Easy Dreadful Decorating

My dreadful decorating started in a haunted flat in San Francisco. I started humbly with just a few, easy to make (and store) projects using craft store items and store-bought decor. Here's some of my more successful decor ideas.

Tattered Cheesecloth

 

Cheesecloth is inexpensive and easy to stain, rip, wrap, and shred. To use cheesecloth, unfold the fabric and using scissors, jaggedly cut it into strips and drape over furniture, lamps (avoid contact with light bulbs), chandeliers, picture frames, mantles, and tables. Drag scissors across the fabric to create uneven, jagged holes. Then stretch by hand to give it that tattered look. Rip the ends to create strands and then roll them between your palms to create tendrils. Layer several pieces of fabric to yield more dynamic displays. For a dingy, old look diluted craft paints in browns and yellows in a spray bottle, mist the fabric, and let it dry thoroughly. Or splash with red paint for a bloody look. 

Painting Plastic Pumpkins

 

I love those plastic pumpkins from Target but the paint job can easily be improved with a few craft paints. Take a dry brush and dip into paint. Blot and then with a quick sway (like you are batting a fly away) flick the brush lightly over the surface of the pumpkin from top to bottom. This adds paint unevenly and lightly. Let it dry and do the same thing again with a different color. Start with a darker burnt orange and move to a lighter orange. If placing them outside make sure to seal them with a matte clear spray paint to protect the paint job.

Menacing Vines

The first Autumn product out at Michaels every fall is the strands of Autumn leaves. I love them. Take a few strands and secure them to walls with a staple gun or Command strips. With a hot glue gun, combine a few strands together joining end to end. Cut some of the vines to uneven lengths and glue them sporadically throughout the larger strand (as if branching out in different directions). Go up the wall, drape over furniture, banisters, and let some droop down from the ceiling. These vines can cover a large area fairly quickly and give an overgrown and abandoned look. For an even creepier look, spray paint the vines black and grey and let dry before hanging. They'll look old and decayed! 

Dark Silhouettes

 

Dark silhouettes create sinister shadows on lit windows. You can find window clings (black images printed on translucent plastic sheets) at craft and home stores. These do not have sticky residue to cling to windows with suction. Spray your window with water, position the window cling, and smooth out any bubbles. You'll also need a semi-opaque material, like a sheer curtain, behind the silhouette. The light source shines through the curtain and provides a background for your figure. Alternately, you can find find silhouettes online, print on poster-size paper then tape to window. These work best on windows that are the same size as the poster. Below are some figures to get you started, sized at 24" x 36" which can be printed or resized at a your local Kinkos or other print shop. 

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Stretchy Webs Done Right

Those Inexpensive nylon spiderwebs from the drugstore are great but only if used correctly! The secret to making these webs look good is to stretch them beyond what you think is possible. Unfold the webs and  locate the corners (believe it or not the material has a basic rectangle shape), secure one corner to a stable anchor (using a staple gun or small nails), and slowly stretch the opposite corner until it won't stretch another inch. They will extend a good 8 to 12 feet! Continue stretching and anchoring in several directions and look for jagged edges, molding, furniture, branches or posts to catch the nylon webs. The more stretched out the better the final web will look. Toss in a few spiders and you are good to go.

Colorful Lights

 

Quickly transform any space with a few carefully placed color LED lights. Single color bulbs are available at home improvement stores, but you can also order smart bulbs that you can control with an app on your phone or remote operated spotlights. LED lights have rich colors, are cool burning and safer than traditional incandescent bulbs, and use less energy so you can leave the lights on all season long. To create a rich ambience mix cool colors (blue, green, purple) with contrasting warm colors (red, orange, yellow). Replace bulbs in lamps or overhead fixtures. Place spotlights behind furniture or plants shining upwards. Make sure lights are not directly aimed at people's faces because LEDs are blinding.

Creepy Wreath Mantle Vignette

 

When I started haunting my home, I could fit all my decor in one small bin (now my garage is overflowing). Take a few purchased items, and maximize the impact by clustering them in one area. For my house, it was the mantle but it could also be a bookshelf or a table. Basically any space you and your guest see when walking into your house. I hung a wreath then decorated with skulls, ravens, moss, and faux candles. Wreaths are easy to find or make. To make one, buy a grapevine wreath at the craft store as your base. Spray paint it black, orange, or purple and let it dry. Using a glue gun you can add rubber bugs, snakes, spiders, leaves and sticks, bones and skulls, or clumps of Spanish moss. Secure heavier objects onto the wreath using black jewelry wire. 

The Dinner Party from Hell

 

While I find that I am hosting less parties now, I find Halloween dinnerware irresistible and continue to amass a large collection of plates, bowls and glasses. To solve my quandary, I now set up a dinner table with a full array of treasures as if I'm hosting the dinner party from hell. It's there all season long. And I shop for tablecloths (or fabric) and create a full display with props, faux candles, bowls filled with candy or bugs, and if the mood strikes me, even placecards for guests like Elvira, Sarah Winchester, and Edgar Allan Poe. This is clearly a sign of madness, I know. But if an impromptu party develops, I'm ready. 

Apothecary

 

Creating a good apothecary requires scouting for bottles and jars in home goods stores, garage sales or flee markets. Liquor, fancy water and vinegar bottles can be quite ornate. And of course you need a variety of sizes for all kinds of questionable contents. Once bottles are washed and existing labels are removed comes the fun part. First you have to find wickedly ornate labels and my first and only stop is Etsy. There are so many designs to buy, download and print at home. Next comes the aging and staining with either dark brewed tea, or dark iodine. You can also drip craft paint down the side or use the dry brush technique from the pumpkins above. I've also decoupaged a few bottles using Mod Podge and paper towels and embellishments like plastic spiders and rope.