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View Full Version : Where do you go for set dressing materials?



legendsofthefog
11-24-2009, 12:15 PM
After going to some of the best haunts in the Mid-Atlantic region this season, and reading a lot of threads on here... set dress and detail is the new push for the industry. Last year, our third season, was spent on mostly infrastructure.... and (i personally think) we lacked the fine set-dressing detail of the best haunts.
Most of our sets are decorated with objects that 1. make sense to the set, and 2. are often found by our actors and designers randomly throughout the off-season. Where do you go to scavenge?
I personally find a lot of usable items in the back of old antique shops, equipment (and junk) auctions, and odd-ball shops here and there. Yard sales are hit and miss. and of course, most of the gory detail is done in-house or by purchasing from vendors.
Best find: a working traffic light for $10
Side note: anyone tired of people offering their junk objects to you to use in your event? (i.e. lawnmowers, old clothes, and tires, etc)

beardedbil
11-24-2009, 12:46 PM
You would laugh but I have seen a haunt use a lawnmower as a scare...

The actor and mower was set up high at eye level of the customers and the lawnmower was attached like a pendulum so that when the actor swung it out towards the guests heads, it went up and over them... a small fan was installed to give the impression of the blades blowing... with some sound effects it could be quite scary when you turn the corner and a lawnmower is going for your head!

The Mad Hatter
11-24-2009, 01:43 PM
The best places to go are thrift stores. you find lots of old beaten up stuff there. Other good places to go are used building supply places, you can find building materials for sets cheap. Ebay too for small nick nacks. I also get stuff from my grandmother. She is old, and has old scary stuff that works out good for our haunted house. We also used her this year to scare the crap outta kids, she did not have makeup on. I also break into peoples homes to get door handles and wood , they are abandoned though.

-Frank Balzer
FrankWillisBalzer@yahoo.com

Jim Warfield
11-24-2009, 06:55 PM
I would spent $10-$20 and bring home a big, full-sized pick-up truck load of..."Stuff"!
"Where did you get that antique chair?"
"It's not worth much."
"Yes it is, it's an antique!"
"Well if that's true, then how did I get the bid for $1.50 infront of 8 antique dealers?"
Pieces & parts cobbled back together to resemble a real "antique", mostly was what I created from the pieces-parts in numerous boxes of all kinds of fairly worthless old crap.
Then customers would all pile onto one chair and splinter it before I could get them off of it and I would repair it again, finally relagating it to on-high staus as a display-only piece.
Funny how some people feel safer sitting on some's lap, even as the chair collapses under them!

Before my yard had any fencing around it, I would walk outside in the morning to find old microwaves, ice makers, car parts laying right where gravity had put them after they were tumbled from someone's pickup truck!
"No Thank-EE!"
I might use one micro switch from the old micro wave and have to pay to get rid of the rest of it!

Allen H
11-24-2009, 10:42 PM
Craigslist the free section
freecycle.org
Always find out when you neiborhoods (and the ones near you) large garbage pickup days are, and cruise around the night before looking for the good stuff.
Also dont forget about making your own stuff, If there is ever something specific then please post and we will all put our minds to it.
there are a ton more resources but thats all I have right now.
Allen H

SomeThingInTheIce
11-29-2009, 09:02 AM
On trash days I would drive to work and see what was on the curb, old chairs, a long old table, rusted tin roofing, lamps are some of the things I have found.

Banshee
11-29-2009, 09:31 AM
I like thrift stores and antique stores the best.. but have found items all over the place! Government surplus places are good. Landscape materials supply. Craft stores. I think we are all expert dumpster divers ;)
One of the 'fun' things is trying to hang onto your set dressing! I've had people who come to help set dress try to throw out things that are perfectly good decorations thinking that it's garbage!! Case in point - For years we've had this bundle of frayed heavy duty wiring that we use in various Lab/Tech scenes.. I've dug that out of the trash several times where folks have thrown it away thinking it was our own AV wire and was no good anymore!
Doesn't help that some of our materials already look like trash :D

Jim Warfield
11-29-2009, 09:33 AM
Filling 2 dumpsters, 10 miles from my place!
I rented a 1/2 ton truck with flatbed trailer and brought them all home! There's my outdoor maze.
If only these doors could "talk"! Removed from low income housing -Gov. apartments.
"Let me in now you#%$&!"
"Well I just called the cops, so you better leave!"
Modern-Day "Haunted" objects created!
Angst will do that everytime!

