Designing the dream sukkah

Hauling out the same old boxes full of paper chains, Indian corn, and plastic fruit that you’ve hung in your sukkah for years on end? Does your temporary backyard booth need a professional overhaul this Sukkot?

We asked some local interior designers how they would jazz up a sukkah – the thatch-covered shelter that stands in for both the Israelites’ desert dwellings before reaching the Promised Land, and the huts where they collected and tithed the harvest for a festival of thanksgiving once they had begun tilling the soil.

Lea Frank of Lea Frank Design, Teaneck:

“I’d like to have one glass or window wall so we don’t feel closed in and also would feel closer to nature. The major problem in most sukkahs is lighting. I would have a bunch of small round glass lanterns coming down at different heights from the s’chach” – the rooftop thatch.

“Along the shorter walls I would put a counter for practicality and above it the children’s art projects, framed for a gallery look. In terms of furniture, a wood table made for the outdoors, and instead of the usual folding chairs, an all-metal chair called Tolix that has a café look.”

Shoshana Halpert of Shoshana Halpert Designs, Teaneck:

“Many people just buy paper goods because they’re afraid to bring their real china and crystal outside, but the sukkah is supposed to be as beautiful and glamorous as your dining room. So just bring out what you would want to use if you were inside – or nice plastic copies of those items – to glam it up and make it glow.

“For lighting, I’d like to see a chandelier or a string of lanterns instead of the fluorescent light most of us use – including me. Fruits and vegetables, organic fall foliage are really pretty in a sukkah to bring in autumnal oranges, browns, and greens. For seating, picnic benches with cushions can be nice, with perhaps some bigger comfortable outdoor chairs at the heads of the table. Pillows bring color into the sukkah and make it plush. You can find many pillows in outdoor fabrics at Target or Home Depot for just a few dollars.”

Keli S. Teichman of Designs by Keli, Clifton:

“Since the sukkah is a temporary dwelling, I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and jumping into something whimsical and festive to brighten your yom tov [holiday]. As with any design, choose a color scheme that suits your style and carry it through in your sukkah design and tableware. Try hanging beaded curtains by the entrance and windows of your sukkah and disco balls from the ceiling. You and your guests will surely be entertained in style.”

Tamar Metzger of Tamar Interiors, Teaneck:

“Our sukkah is decorated with the same origami for the past 10 years! In general, sukkahs tend to be boxlike – very mass-produced. What if a sukkah were – as my sister has in Israel – a pergola using two sides of the house and then a low wall with the other side a rich curtain? I’d add plush sofas, rugs, and shimmering fabrics. Maybe eat on a low coffee table. A royal sukkah. A far cry from Plexiglas!”

Leda Rockoff of LAR Design Studio, Teaneck:

“My dream sukkah would embrace the idea of an outside room. I would decorate my dream sukkah with a lot of natural elements. A chandelier made of twigs all wrapped in fairy lights would make a great centerpiece to my sukkah. The walls would be draped in vines, and fall foliage would hang from the s’chach. A large table filled with family, friends and good food rounds out the perfect sukkah.”

Many websites offer ideas for whimsical and economical sukkah decorations aimed at involving children in the process.

Torah Aura Productions suggests using shiny stickers, or sparkling beads and gems stuck on with tacky glue, to decorate old CDs that can be hung from the s’chach; or fashioning wind chimes by hanging strawberry baskets upside-down with beads, bells, nuts, bolts, and washers strung from the holes.

Creative Jewish Mom describes how to make decoupage napkin plaques using paper napkins with pictures of the fruits and grains indigenous to Israel – grapes, olives, dates, figs, pomegranates, wheat, and barley.

The Juggling Frogs blog recommends using fusible beads – little plastic tubes that melt when ironed – to make colorful tiles spelling out relevant biblical passages, such as “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.”

And there is nothing wrong with simply hanging posters of Israel, Rosh Hashanah greeting cards, and paper chains. Just be sure to use waterproof paper or cover them in plastic so rain does not spoil your dream sukkah décor.

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