Whether you’re decorating for a ghoulish get-together or just adding some devilish drama to your living room, set the scene with a shelf (or two or three) filled with ethereal ephemera.


Halloween bookshelf with 3 shelves decorated with books and Halloween themed decorations

Create a cabinet of curiosities worthy of Norman Bates. Limit your color palette (we chose black, gray, and white with touches of orange, brown, and gold) to put the focus on the objects themselves. Frightening isn’t the goal, here. Intriguing and unsettling is.


Halloween bookshelf display with skull, books and pumpkins

On the top shelf, our grave assemblage features a pairing of spectral skulls balanced by a stark black candlestick and a row of books with coordinating (and spine-tingling) spines.


Framed memento mori

This disturbing and eerie print titled All Is Vanity is by Charles Allan Gilbert, a prominent American illustrator in the early 20th century. He is especially remembered for this widely published drawing known as a memento mori or vanitas. You can download the print here and pop it into a suitably somber frame.


All is Vanity print that looks like a skull but is in fact a woman at a vanity

The drawing employs a double image (or visual pun) in which the scene of a woman admiring herself in a vanity mirror, when viewed from a distance, appears to be a human skull. The phrase “All is vanity” from biblical scripture refers to the vanity and pride of man. In art, vanity has long been represented as a woman preoccupied with her beauty (most artists were men, after all).


Silver skull with mask

Give a specimen skull a glamorous upgrade with a coat of silver paint. Add a collar of black ostrich feathers and a Venetian carnivale mask, then set it on a bed of moss inside a cloche.


Center Halloween shelf with books, microscope and pumpkins

Glass vessels, a tarnished silverplate compote, and a vintage microscope become haunting Halloween decor by association with pumpkins and skeletons.


Apothocary Bottles and music box with dancing skeleton

Amber glass apothecary vessels with lurid labels occupy one corner of the shelf. Our bottles are vintage but you can get the look with tag-sale or thrift-shop bottles and downloadable labels you apply. Here are a few favorites.

Sitting atop a stack of vintage books, a wind-up music toy features a dancing skeleton who performs to “Danse Macabre.”


Fresh flowers and microscope with white pumpkin

A black wooden perpetual calendar keeps an ominous countdown to Halloween while the silver compote filled with fall florals balances the creepy calendar and morbid microscope.


Clay jack-o'-lantern with smiling face and triangle nose

Painted modeling clay becomes a jaunty jack-o’-lantern that lights up this corner of the shelf. Resting on a bed of moss, the petrified pumpkin flashes a grisly grin. Make your own unique character with air-dry clay, crafting tools, and acrylic paints.


Bottom Halloween shelf with books and velvet pumpkins

A weighty row of thrilling tomes lines the bottom shelf. A collection of pumpkins provides balance, shape, and texture.


Books on shelf with decorated spines in reds, blacks and whites.

Edit your books for the season to feature those volumes with appropriately terrifying titles and wickedly decorative bindings in haunting hues.


Velvet pumpkinsin red, orange and burnt orange

Heavy plush pumpkins steal the show with their inviting shimmer and luscious fall shades. Small white pumpkins dot the shelves above, but down here it’s all about vivid color. Not EVERYTHING has to be black and white on Halloween!

Let us know how you decorate indoors for Halloween in the comments below or share images on our Facebook page. And if you’re looking for mantel decor ideas,  check out this post. Happy Halloween!

© Caruth Studio

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