As a magazine editor, knowing people with great houses to use as locations makes life a whole lot easier. Back at Martha, I used to love shooting at my friends Hannah and Michael's farmhouse in Bedford, New York, where charming details, like this side dutch door, make for beautiful backdrops. Hannah I met when I was fifteen working as a dishwasher for Watson's Catering in Greenwich. Nowadays, she's got a catering company of her own called Dinner Thyme. Both, I must say, turn out amazing food! Here's Mom-model Hannah and her ghoulish goblins, Whip and Kineo, on a shoot I did about a year ago, photographed by Allison Gootee and published in this month's Halloween issue of Martha.


Those spider balloons that craft editor Laura Tyszka dreamt up were held in place by fishing line—a lot of fishing line—while the leaves I gathered from Hannah's yard, then scattered around the door. Inside the house, I did a sweet setup with doughnuts from Salinger's (a favorite of mine since childhood), hot mulled cider, and cute trick-or-treat bags with magic marker balloon faces that Laura came up with. Buffets are always better at different heights; here, I stacked the doughnuts on a cake pedestal, cider in an ironstone punch bowl and black enamel cups to prevent breakage, all from Martha's prop house. I did this buffet in a hallway at Hannah's house because I thought the antique wainscoting and stair treads made for a more interesting picture. A foyer table under a mirror, perhaps even with a fiendish feather wreath, would be pretty too.


At a Good Things meeting before the shoot, Garden editor Stacey Hirvela brought up the idea of using end of the season plantings to make an outdoor bouquet. So before heading out to Bedford that day, I found a great urn at Planter Resource, then painted it black for a more ghoulish effect. From Hannah's garden, I gathered what appeared to be dead cuttings but when mixed with orange rose hips and artfully arranged evoke a beauty of a different kind.  


In fact, I liked Stacey's idea so much that this year, on a recent walk Jaithan and I took here in the country… 


…I decided to scour the fields around our house to make a similar arrangement of my own. The Queen Anne's Lace and thistle, darkly beautiful in a palette of blacks and browns, evoke a spooky kind of pretty, perfect for our Halloween mantle. The gothic urn I found years ago at an estate sale in Greenwich for 5 dollars, while its pair I found just last week at Hyde Park Antiques for 45.


What can I say? I can't resist a pair. Now if only everthing in my life felt as balanced as my mantle…