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.
Above: 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: 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. More haphazardly placed linens add an air of neglect to the side bar.
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.