3 Ideas to Embrace Gathering Well this Autumn

September is a time of transition, moving from one season to the next. The autumn equinox and the late September harvest full moon mark the end of summer and the start of autumn, the leaves will explode in colour as the days shorten. 

Traditionally it’s a time of abundance and celebration, after the last harvest of the season. In the northern hemisphere, farmers start gathering crops from late August to early October.

As the air cools and the nights draw in, we start to crave cosiness – or hygge as it’s known in the Nordics – and the need to gather. Historically, autumn is all about coming together to celebrate. To slow down, to release what is no longer needed and to prepare for the winter ahead.

If, like us, you try to do your bit for your local community – autumn is the time to support local farmers and producers, nourishing ourselves with seasonal goodies. There’s nothing quite like aligning with nature’s cycles, gathering together and dining out on all the tasty delights on offer.

Coming together to share food and good times is important for us all, it’s why our most celebrated Grain furniture designs tend to be food and gathering orientated. As we enter autumn, and with Christmas just around the corner (yep, it’s that time again!) our dining ranges tend to sell out. With a wide variety of sizes available we’ve got you covered for all sorts of get togethers from hosting dinner parties to family reunions. Last orders for Christmas 2023 delivery is Tuesday 10 October.

As designers we can’t help but think about the connection between beautiful design, form and function. Our need to gather at this time of year has us pondering on the moments in life that bring us together, and how we could use design-thinking to create experiences that meet our need, in a way that can help us to gather well. It’s no secret, we’re living in a time where connection is more important than ever. Gathering with purpose and intention, creating experiences that truly honour our need to be together, feels bigger than simply getting together.

Eager to learn more about good design for gathering well we stumbled across a fantastic book by Priya Parker called “The Art of Gathering”. Priya’s take on designing with intention resonated so deeply with us we decided to pull out three top tips, inspired by Priya’s work and combined with our own design-thinking, to explore how to gather well, from intentions to invitations. Maybe you’ll feel called to play with these in your next gathering, we know we will!

1. Let’s Get Intentional

First things first. Priya encourages us to think about why we are bringing people together. Not the surface level why. The real why.

Let’s use a birthday celebration as our analogy – it’s relatively simple and one we might all relate to. We’re approaching a birthday and, naturally, we’d like to celebrate. The go-to for birthdays is a party. But, we’ve had a tough and busy year, we’re feeling drained and in need of some time out to re-energise and nourish ourselves, ready to embark on this next year in our life. Will having to both organise and host a big party help meet this need to slow down and relax?

We’ve identified we need to take our foot off the pedal, genuinely celebrate the year that has passed and feel able to meet the new year with a fresh energy. We could even compare this turning of time to that of autumn. A time to celebrate as much as it is to release what we don’t want to carry into the next year of our life.

The opportunity is to take a moment to stop and reflect on what might better serve the real why, it’s likely by meeting the greater and more pressing need we’ll design a birthday experience that’s even more special, and memorable, than if we work against our deeper need and have that cliche big birthday bash. Burning ourselves out further in the process. Maybe this year a more intimate dinner with our closest friends and family is just the ticket for feeling nourished and re-energised.

In Thought: 

– Get clear on why we feel the need to gather

– Knowing our why means we can design around it

– A clear why helps for better decision-making

2. The Kindness of Exclusion

Ok so now we’ve identified our why, the intention behind our gathering, let’s get clear on the who – who should we share our precious time with? Whose energy and presence will support our real why? This can feel like a tricky one to navigate. We might feel a sense of obligation to invite certain people, sometimes even all the people!  Lots of “shoulds” could surface at this point and we can be left feeling out of control and bending to meet others’ needs more than our own. 

As Priya points out

“The desire to keep doors open–to not offend, to maintain a future opportunity–is a threat to gathering with a purpose […] Inviting people is easy. Excluding people can be hard.”

Our why is key, keeping this top of mind helps to filter-out and invite-in the right energy and thus, the right people. Clarity and communication around your purpose and intention from the outset can even allow some people to self opt-out of an experience, doing the hard work for us.

It’s a tough one but our future self will be grateful we faced the challenge head on and honoured our why, above all else.

In Thought: 

– Be intentional with who to invite, and why – it’s kinder in the long run

– Self care is important, honouring our own needs above others might be challenging but worth it 

– Allow people to self opt-out – giving others permission to say no is much nicer than simply not inviting them!

3. Lean into Nature’s Rhythm

Each season carries a different energy – spring is typically a time where life “springs” into action, summer is when the energies are in full bloom and at their peak, autumn/fall is a time when the energy starts to wane, or “fall” away and winter is a time for rest and rejuvenation, a time to gather our energy ready for spring again. And so the cycle repeats.

Which season are we gathering in? What energy do we want to embrace? Staying with the birthday theme, which we’ve also likened to autumn – regardless of when a birthday falls in the year the feeling of autumn remains. Celebration. Reflection. Release. Preparing and readying for the new year.

For September to November babies it’s easier to lean into this theme further. But what if our birthday falls in a different season? We could try combining seasonal themes – thinking about location and setting, seasonal foods, colours, temperatures and how to embrace all of these in the design of our gathering. 

Meet indoors somewhere warm and nurturing in winter, enjoying warm and hearty foods to feel nourished, keeping activities light to reflect the lower energy levels at this time of year to compliment the need for rest. In summer, meet outdoors in the open, dining on light and fresh foods and enjoying an activity that supports the more bountiful energies of the summer – a walk in nature, a trip to the beach or a picnic in a park with some fun games.

Designing a gathering around a particular energy type and season can help narrow down and choose where to go, what to do and how to gather.

In Thought:

– Notice and embrace the energy of the current season as well as the desired energy of the gathering itself

– Create an ambience that’s seasonally aligned – thinking about decor, colours and activities

– Combine in-season nourishing foods and activities to compliment the time of year

These are just three ideas we’ve touched on, and tweaked, for designing experiences that support gathering well this autumn, for a deep dive into this subject further The Art of Gathering is an absolute must-read!

Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Maybe you have an example of a time where you were more purposeful with your gathering design? 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for gathering well

If social media is your thing then tag us using @grainteam, use #graingathering or send your ideas by email to [email protected]

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