You know that great big pumpkin on the show, the one I carved with a headless horseman for the fireplace mantel? Well, production for Halloween Block Party happened in California way back in July, when finding great big pumpkins was nothing short of a great big pain!
After about a week's worth of phone calls to every orchard, pumpkin patch and farmer's market within a hundred-mile radius of San Francisco, we finally stumbled upon Davis Ranch, a goldmine in Sloughhouse, California, twenty minutes east of Sacramento, where the pumpkins and other gourds they just happened to plant early this year were like a gift from the heavens!
This was July, mind you, and a sweltering 98 degrees. I don't think Amber and Margarita with Davis Ranch, both of them such sweethearts, had ever seen two happier customers! They even had one of my favorite squashes of the season, a giant hubbard, perfect for the gourd-geous flower arrangement I made with black dahlias the night of the party.
So with our rental all packed with pumpkins, we headed back west…
…but not without a stop at another lucky find, a farmer's market on the road, where the corn husks were free for the picking!
Now if there's one thing I learned as a magazine editor about decorating for the holidays, it's work with what you have. Luckily, the house we were assigned, a great bungalow on a leafy block in Alameda, could not have been more perfect.
And the John family…does it get any cuter than this?
As the designer throwing a party "on a budget," I was allotted the least amount of money, so good bones were crucial to a successful outcome. From the moment I stepped foot in Amy and Bill's house, I knew I could do something classically beautiful for them that wouldn't cost a lot of money and, more important, that they could do themselves year after year. I don't know about you, but I'm not calling a carpenter to decorate for Halloween!
For my design, I was inspired by a story that I myself grew up with—The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It's a much-told tale here in the Hudson Valley, where the town of Sleepy Hollow lives on in infamy. Natural materials and a bountiful feast were prominent parts of the story that I wanted to recreate for the John family's Halloween. Here I am on the first day of shooting, just outside their house, revealing my design.
Inside we went, where in the living room I divulged all my devilish plans, including a gravestone wainscoting, eerie cloth-covered furniture and, of course…
…a fireplace mantel full of real pumpkins, beautifully carved.
Now these were not going to be any ordinary pumpkin carvings! For this family, I wanted to do something extra special, so on the Sunday prior to shooting, Jaithan and I headed to the nearby Alameda Antiques Show, where I found a table full of old wood carving tools, along with a beautiful set of black amethyst glass perfect for the party.
A designer is only as good as his team, and mine, I must say, was amazing! Here's my friend Scott of one of my favorite blogs Tartanscot, along with Jaithan, carving pumpkins at the house.
I did the headless horsemen, Scott and Jaithan took care of the trees…
…and my old friend Merrill punched out spiders for the chandelier. They were the ones behind the scenes, along with the John family, who helped make everything possible.
Shooting began early the next morning, when I showed Bill—remember the flight we took in his plane?—how I did the gravestone rubbings for the wainscoting.
With newsprint and crayon, I simply traced over beautiful, centuries-old gravestones in a cemetery, right in Sleepy Hollow, then did a quick brown wash for a more aged look.
As the day wore on, the design took shape. Here I am with Bill and Amy decorating the mantel with natural materials like cornstalks, gourds, and Spanish moss, together with a few spiders and cobwebs for a more ghoulish effect. For me, decorating for Halloween, especially on a budget, needs to be double duty. Take away the creep factor—the spiders and the webbing—and you have a fireplace mantel beautifully decorated with fall harvest materials all the way through Thanksgiving!
In my design, candles figured prominently and these are the most beautiful around. The meter-long tapers in black are instant drama.
The next day was all about the exterior, where I continued layering inexpensive, natural materials just about anyone can find. Well…maybe not so much in July but at least now, right?
For my big project on the outside, I enlisted Bill and Amy's help to build, from the ground up, the headless horseman himself! With rebar and a wooden rod for support, we stuffed clothing from the Goodwill with hay until our ghostly figure took shape.
Here he is all finished, a carved Jack O'Lantern for his head along with a cape, tattered and torn, blowing by force of air from behind the hay.
Midnight came, but the show must go on, this time in the kitchen, where I prepared three dishes for the party with Jaithan: spider web cupcakes, bone meringue cookies, and fall leaf tortilla chips.
Celebration candles in black added a spooky but sophisticated touch.
Finally, the day of the party arrived, but first, the finishing touches had to be done. Here's Luke helping me with the luminaries.
With brown paper bags, black spray paint, rock salt and votive candles, they were such a simple and inexpensive way to light the path for our guests.
