My latest article for the Kansas City Star:
Somewhere around the age of 35, I lost interest in decorating for Halloween. As a photo stylist, I had the added pressure of arriving in the cleverest costume, which led me to declining most party invitations.
I suddenly I found myself turning all the lights out on Oct. 31 and planning a long dinner away from home, all the while hoping my house wouldn’t be egged and toilet-papered while I was gone. But then I became a retailer.
The customers in my neighborhood shopping center demanded I pay more attention to fall and Halloween decorations. The problem was, I wasn’t much into selling cute little pumpkin people with striped leggings. I wanted to put a new twist on ghoulish styling that would fit my store’s aesthetic.
My first plan of attack? Bring out the antiques — the older the better. This is one time the broken, the ripped and the crooked work for you. Dissecting an idea or theme is one way to come up with an unusual idea for seasonal decorating. For me, it means thinking of all things old.
One season, I started with Grandma’s squeaky rocker, then added old tapestries and cargo trunks, and the beginnings of a vignette started coming to life. But take it one step further: What would be in the trunk? Old letters, a faded wedding dress, high-top shoes, top hat, cane, gloves and books. What would Grandmother have in her parlor? Old portraits, smoking pipes, glasses and velvet drapes.
Once the elements are put together, it’s time to add your not-so-typical Halloween items. Old clocks are one of my favorites, as well as crystal liqueur decanters, cameo brooches and tattered needlepoint pillows. Add a black crow or owl, fake spider or taxidermy and there you have it — an adult version of a Halloween display.
Each fall, I build around a different theme for the store’s seasonal decorating. Any one of these retail ideas could easily work in the average home.
My first year, I chose to design around wonderful velvet crows I found, calling it the Year of the Raven. I decided to forgo the typical orange color of Halloween by using only black and white. A large chalky Grecian bust was placed in the center of a dining table, fallen branches were piled high in urns around her and dozens of black crows were perched on her head, shoulders and throughout the trees.
Another year, we titled our event Haunted Opera, with candelabras and drippy candles, tattered lace curtains blowing through salvaged window frames, crystal chandeliers hung low and torn sheet music covering the tabletops. Black masks- also a great decorating item- hung over sconces or in dried arrangements.
This year is our Freak Show theme, which is just a play on words for a creepy carnival display. We’ve used crazy old doll heads as shades atop small lamps. Oversized masks are hung like portraits and fun house mirrors are displayed under a makeshift circus tent. The image above is complied of velvet birds and old ladders. Imagine this image against the side of your garage for all the neighbors to see.