Plenty of pumpkins are delicious, but even the most inedible winter squashes still make great seasonal decor. Whether you carve them up or leave them whole, there are lots of ways to make pumpkins pop—and make your space super festive, no matter what your style.
Since pumpkins (and squash, and gourds) come in so many fascinating shapes and shades, you don’t even need to do much to them if you don’t want to—great for both back-to-nature fans and lazy busy people. They make quite an impact if you simply jumble various eye-catching specimens together, whether on a flat surface like a bookcase, sideboard, or down the center of your table, or pile them in whatever random containers you have around your house, from wicker baskets and metal buckets to bell jars and clear glass trifle dishes.
Naturally, they look good interspersed with other fall items, like leaves, acorns, gnarled branches, and the like, but try ornamental kale and cabbage for a frilly yet earthy change of pace, especially with pale blue-green and white pumpkins. It works equally well for Halloween or Thanksgiving, depending on the linens and tableware you add (and possibly a few plastic spiders in the mix for the former occasion).
A bunch of pumpkins staggered along the stairs works all fall too, whether you carve them, paint them, or leave them au naturel (or combine several styles)—and it looks just as good inside as out. If carving, use LED lights for your indoor jack-o-lanterns, for atmospheric mood lighting that’s safer than candles.
If you like things a bit more structured, though, try stacking pumpkins of various sizes; in either case, you can mix and match colors, or keep it monochrome if you prefer. Stand-alone stacks look great—again, inside or out—but you can also build them in decorative urns or pots. (As with any other piece of pumpkin decor, you can mix and match hues, pick all one color, or even paint these before you pile them up.) Mini stacks can go on mantels, and mid-size stacks are cute on cake plates as part of a centerpiece.
Speaking of centerpieces, a pumpkin vase is a beautiful alternative to plain old glass (although it’s ideal if you can fit a glass one inside the squash itself). You can paint the pumpkin first if you prefer, or even carve it into a jack’o’lantern vase.
Another option is to drill holes into the otherwise intact pumpkin and stud the whole surface with a flower sash, but it won’t last as long (unless, of course, you go faux).
If you’re more into desert flora, make a succulent pumpkin planter. These sculptural forms look fabulous in bright orange pumpkins as well as in gray-green, buff, or even white pumpkins, with these quieter shades being especially well suited to more modern surroundings (try grouping them with less common autumnal items, like bleached antlers instead of multicolored leaves, to keep the palette pale).
No matter how you’re using your pumpkins, if you want to paint them, there are almost infinite ways to do it—you can go with simple solid colors, whether you like more muted colors or screamingly vibrant shades (maybe with glittery gold stems?), or even full-on metallic. If you want to get a bit more elaborate, you can make them look like candy corn, sprinkled doughnuts, buffalo plaid, or tie dye. With the addition of a few simple accessories, you can even make a unicorn pumpkin. And if you’re wary of making a mess, simply dress up your squash with washi tape.
If you want to send a clearer message, you can use pumpkins to spell it out—in marquee lights if you like a project (but you can also just cut the letters out, or etch them with a paring knife or linoleum cutter, before popping candles inside). Or paint on simple letter stencils for longer-lasting words, or glitter monograms if you’re more glam. Express a simple greeting like “Welcome” or “Happy Fall” (or “BOO!”), and arrange them on your porch or on your table. You can also go with numbers to make your house easier to find, a neat—and useful—party trick for sure. If you don’t care to carve them out or stencil them on, you can nail actual metal numbers into pumpkins, but if you use real produce (as opposed to foam), wait until just a few days before the shindig so they hold up.
On a smaller scale, mini pumpkins make great place card holders. Dipping the bottom half in glitter is totally optional. If your pumpkins don’t have stems, you can insert simple paper clips or fancier place card holder picks into the pumpkin itself. You could also use black chalkboard paint to completely cover them, then write each name (and whatever else you want) right on the gourd with white chalk markers.
If you like to use candles for flickering ambiance, you can make pumpkin candle holders too, for tapers, votives, or jumbo candles if you pick a bigger pumpkin. Try grouping various sizes together for extra interest, and/or placing them at different heights.
When it comes to putting things inside pumpkins, you can further combine function and fashion by making an easy pumpkin ice bucket to hold your beer, wine, and/or champagne! If you’ve got a lot of bottles, you’ll want a really big pumpkin—and if you’re simply chilling drinks, it’s not essential to have an inner bowl, so don’t worry if you don’t have one big enough to match your monster squash (the pumpkin might get waterlogged and even heavier than before, but you can deal with that later).
Large pumpkin bowls are great for serving soups, stews, and other dishes too—if you roast them, you can eat the flesh inside along with the filling, although they can be prone to splitting and collapsing when cooked, especially if you try to transfer them from a baking sheet to a serving platter, so use caution and your best judgment. Tiny pumpkins can be hollowed out for individual bowls and cups, but can also be a little awkward to use (and annoying to make if you need a lot of them). Giant gourds can be turned into impressive pumpkin punch bowls—especially if you add some dry ice in between the inner bowl and the squash shell (just don’t get any in your actual drink).
There’s nothing wrong with simply making a classic mini pumpkin wreath to hang on your door, or putting pumpkins in your window boxes, but if you want to branch out, there are clearly lots of ways to do it. And don’t forget to buy a few extra winter squashes while you’re stocking up, because once you’ve worked up an appetite with all this decorating, you can eat some pumpkins too!
Check out all the best of pumpkins on Chowhound.
Related Video: 13 Brilliant Pumpkin Carving Hacks
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