Rocky Mountain Terror
11-29-2009, 01:41 PM
I'm new at this, but over the summer I came up with an idea. Halloween being the second largest commercial holiday of the year, people go out and buy costumes, make-up and props for Halloween parties, most of which will only be used once. I wondered how much of that stuff got thrown out the week after Halloween, so I started asking the local trash collectors. From what I found out, it sounds like a gold mine!!! My idea is to offer a few of these guys a few bucks to collect for me some of the things they come across that week after Halloween. What are your thoughts???

Allen H
11-29-2009, 04:09 PM
Good thought but sounds a bit Iffy in application. I also think that finding decent things would be hard, there is also the matter of them knowing what is worth saving and what is honestly garbage.
The true gems of haunt decor are not bought at halloween stores, they are old pianios takeen free from a high school that upgraded, a chandelier that was found on the side of the road, things that by their very nature will set a time and place for your guests to relate to and help immerse them in your event.
Wallpaper, molding, lamps, these things are far better at setting the tone of your show than most "Halloween" Items. Knick nacks are awesome for making sets look lived in and finding the right ones is a skill in itself. Sometimes you can decorate with negative space At the abandoned asylum this season I added interest to some wall space by putting up a piece of wood and spray painting around it then taking it away, a tiny hole in the wall and it looked like a painting had been there forever and then been removed.
The more you know your show and theme the more you can zero in on what it needs for set dressing. what is your theme?
Allen H

Jim Warfield
12-01-2009, 08:13 AM
We all have "seen" something out of the corner of our eye and thought it was a person.
Paint some shadows shaped sort of like someone peeking around a corner or far enough away, with just the right lighting to cause such a mis-read in the mind , and then you have them wondering?
Then substitue a real person for the next painted shadow!
Mere paint on the wall is a pretty cheap display/effect and will take alot of abuse before screaming out.

Rocky Mountain Terror
12-20-2009, 10:36 AM
Good thought but sounds a bit Iffy in application. I also think that finding decent things would be hard, there is also the matter of them knowing what is worth saving and what is honestly garbage.
The true gems of haunt decor are not bought at halloween stores, they are old pianios takeen free from a high school that upgraded, a chandelier that was found on the side of the road, things that by their very nature will set a time and place for your guests to relate to and help immerse them in your event.
Wallpaper, molding, lamps, these things are far better at setting the tone of your show than most "Halloween" Items. Knick nacks are awesome for making sets look lived in and finding the right ones is a skill in itself. Sometimes you can decorate with negative space At the abandoned asylum this season I added interest to some wall space by putting up a piece of wood and spray painting around it then taking it away, a tiny hole in the wall and it looked like a painting had been there forever and then been removed.
The more you know your show and theme the more you can zero in on what it needs for set dressing. what is your theme?
Allen H
Sorry for the response delay. Had a death in the family, so I had to put haunting on the back burner for a while. The theme of my first haunt will be a re-imagining of the Grim Reaper. It will start in a grave yard and end up in a Gothic Purgatory setting. My "ultimate" haunt design has a very different theme, but this is what I am doing right now. Any ideas?

Allen H
12-20-2009, 11:21 PM
Yes I have a few quick ideas for you.
right now being christmas time stores are flooded with plastic and paper mach`e Angel statues. From ornaments to the mach`e 3ft statues. Buy them! look past their color and see them for the creepy haunt decor they will become with a faux stone paint job. They can accent tomb stones, be placed in wall recesses or alcoves and can go on top of columns. Great for the grave yard you have coming up.
Paint them gold instead of stone like and they can accent the corners or a mirror or over a door. This can really class up a really drab find, gives a great baroque or Louis XIV look.
If I think of any more that will help with your theme I will post them. good luck sounds interesting.
Allen H

FablesStudios
12-21-2009, 02:00 PM
Love dollar stores.
Great place. you can buy in bulk from them if you ask.
Peter T
FS

themagicofjustinarrigo
12-22-2009, 12:59 PM
I second craigslist. I look at the free section everyday, all year long and you will be amazed at how much good stuff you can get for a haunt. I also post in the wanted section the kinds of things I am looking for, and will usually get people emailing me what they have, usually very cheap or free. Another thing I have found is to look in the yard sales section of craigslist, lots of people put pictures of things that they are going to be selling, so you can pick and choose the ones that you should watch. Usually, once the sale is over, if they dont sell it, they will throw it away, so a quick drive by the house in the early evening after the yard sale can bring you some great stuff free. I have gotten things from really old steamer trunks, to antique radios, old desks, old lamps, and so much more. Craigslist can become your best friend really quickly.