Sukkot has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up in an apartment building, we never had a sukkah of our own, so we would always make the four-hour journey to my aunt and uncle. Even today, after years of not being in my aunt’s sukkah, I could still pick it out of a lineup purely from the smell of it.
There was always evergreen schach, fresh seasonal fruit hanging as the decor and a combination of professional art and photography, along with family-made artwork. A perfect combination that makes the sukkah feel like home.
If you walked into the sukkah, it felt effortless and homey, but when you dissect what was going on, you will uncover layers of hard work from a variety of family members.
Here are 7 tips and tricks for the 7 days of Sukkot to help enhance your sukkah.
1. Having something real is a must. Whether it be schach, seasonal fruit or an ode to the sheva minim, there is nothing that can replace the real thing. How much more tactile and interesting is a squash gourd than a plastic etrog? Real things speak to your senses, especially smell, which sets the tone for the whole experience.
2. Easy on the tinsel! I’m actually tempted to say don’t hang anything with tinsel. I know some love it and it can be done in a nice way, but go easy with it and go in with a plan for where it will be used. Just as you don’t want your house to look like everything came from the dollar store, so, too, your sukkah!
3. Think about color. Start with a color scheme; whether it be, monochromatic, complementary or analogous. Having a planned scheme in mind is a great place to start. My aunt’s sukkah always had a fall vibe, with orange hanging pumpkins, yellow gourds and beaded red cranberries draped from the center like fabric (which my grandparents used to bead themselves).
4. Rhythm and repetition: Having three or more of any one particular element, or a series of a particular form will add interest, and a sense of place—both attributes you want your guests to experience. This can be accomplished by the way the lights are draped. Or certain items hanging equidistant from each other throughout the entire sukkah.
5. Lighting. Would you want to eat at a restaurant with a harsh fluorescent light shining in your eyes?! Sounds like a take-out joint. Lighting can affect the vibe of any space, and there are some beautiful options out there these days that can add the perfect warm touch. When buying bulbs look for warmer colors: Think 2,700-3,000 Kelvin rather than 5,000 Kelvin.
6. Something homemade. It is supposed to feel like a temporary home. What’s a home without something personal or homemade? Bonus points if the kids made it. They will feel proud to have helped be a part of the sukkah decor. Just don’t overdo the arts and crafts projects!
7. Add the extra touch: When setting the table use chargers, napkin holders, a real tablecloth and/or a floral centerpiece. All these little extra details go a long way in the overall tone of the sukkah, making it very inviting and elevating the setting.
Just as my childhood Sukkot memories are still embedded in my heart decades later, with attention to detail and careful decor, you can create lasting memories for your family and guests.
Jenny Muschel is the principal designer at J. Muschel Interiors, where she focuses on residential design. She specializes in space planning and material selection. She can be reached at [email protected].