‘Cabinet of Curiosities,’ blends spine-tingling effects, home decor ideas at Roger’s Gardens

A shopper browses through the Dracula room of "Cabinet of Curiosities," at Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar.
A shopper browses through the Dracula room of “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a Halloween boutique at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

October may have only just begun, but anyone already chomping at the bit to start celebrating Halloween need look no further than Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar.

Employees of the 6.5-acre outdoor nursery and home and garden décor superstore have created a massive seasonal boutique designed not only to showcase a range of macabre and whimsical holiday items for sale, but to entertain, and perhaps slightly horrify, visitors of all stripes.

The walk-through “Cabinet of Curiosities” features areas or scenes hosted by figures that appeared to have walked, hobbled or effervesced out of classic Hollywood horror films and into the showroom.

Those seeking elegant expressions of Halloween may be drawn to one corner, where a life-sized Bride of Frankenstein towers among a spiderweb rendered from strung crystals and is surrounded by white and silver accents.

Various skeleton items for sale during "Cabinet of Curiosities," a Halloween boutique at Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A mummy’s tomb area is more bone forward and features skulls, skeletons and even huge sarcophagi customers can purchase and then take home in mid-October, to keep the spectacle intact for the visiting public.

Meanwhile oddities, like a glass cabinet filled with creepy Victorian-era dolls or an arched hallway lined with skeletons, reminiscent of Roman catacombs, create a chilling effect in between themed areas.

Nava Rezvan, who leads marketing efforts at Roger’s, says the themed displays are more than mere product placement, taking visitors on a whirlwind tour of the nearly infinite ways they might decorate their own homes for the holidays, bring some life (or a little death) to a party or locate the perfect gift.

“It’s almost like a theatrical retail experience,” Rezvan said. “We want to make it an experience for our guests — I think most people would say that’s why they come.”

A painting decorated with dozens of knives hangs at "Cabinet of Curiosities" at Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar.
A painting pierced by dozens of knives hangs on display at “Cabinet of Curiosities,” at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Halloween display opened to the general public just before Labor Day weekend, but its execution took months. Head merchant Hedda Staines, who works to find pieces that are desirable and trending but also complement each year’s theme, said organizers start planning a year or more in advance.

“Sometimes, we’ll have the next two Halloweens planned,” Staines said. “We’ll start going to trade shows, we talk to artists and people who make Halloween art, and the team makes prop pieces. We are a well-oiled machine.”

And since Roger’s is an outdoor plant nursery, suggestions for decorating gardens or finding clever ways to flaunt flora in a seasonal fashion are peppered throughout the display. A nearby section of “spooky plants” lets people purchase creeping vines and vegetation with curling tendrils or black flowers.

Although “Cabinet of Curiosities” pays homage to horror films of the 1930s and ‘40s, it is largely inspired by the dark recesses of the mind of one Eric Cortina, creative director for Roger’s Gardens, who began designing small Halloween collections 20 years ago and never looked back.

Shoppers walk under an archway lined with faux human skeletons Thursday at Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Thursday morning found Cortina in another building, hard at work on this year’s Christmas display.

“It’s about creating that childhood sense of wonderment,” he said of the holiday rooms. “With Cabinet of Curiosities, what’s great is everyone participated and had their hands in it — everybody got a character.”

With the Christmas showcase underway, the Roger’s Gardens creative team is already beginning to conjure ideas for next year’s Halloween production. What will the theme be? Staines won’t be the one to spill.

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” she said, smiling fiendishly.

“Cabinet of Curiosities,” runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31 at Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar.

Head merchant Hedda Staines during a walkthrough tour Thursday of "Cabinet of Curiosities."
Roger’s Gardens head merchant Hedda Staines during a walkthrough tour Thursday of “Cabinet of Curiosities.”
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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