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How to Create a Cabinet of Curiosities for Halloween

Here's a thoroughly sophisticated idea to add to your Halloween decor this year. Make it spooky, and make it you.

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'Tis the season for ghosts and ghouls, skulls and spiders, and just about any other creepy creature you can think of. Halloween decor used to mean a few cardboard characters taped to the front door. But in recent years, people have raised the bar for this haunted holiday, competing with Christmas as one of the most decorated of the year. Want to take your Halloween decorations up a notch this year? Try this cabinet of curiosities!

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Seen as far back as Renaissance Europe, cabinets of curiosities were originally collections compiled together by anyone from aristocrats to scientists. Whether they were religious pieces, examples from nature or an arrangement of scientific objects, the collections were essentially miniature museum exhibits, filled with a range of wondrous things.

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Just imagine animal skeletons, feathers, minerals, exotic bowls, and portrait miniatures catalogued in a small place... you get the idea.

 

Today you can create your own cabinet of curiosities, choosing a theme that’s seasonal or of personal interest. It’s an easy and truly fun way to add personality to your decor. And don’t let the name "cabinet" scare you off.

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Although the classic versions were often housed in cabinets, it’s easy to translate that same idea to a table centerpiece, fireplace mantel, or sideboard display. We love this idea for Halloween, as the addition of skulls, spiders, and other spooky pieces instantly creates the perfect mood while maintaining a sophisticated feel. Plus, kids of all ages will enjoy getting involved and adding their own specimens to the collection.

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Gather found objects from your environment and highlight their natural beauty. The perfect pinecone, a velvety soft feather, an abandoned bird’s nest, a vibrant fall leaf, a hunk of glittering amethyst or a collection of smooth rocks all make ideal objects. Making a cabinet of curiosities is a good way to appreciate how beautiful everything is around you. Then elevate those pieces, making them even more special, by arranging them in a bell jar, on a small cake stand or on top of a stack of vintage books. Adding various levels of height and depth gives your display a more visually appealing look.

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Add sophistication by creating a color palette. Unify your objects by limiting them to no more than four colors. We love a combination of black, white, and gold for this time of the year. Paint inexpensive objects, like plastic toy spiders, to match your theme.

 

You can’t go wrong with antiques. Collect a few vintage books, old keys, your grandmother’s favorite floral-patterned teacup, or any object you want to highlight. And if antiques aren’t your cup of tea, you can easily find a few gorgeous porcelain or glass objects to add to your collection.

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Beyond gathering, your display can also include pieces you’ve made yourself. Try crafting objects out of pages from old books or newspapers. We love the look of things from nature made from paper, like mushrooms and butterflies. These objects perfectly lend themselves to a cabinet of curiosities collection. Or you can blow up and cut out some templates (think nests, birds, feathers, leaves and more) and glue them to card stock to stand up in your display.

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You’re limited only by your imagination, so have fun gathering specimens from your house, your yard, or anywhere you find inspiration. Incorporate bare branches, pictures frames, and candles of any size into your cabinet of curiosities. Anything that helps convey the specific story you’re trying to tell. Whether it’s a natural fall theme or one that evokes an old haunted mansion, you get to curate your collection exactly how you want it. 

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About the Author

David Stark

David Stark is a renowned New York-based event producer, designer, and five-time author, as well as president and creative director of David Stark Design and Production, a full-service event design and planning firm. David and his team are celebrated for the inventive, imaginative weddings they create globally for a wide range of high-wattage celebrity, society, and fashion clientele...

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