Here’s a rather marvelous DIY lamp idea: Artist Ryan McElhinney piles writhing mounds of action figures and other toys around lamps, then lacquers them into something right out of Hieronymous Bosch. I’m not entirely sure I could sleep with one of these things next to my bed.
Basic lamp kits are cheap, and old plastic toys are easy to find at garage sales and thrift shops. Arrange them to your liking, glue them together, then paint and lacquer. Top with an appropriate shade, put the thrashing, shouty mass (there are some very angry-looking toys on the market) on your bedside table, and bingo! Instant nightmare fodder.
The artist uses the same technique to decorate mirror frames, and I’m sure you could do something similar to lots of other objects like vases or wreaths. This might be a unique way to repurpose an outgrown collection of small plastic toys that you aren’t quite ready to get rid of entirely.
Billing itself as having “a story for every storey,” Grow House Grow! specializes in wallpaper designs with a narrative background.
They’ve got some designs inspired by female Victorian naturalists, such as Ms. Treat, whose illustrations of carnivorous plants influenced Darwin, and Ms Ward, whose dual interest in microscopy and drawing insects is captured by late-Georgian silhouettes interacting with oversized bugs (I especially like the figures leading a mantis on a leash and reclining on a giant spider).
There are also patterns inspired by Edward John Smith (the ill-fated captain of the Titanic) and by the death of Ka Cox, who was associated with Aleister Crowley. Even the color variations are evocative: Choices for Captain Smith include “Silhouette,” “Epoque,” and “Promenade,” and Crowley’s are “Felt Leaf,” “Primrose,” and “Veil.”
As is often the case for quirky, high-quality wallpaper, it’s fairly pricey. On the plus side, they offer “sheets” as well as rolls, so it might be possible to feature a small amount on one wall and use less-expensive paper on the others. You could also use it to decorate a non-wall surface like a decoupaged tabletop.
This foam-and-latex mirror frame is currently on clearance at Terror Syndicate for $55. I think something fairly similar could be DIY’d pretty easily and inexpensively if you’ve got an existing mirror (or picture frame) that you’d like to skullify.
Foam skulls and bones are popular Halloween props, so they’re fairly easy to come by. If you don’t want to wait until Halloween decorations start showing up in local stores,* you can find them online year-round: Searching for “bag of bones” will turn up a lot of products like this, and you can also get foam skulls with flat backs here. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can also cast your own bones: this article at MAKE explains how to make foam skulls.
You’ll probably want to choose a wooden frame, since adhesives might not stick as well to slick metal or plastic (and if you use hot glue to attach the bones, it may also melt plastic). It doesn’t matter whether the frame has dents or nicks, since it’s going to be covered with bones, and you’re also going to paint it so the color isn’t important either. Nose around local thrift shops for ugly old frames that you can convert.
Lay the bones on the frame, moving them if necessary until you’re happy with their arrangement, then glue them in place; you may need to cut flat spots on the backs to seat them properly. Decorate as desired. For a rotted-corpse look similar to the example above, use pantyhose and latex to make sticky-looking “skin” (this tutorial goes into detail on that process). You can also make drippy-looking strands with hot glue similar to the method used for this frame, or use papier-mache or polymer clay to smooth off cut edges and add detail. When thoroughly dry–which may take a while if you use latex adhesive–spray-paint the desired color. You can also hand-paint additional detail such as “moss” or “ichor” if you like. (You can also go in a completely different direction and cover the whole thing in glitter and fake gemstones if you’re feeling particularly perky.)
Add a mirror or appropriate photograph and hang with pride. Cheap! Easy! Customizable! Whee!
*Incidentally, I like to wait until right after Halloween when everything goes on clearance, then stock up on craft supplies for the rest of the year. I’ve got more fake skulls in my basement than you can shake a femur at.
Zombie Shadow Caster – I have never needed much help self-inducing a case of The Fantods, but if you require creeping-out assistance, this thing that makes zombie shadows on the walls will probably do the trick.
4 by Poe – If you’re a Poe aficionado, this upcoming collection might be of interest.
Empress Pam recently turned me on to an interesting decorating idea found in an unusual place: The restroom of a DC restaurant called Oyamel. (She’s not the only one who’s noticed it, either; about half the reviews I found online mentioned the restroom decor.)
One wall is lined floor-to-ceiling with small shadowboxes, each containing a calavera or other ethnic artwork, not to mention a hell of a lot of glitter. They’re like miniature shrines, and are perfect for highlighting small treasures. This would be a great way to display a collection of small items (like the calaveras), and each box could be decorated differently to really showcase its contents.
The Oyamel shadowboxes look fairly deep, so they probably wouldn’t be suitable for a small room where they might eat into the floor space. A wall of shallower boxes or a border of deeper boxes at eye level might work better. You’d also need to be careful if you put the shadowboxes in a bathroom or kitchen where humidity or aerosolized grease might damage the display items. “Real” shadowboxes with glass fronts can be expensive, but since these lack the glass you could build your own simple wooden boxes or even use sturdy cardboard. Cheap, easy, and highly unique.
As much as I rip on Disney, I have no problem admitting that they know how to make a scene. There are a zillion little details throughout the parks that add enormous ambience, from “fireflies” in the trees in New Orleans Square to evil-looking skulls in the background decor at Disney Villains.
Taylor at Disney Imaginations has posted instructions for re-creating a few of these details, such as the LED fireflies, the floating candelabra in the Haunted Mansion, and the Tower of Terror elevator dial. He’s also got a nice selection of links to other sites with additional how-to guides.
If you’re looking for some fairly easy decorating tidbits, some of these projects might be fun to tackle.
Charles Stross has announced that Cubicle 7 Entertainment is going to to publish a role-playing game based on his Laundry Files series (which I’ve mentioned previously).
The Laundry is a branch of the British secret service, tasked to prevent hideous alien gods from wiping out all life on Earth. Players take the part of Laundry agents, cleaning up the mess after things go wrong or, sometimes, even managing to prevent the manifestation of ultimate evil. Agents have access to the best equipment they can get their superiors to approve, from Basilisk Guns to portable containment grids to a PDA loaded up with Category A countermeasure invocations.
The game will use the Basic Roleplaying System (Call Of Cthulhu) by Chaosium Inc., which makes sense, as the Laundry stuff is kind of Cthulhoid in character. Since Stross has explored online RPG-type games in books such as Halting State, I’m curious how much of a hand he might have had in designing the gameplay as well.
The press release describes the Laundry as a “Lovecraftian spy thriller,” so if you’re a fan of either genre this might be a fun game system to pick up.
Deadline is reporting that Tim Burton is planning to do a 3-D stop-motion animated film based on Charles Addams’ original cartoons of The Addams Family. It will be unrelated to the TV series and movies (other than being based on the same source material), and they say that, “His intention is to go back to the litany of Addams illustrations that displayed a sharper wit than could be place into a 60s family TV series.”
I should be utterly, hopelessly thrilled by this news, and I would be, if his last couple of films didn’t make this College Humor video seem uncomfortably accurate: