As a self-proclaimed book bibliophile, I thought it was only fitting to do a literary theme for this year’s Halloween decorations. So, I aptly chose to use the work of Washington Irving the author of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
I am a huge fan of the legend of the headless horseman from the book The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. However, I’m also a Johnny Depp fan and a huge fan of Arthur Rackham who did the illustrations. But more on that later.
Halloween Decorations – Choosing a Theme
I love to do everything in some kind of organized manner. So it just makes perfect sense to me when decorating seasonally to choose a theme.
When I think of implementing a theme I think about how to break it up into elements.
Elements of Legend of Sleepy Hollow Decor
I obviously cannot turn my modern home into a period-appropriate dutch house from the 1700s. But, I can think about elements that they might have used in their homes in the time period.
Think about the color scheme, decor, and main themes of all Halloween stories like pumpkins, black cats, and mystery. And, if you have visual aids, like a movie, that helps too.
Watch this on Youtube:
01 Apothecary Bottles
This fits the Legend of Sleepy Hollow more from the movie with Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane. His character in that movie was a scientist, sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate murders.
I chose to pair the two, the book and the movie, and use elements from both.
02 Antique Books
The first thing I think about when I think of period-appropriate is books and lots of them. The textures of the cloth covers, the ornate spines, and the colors of the fabric. I also pay attention to the titles, authors, and content because I try to own books I’d actually read.
I was so fortunate to find this beautiful little antique book recently at a library book sale. And it happens to be the same author, Washington Irving.
- Gulliver’s Travels
- Robinson Crusoe
- Moll Flanders
03 Candles and Candlesticks
I think the dutch in the 1700s would have had much more primitive candlesticks than ornate brass. But I can’t seem to help myself anyway. And sometimes you work with what you have.
Tallow was the product used to make candles in the 1600’s and 1700’s. This is a byproduct from animal fat, and it worked well. However, upon burning, it had a foul smell. Bees wax was then adopted when tallow stopped being used.The History of Candles
04 Oil Lamps
Lighting between 1700 and 1775 included candles, torches and oil lamps. Early in the 18thcentury, lamps with oils from animals, like whales or fish, were commonplace in Northern Europe. Whale oil proved to be an excellent illuminant in colonial America, and it grew in popularity.A History of Outdoor Lighting: the 18th Century
I have a love for vintage-looking and true vintage oil lamps. They add a special warmth to a room even when they aren’t lit. But then there’s the practicality of their usefulness in case of an emergency. The preparedness aspect is a real winner for me.
Still, they’re one of my favorites as listed in 15 Functional Decor Ideas for Your Home.
05 Sleepy Hollow Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
This one is obviously not something that would have been in Katrina Van Tassel’s house. But I do love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations and it was too perfect to pass up.
His Alice in Wonderland illustrations will be replaced at the end of the season, but I adore these as well. And they’re free for you to download. Just follow the steps below.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Arthur Rackham
This printable is for personal use only. However, feel free to share this post with friends and family so they can have these amazing timeless illustrations, too! The download will come with all 8 charming illustrations in a PDF file. Each illustration is a full 8 1/2″ x 11 “. But 5×7” is also available in the Subscriber Library.
These printables are available as a free download in the Wonderland Subscriber Library. By simply entering your email address and subscribing you get full access. Please remember these are for personal use only.
06 Jack-o-lantern Centerpiece
Few things that could be more fitting for a legend of Sleepy Hollow theme than a Jack-o-lantern centerpiece. After all the headless horseman carried one around as a replacement. And in the book, it was thrown straight at Ichabod Crane.
Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash — he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving
07 Black Dyed Tablecloth & Napkins
With my Legend of Sleepy Hollow theme, I decided to pair an underlying black-and-white color scheme. I had seen these old vintage-style embroidered tablecloth and napkin sets at a local garage sale for $5 and had a brilliant idea to dye them black.
Originally I had wanted to use black lacy curtains but couldn’t find any new or used ones to use. It seems I can’t help myself trying to add a little bit of victorian charm.
