, as well as more the traditional forms.”
Decorating is second nature to Alison, so it was no surprise that she took a 2,800-square-foot tract house built in the 1970s and updated it for her young family. The yearlong renovation included adding moldings and trim, replacing light fixtures, installing white oak floors, and repainting almost everything. Though her overall palette leans towards warm grays and soft blues, Alison punches up spaces with coral and red accents. Her dining room, for example, combines all of these colors, with its greige walls, powder blue dining chairs with nailhead trim, and lacquered coral side chairs.
Alison likes to set a simple harvest table of red-and-white ikat-patterned china on braided rush placemats for more formal fall meals. She also creates a natural centerpiece, incorporating ivy strands snipped from her backyard, interwoven with baby pumpkins in a mix of orange and white. For tabletop flowers she favors white, but also has orange dahlias or tulips arranged in vases throughout the home, including on her kitchen table where she serves the kids seasonal iced cookies.
The fully remodeled kitchen, including a built-in bar, provides a perfect backdrop for entertaining. Warm neutral cabinets with glass upper cabinets, aged brass hardware, and fiber-seated barstools combine with wood accessories and a whimsical rooster painting to give the space a friendly farmhouse vibe.
And the coziest room in the redesigned house—especially popular in the fall for fireside family time—is the blue room. “I took what was a sad beige box and made it into this cozy gem of a room,” says Alison of the welcoming space, with its peacock-blue walls, new fireplace, and built-in media cabinets. “We spend a lot of time in here,” she adds. “Even though the footprint stayed the same, it’s completely different.”
When they’re not cozied up indoors, the family congregates in the backyard, casually entertaining or happily nestling around their fire pit. There are throws on hand for cooler days and plenty of pretty pumpkins. “I think fall is my favorite season,” says Alison, “partly because Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday. It feels like all the fall decorating builds up to that moment.”
Reluctant to bid fall farewell, she likes to leave the pumpkins out for as long as she can, and then blends the white ones into her Christmas décor.