Gourds have been decorated for thousands of years, those who study such things say. But the number of fresh interpretations that make them perfect for accenting today’s dwellings have exploded. Accenting with pumpkins and squashes isn’t a niche thing anymore.

Numerous ideas and instructions for painting gourds, fruit and vegetables, and members of the cucumber family can be found on many Internet sites. They include Pinterest and Houzz, where members post their favorite finds and ideas.

Gourds have been used as musical instruments and utensils throughout history. This time of the year, they are particularly popular.

Using some combination of freehand decorating, patterns, paints and tools can produce earthy or sophisticated looks. Pumpkins and squashes painted bronze, gold or silver are big hits. Black and white gourds also are hugely popular.

During the holidays or at other times of the year, gourds can be placed at an entryway, set on a sideboard or collected and used as a dining table centerpiece. Those who create such pieces, including Marya Blocker, Trudy Mercy Brown, Regina Daizei and Laurie Cooper, say working with them is an inexpensive undertaking that provides lots of satisfaction.

Marya Blocker

Marya Blocker likes natural things, she says. Blocker touched gourds at a local farmers market and realized they felt a lot like wood. Two months ago, she looked at them, still in the box she brought them home in. Their color and texture reminded her of autumn.

She carved leaves on one. Then she decided to design others by drilling holes in them with the tiniest drill bit she could find. She puts LED bulbs, which don’t get hot, under them to cast a light shadow on walls and ceilings in the pattern of the holes she drills. The first was a giraffe for her son. Now she is designing some for sale at Rick’s Lighting in West Ashley.

Blocker, who has Native American ancestors, isn’t new to gourds, but she is new to carving them. She sometimes paints freehand and at other times sketches out her designs. “I figure out the design I want. I sometimes sketch it out.”

Trudy Mercy Brown

Painting pumpkins recently has picked up steam, says Trudy Mercy Brown of BlueCopper Interiors, a Mount Pleasant design firm. It’s no longer just about painting funny faces, she says.

Many of those being made now can be used through the upcoming holiday season, Brown says. The popularity of painting pumpkins is due in part to websites such as Houzz and Pinterest. You don’t have to buy a decorating ideas magazine to see such things. Now you just go on the Internet.

Washing the pumpkin was all the preparation she needed to do, Brown says. She used a combination of acrylic paint with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint from Charleston Revisions in Mount Pleasant for color.

“I first painted it charcoal gray with silver accents, then I decided that was more formal than I wanted for this year,” says Brown, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers. “It would have been great with mercury glass accents and silver table settings. I’d use it like that if I were having a formal party.”

Brown decided to repaint the pumpkin in mustard yellow and lime green with dots, a design that made it cheerful and casual, she says. It now coordinates with her dining chairs and draperies. To make the painted pumpkin pop, she placed it on burlap, then put pine cones and magnolia leaves around it.

“When painting, you’re only limited by your imagination,” Brown says. “I did read somewhere about preserving pumpkins, but I didn’t preserve mine. If you don’t like what you paint, just paint over it. The possibilities are endless. ”

Regina Daizei

When Mount Pleasant artist Regina Daizei realized her parents missed their old home after downsizing, she decided to do something about it.

Daizei painted a gourd with the image of their former home and garden to remind them of the great memories they made there.

“I enjoy taking things from nature and finding uses for them rather than using something mass manufactured or made of plastic,” she says. “Using gourds helps both the farmer and the artist.”

That first painted gourd was done in 2008, and soon she was painting them to commemorate anniversaries, towns and memorialize images from nature. Her gourds are purchased cleaned, dried and ready for painting. She carves holes in some to give those who receive them the option of using them as birdhouses.

Daizei takes inspiration for images she paints from photographs, she says. The final product usually ends up hanging on a screened porch. She notes that in addition to being painted, images can be created on gourds with carving, staining and wood-burning techniques.

Laurie Cooper

“I thought it would be a great way to make a ‘French pumpkin,’ ” half jokes Laurie Cooper, owner of Charleston Revisions, when asked why she stenciled a gold fleur-de-lis onto a pumpkin she painted.

Her only preparation was wiping off the pumpkin and painting it in an aqua shade using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, sold in her Mount Pleasant shop.

Painting pumpkins also comes in handy for those whose carving skills are not what they wish, Cooper says. Stenciling is good for those not particularly adept at designing freehand. Both can make a beautiful centerpiece for any occasion.

“I would probably do multiple ones and put them together as a centerpiece for your big holiday feast,” she says. “That’s a good way to repurpose pumpkins that were not carved for Halloween.”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.