Categorized | Holiday, Sukkos

Decorating for Sukkos

Posted on 26 August 2010

Decorating for Sukkos

Decorating Your Sukkah to Enhance the Mitzvah

“Teshvu Kaayn Taduru” (Sukkah 28B)– Our Chachamim teach us that we need to live in the Sukkah as we dwell in our house. “Take the nice things out of your house and move them into your Sukkah,” the Gemara explains.

“Very nice,” you might be thinking, but my raw silk draperies are just not waterproof. And, the breakable glass just isn’t going to cut it (no pun intended) in the Sukkah that has seen its share of storms.

There are plenty of ways to enhance the comfort of your Sukkah, turning it into a real dwelling place as it is meant to be. Make your Sukkah homier by adding aesthetics. Even if you are not at all interested in interior design, for the sake of the mitzvah, add a few personal touches that will have the kids begging, “Can I please sleep in the Sukkah the whole week?”

Believe it or not, you have a lot of options for adding ambiance and aesthetics to your Sukkah. No matter what size or type of sukkah you own, you can create a comfortable environment. You may be familiar with the recent trends of “outdoor decorating” or “patio decorating”. There are increasingly a lot of materials that can withstand the elements and are used outside.

How can you start? Begin with the bare minimum, the 3-wall requirement.

Walls

Are you familiar with any home decorating principles that exist? Most of them are common sense. Think focal point, scale, proportion, and balance. You wouldn’t want to hang a tiny picture on a huge wall. Instead, hang a collection of pictures that fit the scale of the wall. Or, if you have a large dining room table, don’t hang a teeny microscopic light fixture over the table. It will not look proportioned.

One decorating principle that is unfamiliar to many is the concept of a focal point.

Establish a focal point in your sukkah so that when you enter the hut your eye has a place to rest. Without a point of “main attraction” your eye will travel all around desperately seeking the “best” part of the Sukkah, or any room for that matter. If a focal point cannot be found, the eye will roam around distractedly unable to rest. You know when you go into someone’s home or a business and you feel distracted, not able to concentrate on one thing in the room, and you keep looking around. When there is no focal point in a room, you’ve answered the question, “Why can’t I focus?”

What kind of focal point can you establish in a sukkah? You can go as simple as a nice laminated poster that is bright with vivid color or up your style ante a bit with a mirror. Of course the material of your sukkah wall dictates what can actually be hung! A wood sukkah does allow a little more flexibility for hanging objects but even if you don’t use a wooden sukkah, here’s how you can display large objects instead of hanging them. (I just love the picture posted here of a hand-made sunburst mirror made from a recycled book courtesy of creativejewishmom.com-I even made one for myself)

Leaning objects against a wall instead of hanging them is a design practice that is often used for creating focal points as you can see here in this picture.

(Of course, seating space in the Sukkah is limited so don’t take too much of it up with décor, but a nice flat mirror leaned against the wall will give the appearance of having a lot more room.)

Bring in objects from your home that you love and lean them against your sukkah wall. Choose objects that can withstand rain, as we are not permitted to touch our decorations during Sukkos.

If you don’t wish to lean, you can hang beautiful fabric or even a favorite flat sheet that you love to cover an entire wall. If you have time, you can search through fabrics that are water resistant, using them as a tapestry or as drapery panels. There are even ready-made outdoor drapery panels available at www.smithandnoble.com.

If you’ve ever slipcovered furniture or will in the future, you can use beautiful outdoor fabrics and when Sukkos comes along, move some of those pieces into the Sukkah. Sunbrella makes outdoor fabrics in so many patterns, many of which you may have used for indoor pieces!

Ceiling

Again, the material you use for your schach determines what you can actually hang in the sukkah. Bamboo poles are easy to tie or hook onto, while a schach mat will not give you as much room to play around.

Hook a chandelier around one of the bamboo poles. If you have a schach mat, use the sukkah poles instead for hanging. The chandeliers don’t actually have to light as long as you have other lighting options for your sukkah. The goal is for a homey environment that you want to spend time in (there’s the ruchnius!) so whatever you can do to accomplish that goal is wonderful.

Chinese lanterns also give a “chandelier” appearance and if you can find one you love, use it as a focal point. Or hang many of them throughout the Sukkah.

Ask your Rabbi how big of a chandelier you can hang and if there are any requirements as to height of hanging objects.

Floors

Finding an outdoor rug used to be a difficult task. With the increasing trend of patio decorating, you now have a load of options with regards to outdoor, water resistant rugs. I recommend you go to your local hardware store and check out the options for outdoor rugs or look on the internet.

Doorway

Just about every sukkah has a doorway and there are a few simple things you can do to enhance your opening. One is to put out potted trees, real or silk, around the doorway. If you don’t already own a potted plant, I suggest you simply buy a large garden pot, fill it with sand, and then stick whatever object you’d like into the sand. For example, tiki torches work well, branches, tall silk plants, rose branches; anything that is tall will work. Citronella Tiki torches will keep out the mosquitoes and give you even more light. Ask a shailah about lighting them before Yom Tov for the meal.

Again, for my frugal readers, all of these recommendations are splurges designed to make your sukkah living experience more like a home. After all, isn’t that what the mitzvah of living in a sukkah is all about?

You do not have to go out and buy new things, start by bringing in what you already have and perform some “Interior rearranging”. If you do not have any objects that can be used or rearranged in some creative way, you can go to a local crafts store and pick up a few inexpensive items. And of course, there are many homemade crafts that also add to the ambiance of the Sukkah. But I guarantee that even the most practical family without any sense for interior design can find a few objects that when put in a sukkah will catch your eye and put a smile on your face.

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