In our Style Challenge series, we ask some of our favorite bloggers from around the web to surprise us with their ideas for creating a stylish and functional space using Home Depot products as a starting point.
David Schilling pulls out all the stops every October to create the Shadow Farm, an amazing Halloween display in front of his home. In this Halloween Style Challenge, he shows us how he created some impressive DIY Halloween decorations with the Home Depot products we sent him. His simple decorating ideas will inspire you to take your own Halloween yard display to a new level.
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I remember being spooked as a kid by the cool jointed paper decorations my grandpa would hang in his house, along with the bright plastic lanterns he would put up in his windows. There has always been something magical about the season, with the burst of color in the leaves and the sapphire blue skies, the crisp mornings and early nightfall. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
When asked to participate in The Home Depot’s Halloween Style Challenge, I was honored and immediately responded with an eager “YES!” I love decorating my yard for Halloween, and have become know as “the scary man” by the neighborhood kids. Out of context, that might not be a good thing, but as an homage to my haunted yard, I consider it a high honor. As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my box of secret goodies, I began to doubt myself. Our yard and house were in pretty bad shape; with overgrown flower beds, bare shrubs from an extreme trimming last fall, and fading paint on the trim.
After a trip to The Home Depot’s Lawn and Garden Department, things were looking up. I chose perennials that bloom in autumn colors, as well as some beautiful mums and and a new layer of cypress mulch. The addition of some resin edging fence also added a nice spooky touch to the front flower beds.
In past years, I have made many tombstones out of Styrofoam, and what respectable Halloween display would leave out the tombstones? To help freshen things up on the house itself, I chose Behr Interior/Exterior Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel paint in BMP Taupe (a nice warm deep brown) to paint the shutters and trim. It was amazing to see how much of a difference these few touches made with the appearance of the from yard. So with that under control, it was on to the mystery boxes.
I felt like a kid at Christmas when two huge boxes arrived on my front patio; and I pulled out what seemed like an entire pumpkin patch!
Eight beautiful foam pumpkins were sent, along with a load of plastic skull lights and orange mini-lights. So here was my start: pumpkins; lots of pumpkins.
My heart sank.
Strangely enough, carving pumpkins is something that my family very rarely does since our Halloween display is up for the entire month of October. I lined the foam pumpkins up in my living room, and for several days they mocked my with their uniform appearance. I had to come up with some sort of idea other than just carving a jack-o-lantern. And then it hit me…Lanterns! Actual lanterns made from pumpkins.
Making the Pumpkin Lanterns
It was a pretty basic idea, but certainly workable.
I purchased two separate Gilbert and Bennett Forged Shepherds Hooks and enough plastic chain to hang three pumpkins. The chain itself was white, so I purchased a few cans of Rust-Oleum flat black and red primer spray paint.
As I sprayed the chain, I sprinkled it with some sand to add a rusty texture. In order to get a good looking rust appearance, I alternated between the red primer and flat black.
Dividing the pumpkins into quarters, I carved a scene on two sides and then wrapped the pumpkins with the chain. I then hung the chained pumpkins on the shepherds hooks, and lit them with skull lights and simple white mini-lights. A small section of real grapevine with dead leaves added the finishing touch to The Shadow Farm’s new gateway lantern.
Making the Halloween Scarecrow
The next project was to make a large, eye-grabbing character to oversee the Shadow Farm graveyard. I decided a great addition would be a scarecrow.
Again, the pristine condition of the foam pumpkin challenged me. The style I have developed over many years has a very organic feel to it, with absolutely no emphasis on uniformity. The only way for me to transform a foam pumpkin into a true Shadow Farm resident was to go way outside the shape of the original pumpkin. It has been a while since I have papier-mâché’d a large project, but the process came back to me me and there was no stopping.
The basic steps involved building out a basic form, bulking it up with wadded newspaper and tape, and then coating with papier-mâché strips. Papier-mâché clay made with cellulose insulation was then added for texture, and a final coat of air dry clay.
You will also notice that a much larger stem was added, to give my new scarecrow a sense of true size and power.
On to painting. I chose Behr Premium Plus Ultra in Startling Orange as a base color. Starting with a wash of black acrylic paint, I then thinned down the Startling Orange with water as a main base coat. With this drying, it was time to build a body.
I wanted the body to look very natural and organic also, so went on a hunt for some appropriately sized dead limbs. A quick pruning of the large mulberry tree in my backyard provided just the right building material. Assembly was very easy, with all branches held tightly together with utility wire.
After the frame was placed in the front yard and anchored securely into the ground with metal stakes, I draped landscaping burlap over the shoulders. I added some dead grapevines and a bit of dyed cheesecloth. The head was lit with two strings of white lights, with the cord run up through the bottom of the head and hidden in the body.
Carving and Lighting the Rest of the Pumpkins
I then had four pumpkins left, and decided to help soften the nickname that has been given to me by the neighborhood kids. I took the remaining pumpkins to them, and asked for their help in my display by carving any face into them that they wanted so the first-ever Shadow Farm Scarecrow would have a cool pumpkin patch to look over. Their efforts turned out great, and seeing their eagerness to be a part of the effort was priceless.
All of the pumpkins were lit with a strand of clear white lights, and the entire perimeter of the display was lit up with orange mini-lights.
Perhaps I may have taken a small step away from being “The Scary Man”, and a step toward being that cool guy that has a great Halloween display each year.
David Schilling has been “an avid yard haunter” for years, developing a love of all things odd, strange and macabre. His home in Indianapolis, Indiana is famous for its annual Halloween display, The Shadow Farm. You can see more of his unique and ghoulish art and Halloween decorations on his blog The Shadow Farm.
Visit The Home Depot’s online Holiday Decorations Department for everything you need to decorate your home for Halloween.
Style Challenge is a series of posts from guest contributors who aim to bring you fresh inspiration and ideas for your home and garden using a single Home Depot product as a starting point. David received the Halloween products for his space from The Home Depot and a Home Depot gift card, but The Home Depot provided no other compensation. The opinions and ideas David expressed are his own.