Decorating for the Holidays is one of my chief pleasures. Being American, I grew up with Halloween, and it’s always been a favourite because the decorations are chicer, and you get to dress up. Plus…candy!
Below are my best Styling tips for creating a Halloween décor schemes that are equal parts spooky and beautiful.
STYLIST’S TIP No. 1: Think Outside Traditional Colour Palettes
Most Halloween commercial decorations involve cartoonish “Boo!” motifs aimed squarely at Trick-or-Treaters. But with some creativity, you can break away from the boring Boo themes and tacky Jack-O-Lanterns. Martha Stewart changed all that. She encouraged us to look past grinning Jack-O-Lanterns and inflatable lawn ornaments to decorate with a slightly more sophisticated theme. Look past the typical orange and black and consider dark, moody colours paired with pastels or lighter neutrals or tarnished metals for a more refined, grownup look.
STYLIST’S TIP No. 2: Go Big!
Nothing makes a statement like some big cuttings of leaves or branches. I've cut down bare branches in past years and spray-painted them black. But this year, I've carefully cut branches from a favourite flowering tree at a local city college What? I pay taxes! 😬 I keep them fresh in florist containers filled with water until I'm ready to decorate. I also allow some of the lantern-like blossoms to dry naturally, letting the faded colours show. The effect is at once spooky but still pretty enough to serve as a focal point for a display.
The lesson here is that branch cuttings are free, make a huge impact, and are right on theme for Halloween. Save a few leaves or petals to scatter around your display to make it look more natural. Pull some bare branches together and paint them black if you can't find a flowering tree. They look fantastic as a graphic display.
STYLISTS’ TIP No. 3: Mix High + Low
A good Stylist knows how to mix cheap things with one or two “good’ things to make a lush display without breaking the bank. I've used a metal candelabra from Amazon with even cheaper plastic versions (spray-painted black) and set my wedding silver candlesticks next to them. Add some dried flowers with fresh ones, add a realistic-looking skull, and you have a gorgeously ghoulish vignette!
STYLISTS’ TIP No. 4: Use What You’ve Got
Every supermarket is awash with colourful, warty gourds and pumpkins of every type this time of year. The produce section will inspire you with seasonal fruits and vegetables in gorgeous colours. I also think mushrooms are inherently spooky and I will display an exotic species in a faux-bois cachepot for a haunted forest vibe.
Just think about the gorgeous palette that Mother Nature gives us: Golds, browns, dark greens, and deep ruby-reds all look amazing when grouped with some pastel "Fairytale" pumpkins. They're more expensive than the more common orange pumpkins but will last forever if you don’t cut them. And they have a second life as gorgeous centrepieces for Thanksgiving!
We have a wonky little cocktail table inherited from my grandmother that I trot out every Halloween because it's so perfect to hold a little vignette. Dried flowers with anything tarnished or Victorian works amazingly well, too. Look around the house and see what you can incorporate into your decorating.
For example, when we moved out of our rental three years ago, I made the mistake of laundering some linen curtains that were badly faded by the sun. They came out of the washing machine shredded to ribbons, but instead of throwing them out, I saved them and use them to decorate every year. They look fantastic when layered with cheap cotton “creepy cloth” over them, and the addition of our Dutch Girl bust and black candelabra read more like Miss Havisham than a traditional "Haunted House."
IDEA No. 3: Repetition. Repetition. Repetition!
I like multiples of anything good-looking! When I found these standing Crows a few years ago at Rite-Aid (a Chemist chain in Los Angeles). I became obsessed with them. You can find similar ones on Amazon here. They might be cheesy alone or in pairs, but grouped in a large murder (the collective noun for a flock of Crows!) they become positively Hitchcockian. I always buy a few before Halloween, then scoop up any remaining on the shelf on November 1st!
Likewise, this display of black butterflies I saw on Domino would be tacky alone or in pairs. But flocked together, they become a major décor moment (simultaneously creepy and chic!) with almost no effort. They’re inexpensive, easy to mount, and you can reuse them again next year.
The message is to think beyond the orange and black. Cast your eye wider and closer to home for decorating ideas. Almost anything dark, faded, tarnished, old-fashioned, or super-ornate will work. Look to old movies for inspiration. You probably have lots of things around the house to play with already! I'm not against a Big-Box Skeleton (or five). Mix them with sophisticated accessories and lift your decor out of kitschy into dead chic. 💀
Happy Halloween, Kitten!