Designing for the Change of Seasons

As the months change, we usher in not only a new season but also the opportunity to try on a new sense of home entertainment style.  As we move into autumn, the season of transformation, and take a look at this season’s design trends, I can’t help but take a moment to reminisce.  “Spring, summer, winter or fall – autumn is my favorite of all.”  

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, I had a great appreciation for the change of seasons.    With autumn came the beginning of the football season, the chance to layer my garments and mix and match fabrics as well as the first indication that the holidays were rapidly approaching.

I can vividly remember the magic of leaves falling from the trees as they turned from green into a plethora of beautiful rustic hues – enhancing the earth’s landscape.  I get a little tingly looking forward to the fall trends and just thinking about all the wonderful entertainment opportunities for gatherings with family and friends.  For 2012, the clothing trends are retro, the design elements are rustic, the gourmet is robust – and I love it for dining designs!

From the Catwalk to the Dining Table

For me, this autumn is more about texture than color.  Fashionistas everywhere will be wearing layers of rich decorative fabrics like baroque, knit tweed, suede, velvet, wool and leather.  There is also a retro feel to this season breathing new life into your grandmother’s favorites – floral prints, delicate lace and handmade shawls.

To change your summer look into this season’s fall trend, incorporate a warm textile into the design of the seating for your guests.  You can find an array of chairs or chair covers in warm elegant fabrics such as velvets, suede, wools, leather and corduroy at your local rental company or home entertainment stores. 

For a sophisticated look, create a layered table design by adding an underlay or overlay to your table gown.   I like to use colors that contrast or have intricate and noticeable trim detail.  Trim detail can be pricey, but will enhance the look of your table.  Some of my more stunning overlays have trim detail like French loops, woven bullion, beaded, crystals or tassels. 

The Colors of Fall

If the latest color trend is your thing, then this fall think deep purples, rich navy and reddish orange – and with tangerine tango as Pantone’s color of 2012, you will have no trouble finding energizing home and tabletop accessories to add autumn warmth to your living and dining spaces.

You will also be in good taste if you design with traditional autumn shades of browns, yellows, reds and gold and patterns that depict rich and vibrant autumn hues.  While the trendy colors come and go, staying traditional with your color palette creates a great foundation for long lasting centerpieces, table couture and dining décor pieces.

Bring the Outside In

One of my fondest childhood autumn memories is of my mother, busy as a squirrel, gathering nuts, leaves and fallen pine combs to use as decoration for our home.

When you design your autumn centerpieces, think creatively about the vision of your table-scape.   Bringing together a variety of untamed arrangements can be a magical moment for your guests to remember. 

Today, I still incorporate many of my mother’s outdoor tradition into my designs.  I pay close attention to the side of the road.  Although I don’t do pine cones,  I have found the most gorgeous branches, cattails, wheat and dried grass that I have used to take my centerpieces over the top.  

Another great designing element is seasonal fruit and vegetables – berries, grapes, artichokes and pomegranates – can often be found in my harvest rustic themed designs as well.  

Autumn Gourmet

Two of my favorite gourmet trends this season are heirloom vegetables and nose to tail gourmet dining; and of course the evening wouldn’t be perfect without wine spiked dessert drinks.   In the fall season, I like to use sturdy copper as well as patterned silverware to further enhance the presentation of food.

Making your Guests Feel At Home

The most fashionable part of hosting is making your guests feel at home. As with your personal attire, your entertainment setting should be warm and comfortable for your guests.   I find that guests respond well to throwsand an array of pillows. 

Throws are not only great accents for your sofa or chaise but they can also be used to add that fashionable element to any buffet table.  If you are anything like me, you are not a fan of table runners.   I use swaging as a simple, yet creative way to give guests a sense of welcome.  Try a knit, corduroy or velvet throw to bring a dramatic look to a casual event.

Pillows universally represent comfort.  How comfortable will your guests feel when they find a petite pillow that will support their lower back neatly placed in their dining chairs? 

Fall, Friends and Fundraising

For several years, I have had the privilege of designing the Friends Foundation’s annual fundraising gala for the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, Calif.  Each year we transform the museum’s courtyard into an elegant ballroom for 400 guests.  The transformation process involves creating a design that will not only complement and blend the current exhibit with the latest trends but also offer a sophisticated moment for the guests.

Over the years, I consult with the planning committee to select the color palette; I often look to the latest fashion trends for inspiration.  One year I used black and silver as the base of our color palette because they best complemented the current exhibit while maintaining a sense of sophistication.  I created a layered look by using a silver underlay and black overly that I designed with a scallop trim.   Though I considered using a silver chair, the black velvet chair brought the necessary contrast between the seating and table dressing.  Working with my florist, I opted for a variety of untamed rustic centerpieces that I designed with heavy leaves and pomegranates.   The uses of fabric with sequence and by placing three tall silver and glass candelabras on each table not only enhanced the autumn look, but also was a reminder that the holiday season is just around the corner.

Have a design comment or question for your upcoming gathering or event?  Feel free to write it below or send an email to

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W.P. Miller’s sense of style, fashion and etiquette has placed him among the higher echelon of special event producers and wedding planners worldwide. His versatility and creativity enables him to organize a variety of social gatherings ranging from intimate receptions, fund-raising galas, corporate meetings and lavish weddings.
Because of his creativity with Event Design and Décor, William regularly appears on The Style Network hit television shows Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? and Married Away. William’s events have been featured in People Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Jet, Instyle Weddings, Brides World and The Knot.
He is a highly sought after speaker and travels worldwide to share his event planning expertise. William has worked with many celebrities including Academy Award Winning actors Mira Sorvino and Lou Gossett Jr. as well as celebrities Jenifer Lewis, Patti LaBelle, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Nancy Wilson, George Wallace, Niecy Nash, Robi Reed and others.