08 Sleepy Hollow Sign
This one might seem obvious, but I had a small dilemma with this element. Should I do the Sleepy Hollow sign of the real town? Or should I do the one that’s in the movie? Ultimately I chose to use a version I found on Google. I thought it was the perfect shape and I loved the classic calligraphy font.
I have a ton of extra wood lying around and the shape was easy enough to cut out with a jigsaw. Then it came down to some paint and a stencil. For the full project visit DIY Sleepy Hollow Sign.
09 Black & White Table Setting
Now, this find was a wonderful accident. I just happened to be looking for something else at the Dollar Tree and walking to the register I saw these sitting on the shelf. I knew immediately they were perfect.
They aren’t over-the-top spooky or creepy in any way, really they’re just a really cool black and white dessert plate. I knew they’d be perfectly paired with my vintage ironstone on my legend of Sleepy Hollow tablescape.
I admit the black-dyed embroidered cloth napkins laying on top is just a cherry on top for me.
10 Decorative Pillows & Throw
Walking around Hobby Lobby one day I saw these two fabrics in the clearance area of the store and thought they’d be perfect to make a few envelop pillow cases for these pillows I purchased from the thrift store.
The striped one reminded me of Katrina Van Tassel‘s dress in Sleepy Hollow, but also sort of was giving off Beetlejuice vibes.
How to Make an Envelope Pillow Cover
- Measure the height and width of your pillow form.
- Add at least 1/2″ seam allowance to each side.
- Cut out one panel for the front in those exact dimensions.
- For the back divide your measurement by 2, then add 4″ to each side.
- Cut out two panels for the back envelope.
- Sew the seams on the overlapping panels. They will face each other.
- Be sure to place the front panel facing the two back panels (bland fabric sides out).
- Pin around the perimeter.
- Then sew around the perimeter.
- Cut the excess fabric from the corners and iron.
11 Other Details & an Easter Egg
Decorating a room for seasonal-themed decor feels a lot like putting on a costume. As a child, we always had fun creating our own costumes of fictional or real-life characters from books, movies, and history.
So, I felt giddy when I spotted these in flea markets or thrift stores. A few I thought up when going through my stash of goodies.
- Faux Ink and feather pen
- Vintage Scissors (an Easter Egg from another of Johnny Depp’s characters)
- Bird cages as a reference to the bird in the cage from the movie
- Jack-o-Lantern Centerpiece the headless horseman’s head
The Story of Ichabod Crane & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
A Halloween classic set in the late 1700s in Historic Tarry Town, New York, tells the story of a small glen called Sleepy Hollow. The town itself is possibly under a spell. And the townspeople are suspicious and superstitious.
Shortly enters the main protagonist, Ichabod Crane, obsessed with the ghost stories of the town. A tall, spindly, scarecrow of a town teacher who imagines himself married to Katrina Van Tassel so he can inherit the wealth of her father.
So, he competes for her hand with “Brom Bones”. But Brom decides to play a series of pranks on the superstitious teacher.
Ichabod proposes marriage to Katrina and she turns him down. Heavy-hearted and crestfallen he rides his faithful plow horse “gunpowder” passed several haunted spots. His imagination goes wild when a lightning strike draws his attention to a cloaked rider.
Horrified he discovers it is the actual Hessian soldier with his head on his saddle instead of his shoulders. Ichabod and Gunpowder cross the Sleepy Hollow Bridge across from the sleepy hollow cemetery by the old dutch church.
Ichabod turns to see the monster rear his horse and hurl his severed head directly at him with a fierce motion. The story implies that the Horseman was really Brom (an extremely agile rider) in disguise, using a great Jack-o’-lantern blaze as a false head.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope I have given you some inspiration, ideas for creativity, and maybe a push to start creating your own wonderland one piece or project at a time.
Don’t forget to come back for more great projects like these DIY Projects and many more!
Meet the Author
Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→