By: Mary Jo Bowling, Houzz Contributor
Interior designer Kristi Will spends most of her time creating high-end, luxury interiors. But for clients with small children, she turns her mind from custom furniture to decorating pumpkins at Halloween time. “It started last year,” she says. “Because the kids are young, the family wanted me to help them find something that was Halloween but wasn’t superscary.” That first year she decked the halls with what she calls “happy monsters.”
This year while visiting the family, Will noted the youngest child’s affinity for Sesame Street’s Elmo and, with that in mind, designed a new Halloween look that thrills more than it chills.
The large picture windows on her clients’ home make the perfect frame for spooky decor, and last year Will dressed them with friendly monster silhouettes she designed and cut from foam core.
But after spending hours holding an X-Acto knife, Will decided to take an easier Halloween route this year. She created a friendly ghost, a gentle “boo” and a nonthreatening, lantern-bearing witch silhouette, then sent them to Dezign With a Z, a company that makes vinyl wall and window decals. The window decor was installed in an afternoon.
She used the same technique for the not-so-warm welcome on the front steps, although the sweet dog at the top of the stairs seems poised to wag his tail rather than bare his teeth.
But once the young residents get closer to the entry, something more treat than trick awaits them. “The children love Sesame Street, and when I was visiting them, they were playing an Elmo song featuring Colbie Caillat called “Belly Breathe.” It’s about having a monster inside that is calmed with deep breaths.”
The idea stuck in Will’s head and, tapping into the skills she had honed while volunteering as an art teacher in her own kids’ school, she created pumpkins in the likenesses of the residents of one of America’s most puppet-populated neighborhoods.
On the step are some of the best-known characters: Elmo, Bert, Ernie, Count von Count and Oscar. Flying above the Count are numbered bat silhouettes. “The kids are just learning to count, so we thought it would be fun,” says Will. She used a Cricut, an electronic craft cutter, to make the bats and the numbers. “They are wonderful machines,” Will says. “They are a great tool for parents.” Also key to the installation is Uhu putty. “It keeps the bats on the stucco, but it doesn’t damage the house when it comes off,” says Will.
For the pumpkins she used the novel technique of shaping the features from Crayola’s Model Magic, a clay that hardens when exposed to air. She shaped the features, let them dry, painted them with acrylic paint and attached them to the pumpkins with a hot-glue gun.
“Making the eyes, noses and mouths with the clay gives them an extra dimension they wouldn’t have if they were just painted on,” she says. “This way they look more like actual Muppets — who, of course, also have their features glued on.”
For Oscar, Will glazed the pumpkin with a light green glaze and shredded some fabric samples she had in the studio for his hair and eyebrows. (Bert and Ernie have manes crafted from a costume wig.)
Of course, Oscar is at home in a garbage can. “Elevating the pumpkins is key to the look,” she says. “We also purchased dark gray crates of various sizes and used them as pedestals. We draped a black tablecloth from Target around them to finish it off.”
In addition to ease of installation, the decals are great because they can be enjoyed from the street and inside the playroom.
“The business of interior design can be 90 percent paperwork and 10 percent creative work,” says Will. “This small project was the opposite: 90 percent of the job was creativity. It wasn’t in any way typical for me, but it was fun.”
The bonus was witnessing the youngest members of the family see the finished project for the first time. According to Will, their faces lit up like jack-o’-lanterns.