Brown bags did double duty, catching treats that Liam and Luke helped Jaithan fill for the kids just before the party.
What's Halloween without a costume? Since this was a party inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, circa 1790, I opted for a period costume in the manner of Ichabod Crane, bearing striking resemblance, I'm told, to Ben Franklin. Kelley Moore, another super talented designer on the show, looked bewitching for pre-party cocktails.
Any minute now and the guests were due to arrive! Here's an illustration of the bountiful feast in Washington Irving's story that inspired my table for the John family.
We have ham falling off the bone with a cranberry chutney, creepy crudité in hollowed out gourds, fall leaf tortilla chips with six layers under dip, spider web cupcakes, and sticky toffee apples. Finally, to drink, a spooky pomegranate punch with a black sugar rim.
Let the party begin!
Finally, a huge thank you to everyone over at HGTV for the opportunity to show my stuff! Now, onto the holiday special!
What a fun behind-the-scenes post! I bet those kiddos were thrilled to be celebrating Halloween in July.
Eddie-we are at Camp Miola and I am up in the middle of the night with Maurice who is barking at various night creatures. What a great blog. So fun to get a behind the scenes look of the special. And thanks for mentioning the candles. Great ideas for next weekend’s celebration.Happy Halloween!
We watched..me and the kids and they loved you Eddie. I had to say….”he likes mamas office”…but really you did a great job.
WOW, YOU DO HAVE TALENT!!!
HUGS FROM MAINE
I am sooo amazed you found such a bounty of pumpkins and gourds in JULY! And they truly made your design!!
I was interested to hear that you had the least $ to work with…was it show generated (in which case it should be even, no?) or client generated (did each family dictate a budget they could handle?)
You and your team did a manificent job!
so so good. you are adorably nerdy!
i LOVE the washington irving illustration! i can see it in the table you created for shiz~
It’s terrific that you chose to use inexpensive materials and items that could remain in place until Thanksgiving.
Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look. It is interesting to see all the effort it takes to put together a program.
Great post, wonderful photos. Really enjoyed reading all of it. Thanks Eddie and Jaithan.
I thought their home was beautiful before you decorated for the holidays. To have it transformed like you did was amazing. I was just curious as to why you had the least amount of money of all the designers. I would have thought you each had the same. Just me being nosey, don’t answer if you cannot.
absolutely brilliant! so many inspiring ideas, i don’t know where to start. well done!
I loved watching this last night. Wherever did you find that great pumpkin scoop, just a regular cooking store like Sur La Table?
I watched the show last night on HGTV with my daughter. We loved it. I am always amazed at how much creativity goes into decorating for Halloween.
As I was watching, I was really wishing that I could have been there and had a part in creating those beautiful scenes. It would be a dream job for me to be part of something so creative.
Eddie and Jaithan, love seeing you two artists, creative designers at work The carved pumpkins and luminaries are wonderful!
Great job! I loved watching you pull this all together. I am definitely loving that haunted photo you made and am going to incorporate that into our haunted decor. Thanks for the fabulous inspiration!
Seeing the behind the scenes with you an Jaithen are great. Your energy just shines through. I do not know which picture is my favorite, but the carved pumpkins are fab.
We had unexpected guests so only got to see part of the show last night. What I did see of the show looked excellent. Hope HGTV runs it again before Halloween.
You have absolutely outdone yourself Eddie!
Looks great Eddie and Jaithan – hope you’ve had a great response to the show – so fun to see all the behind the scenes!
Eddie and Jaithan — thanks for scaring (oops, sharing!) what went into your dastardly design for the HGTV special. Especially love that meter long black candle and the little touches like the spiders on the chandelier shades.
Watched the show last night and was so inspired. Great decorations and fun to read your post today and get a little behind the scenes info. Great show and decorations! Love the pumpkin man in the front yard!
I watched Halloween Block Party today and was so blown away by your design for the John family that I googled you!
From the John house, to the food, to the luminaries on the show (as well as what I’ve seen on this blog today) you have the knack for giving a “one of a kind” air to everything you craft!
I’ll be following your marvelous work from here on out.
This is just great fun to see you all as the fairies behind the action…
What a tear-iffic job for all little ghouls and witches!
Love – Victoria
Eddie and Jaithan, I watched the show last night and was so impressed with all the decor you used. I liked the sophisticated look of it all, using natural elements is the way to go in my book and you did it perfectly. Your house was by far my favorite. It felt real and doable, you are always so inspiring, Great show, Great Job, Kathysue
Hi Eddie, Watched the show last night and loved it! Your designs were my favorite. We are going to use some of them this weekend for my tweens Halloween party.
oh my goodness how amazing!!!! you guys are the best!!! i want to eat that whole table right now!!! PERFECTION.
