Setting the tone for a season of scares, this year’s theme for Roger’s Gardens’ annual Halloween Boutique exhibits a twisted take on the Brother’s Grimm fairytales. Every bit the creepy and elaborate exhibit that return visitors have come to expect, the upscale home and garden decor company out of Corona Del Mar has outdone itself with its most impressive production value yet.
The inspiration for this year’s theme came as it always does for Creative Director, Eric Cortina: on a whim. While browsing a trade show last year with Holiday Buyer, Hedda Staines, he saw a portrait. Half human, half animal, it was the perfect stimulus for Cortina’s macabre imaginings.
“I kind of went ‘Oh, that’s spooky. It looks like a fairy tale,’” recalled Cortina. “From that moment on, we were like, ‘Okay, that’s what we’re doing for Halloween.’”
Above the entrance to the boutique floats a worn banner, it’s painted calligraphy reading “Grimm Tales” among a wall of old books. Passing beneath it immerses visitors into a dark fairytale. Five dark fairytales, to be exact, including: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel.
Preparations for the exhibit began in March, and took over 1,000 hours of work to accomplish. With a team of 20 people, the rooms slowly came together; ten working on constructing and installing props, while another ten sourced, received, and priced the products. But not all of the products sold in the rooms are indicative of Halloween. Some are normal home decor items that the team will work into the room’s story.
“My favorite room was Hansel and Gretel,” explained Staines, who purchases products to be used in the boutique. “What I loved was the tongue and cheek component. We’ve got the witch going into the oven, she bakes the cookies for Hansel and Gretel, and the products that we have in the room [are] cookies. If you pay attention to the detail, the product placement is all tied into the story.”
Getting every piece to appear impeccably placed is no easy feat. While Cortina has worked at Roger’s Gardens for 30 years, been creative director for 15 years, and has put on the Halloween display for the last 14, some displays still manage to allude him.
Cortina says the Snow White room became a running joke during the bu
ild. “All of the other rooms fell together and that room was the evil step child; it just didn’t do what I wanted it to do,” said Cortina. “We actually just left it alone for one day, came back, repainted all the furniture, rehung all the fabric, and all the sudden it came together.”
In the end, it turned out to be his favorite room. It’s easy to see why. Everything twinkles in the silver and white landscape, where a variety of metal skeletons in metal bird cages make up a fabulously morbid table display. The glass jars and domes, like the ones over the poison apple and pig’s heart sculptures, are also for sale along with the plates, cups, and other ornaments of the room.
Any lover of fairytales will appreciate the homage paid with items like the glass slipper of the Cinderella room or the spinning wheel of the particularly eerie Sleeping Beauty room. The attention to Grimm’s version of these tales rather than the dulled-down Disney variants will resonate with Halloween lovers. Ominous sound effects, unconventional Halloween decor, and props like the growling taxidermy wolf in grandmother’s clothing are sure to excite those who, like Cortina, have a special place in their dark hearts for the holiday of haunts.
Though all of the items are available for purchase, that also means that those who want to see the display in full form should visit before it’s picked through. The Halloween boutique, which is now open, runs through October. By late October, Roger’s Gardens will begin consolidating for Christmas, so it’s best to get there early.
The boutique is open daily from 9am-7pm, at 2301 San Joaquin Rd, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625.