Good Halloween decor should always evoke a ghost story. Mine captures a ladies’ luncheon gone on waaaay too long.
Every October my husband and children run around bedecking the exterior of our house with ghouls and pumpkins. But the interior is my domain. I like to honor All Hallows’ Eve with a more subtle, grown-up approach—something that is only vaguely sinister or decayed.
Last year I paid homage to Miss Havisham in my hall. (See Justine’s Haunted Hall.) This year I wanted to serve a spectral supper in the dining room. Using little more than floating black leaves and bone-white porcelain, I’ve conjured a Halloween setting that is, I like to think, equally haunting and beautiful. Here’s how I did it.
Photography by Justine Hand.
Above: The inspiration for my Halloween table came from two sources: an old issue of Kinfolk that featured an autumnal setting with colorful leaves floating over a table, and a Martha Stewart DIY, in which she preserved fall leaves in wax. Step one: Gather leaves. While my daughter, Solvi, searched for sunset yellows and oranges, I hunted for noirish reds and browns, the more desiccated and moth-eaten, the better.
Above: All you need for this project is:
- Approximately 35 leaves in dark colors. I allowed my leaves to dry overnight so the edges would curl.
- 1/3 pound wax. I used beeswax from Ruhl Bee Supply; $ 8.50 for 1 pound.
- Black candle dye. I used Liquid Eco-friendly Candle Dye, also from Ruhl Bee Supply; $ 7.35.
- A double boiler.
- Any fine thread.
Above: Melt wax in a double boiler over medium heat. After the wax is entirely melted, add several drops of coloring. Stir and do a test dip with the leaves. Add more color until the leaves reach the desired shade. You also can re-dip the leaves for a richer hue.
Above: Reduce the temperature of the wax to low. Holding the stem, quickly dip each leaf in the wax, letting the excess drip back into the pot. Place leaves on parchment paper to dry.
Above: Now much more noir, my wax-dipped leaves will also last for a long time.
You may be wondering, Why I didn’t just paint the leaves? You could, but I wanted the depth of the translucent wax. Also, for the paint to adhere, you’d have to use something pretty heavy-duty, like household paint. That seemed to require at least as much effort as dipping leaves in wax. (Plus, I plan to use the excess wax and dye to make black candles. Stay tuned.)
Above: If necessary, use a hammer and nail to poke holes in the leaves. Or simply tie a thread to the stems. Be sure to give yourself extra string, so you can adjust the height of your hanging leaves.
Above: Solvi and I also found some wonderfully twisted locust pods.
Above: Suspend your leaves at staggered lengths. I used matte Scotch tape to affix them to the ceiling.
Above: After the leaves are hung, it’s time to consider your tablescape. I wanted a stark contrast to the black leaves, so I employed alabaster porcelain from White Forest Pottery, dried straw flowers, pale gourds, and several layers of creamy linens to create a ghostlike shroud.
Above: Voila! My finished table.
Above: For a centerpiece I gathered more black leaves as a backdrop for two white gourds set on an antique pedestal.
Above: I love the lacy effect of the tattered leaves. Here also you can see that I added one red leaf, like a pinprick on my tableau.
Above: Elderberry Cordial from Caledonia Spirits makes a perfect Halloween aperitif for adults. And note, you don’t need to polish the silver.
Above: More haphazardly placed linens add an air of neglect to the side bar.
Above: A wider view of the dining room.
Above: Solvi walked through the completed space this morning. “Mom, Is that room supposed to be creepy?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “Did I do a good job?” “Yeah,” she replied with a shiver.
Get fully spooky:
- Expert Advice: Halloween Decor Tips from the Master of the Dark Arts.
- DIY: Pumpkin Carving Ideas, Milky Way Edition.
- Instant Black Cat Halloween Lights.
- Curb Appeal: 15 Halloween Ideas to Steal from Brooklyn.
- 5 Quick Fixes: Instant Halloween Decor, Black Matte Edition.
- Pumpkin Soup with an Unexpected Twist.
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