What fun. Thanks for sharing your experience. I would have never guessed it was July. We just finally got really awesome big gourds and white pumpkins here in Oklahoma these last few weeks. Hope to see you both again on HGTV soon.
Once again, you amaze and inspire!
You were by far the best designer and created the perfect,classic Halloween theme. I so agree about the hiring of a carpenter for Halloween!
What a challenge, finding Harvest/Halloween things in July. Makes it even more impressive.
You and your crew were delightful. I hope to see a lot more of you on HGTV. What a score for them to get you : )
See you in December!
I’m so excited to see the pics after hearing all about it at the DC Flea! You and your team did (yet another) FANTASTIC job! Amazing! Can’t wait to catch it on Hulu. 🙂
The show was wonderful and you were great! It’s so nice that we get to see all these behind the scenes pictures!
Thank you for giving us the play by play. I have watched the show 4 times and I love it each time! I will watch you whenever and wherever you are on. I agree with everyone else, you definitely need your own show!
What a great time you all must have had. It was great to see Jaithan on camera! I might be predudiced….but I think your house was the BEST. I also think you were adorable in costume, although your friend Lori looks as if she is sizing you up for a dinner! LOL. Happy Holloween! Great show and hope you are doing one for the Xmas/Chanukah season!
Love what you did here and the show was fabulous! I love the behind-the-scenes look…can’t wait for more!
Oh, how I wish I knew you were in the area…I’d have invited you to try another fab find from the Davis Ranch ~ their sweet corn! Devotees travel for miles during corn harvest to stock up, some for immediate eating and some to freeze for the coming winter. Their corn is absolutely divine and well worth the pilgrimage. BTW, I loved your designs on the show.
What a fabulous setting for a Halloween Party! It has inspired me to actually get busy and carve my pumpkins! I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you but just happened across your blog this morning. I love your work! I especially love your stories of creating great spaces without having to spend a lot of money – it’s so exciting to see the Salvation Army transformations! I love that stuff! Trina
I just caught the show this weekend, and loved your Sleepy Hollow theme! I would have liked it even more if they’d shown more of what went into it (like flea market shopping, of course). I’m inspired to make merangue bones…they look fancy yet easy, something totally up my alley.
I, too, was wondering about budget. I was under the impression that everyone was “on a budget,” but with the $8/yd sheeting that went up on the Hansel & Gretel house I wasn’t quite sure what sort of budget it was supposed to be. Certainly not one that I’d have.
How much fun was that!!! Those 2 boys were darling little stinkers! The big boys were wonderful too! Looks like it was worth all the hard work.
I must say that I just love that you first posted about the wonderful Davis Ranch.
Your a good man Eddie Ross…
I love the behind the scenes! You did such a fabulous job on this project and I loved the show. The inspiration has got me looking forward to next year when I hope the house remodeling and landscaping are to the point we can go all out! Your decorating posts lately have been such a blessing to me as I have been at such a creative standstill. Thanks for all of the wonderful things you have put together!
he show was great and full of east tips! Congrats!!
Loved the show, Eddie! My only complaint is that they should have given you a one hour follow-up show to go into details about all your wonderful projects and ideas. Or, better yet, they just need to give you and Jaithan your own show! I
Finally watched the show last night (on On Demand). All the houses looked great, but your was by far my favorite! You left nothing un done inside or out, your design still left the house functional & didn’t cost tons of money. Great, great job by you both!
I love, love, triple love what you did with the house for Halloween!!! The headless horseman display in the yard is genious — my 8 year old son can’t wait to do this on Saturday for the big night!!! I adore your blog and all the ideas you share with us! Thanks a bunch and Happy Halloween!!!
You really need your own show, an hour long daily show!
I second Fina’s comment: Amazing!
Cute, cute, and cute!
Happy Halloween, 2010.
Your Halloween eerie bedroom scene is utterly Spectacular, spooky and beautiful – all in one! You’re so talented!
You are my new hero! I love your classy Halloween design. We are hosting a Sleepy Hollow Party theme this year spurred on in large part by your portion of this HGTV special!
I absolutely love this design for a Halloween party! I think you are truly talented! You have inspired me to decorate this year with a colonial theme.
Masterful!!Looks gorgeous- you have done so much work but it is really fabulous so it’s so worth it.