Halloween, the holiday built around the twin pleasures of playing dress-up and eating too much candy, is obviously a hit with children.
But send invitations to your grownup friends and you’ll probably find they haven’t outgrown the urge to don creepy costumes and celebrate in spooky, theatrical style.
Turning your home into a haunted mansion is surprisingly easy, said interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of Flynnside Out Productions.
Just ditch the cheerful orange pumpkins and smiling ghosts for darker, more creative decor.
Flynn and two other design experts — Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs and Tiffany Brooks, the latest “HGTV Star” winner — offer decorating advice for a stylish and affordable party.
Cheesecloth evokes ancient mummies, while burlap brings to mind scarecrows. Both fabrics are inexpensive and lightweight, but sturdy, perfect for Halloween party tablecloths.
Call likes to use large sheets of brown craft paper on buffet tables or as a runner down the center of a dining table. Cluster small gourds (the darker and more oddly shaped, the better) along the runner, he says, then add a few large pillar candles.
Flynn says you can make your home’s entryway extra creepy by soaking large pieces of cheesecloth in tea, then shredding the cloth once it’s dry.
Hang the pieces from the ceiling above your porch or drape it from walls with a few well-placed nails to conjure up the feel of a haunted house.
Dark and dramatic
Brooks suggests spray-painting pumpkins glossy gray to create a glamorous centerpiece. Use orange only as an accent, Flynn said, perhaps adding a few orange napkins to an otherwise black and gray table setting.
Create a dramatic scene by spray-painting empty wine bottles in a matte black, then replacing the labels with your own creations: Using scrapbooking labels or cardstock and a Sharpie, come up with creepy names for the liquids supposedly in the bottles.
Flynn also recommends trolling thrift shops and flea markets for items that evoke dusty, dated Victorian style, or midcentury pieces that seem lifted from a ’60s Hitchcock movie.
Seek out secondhand treasures: real or fake taxidermy, stone bust bookends, antique dolls and toys, and vintage books and laboratory or surgical equipment.
If you’re lucky, you might even come across old mannequin heads. What was once a wig display can serve as an eye-popping Halloween centerpiece.
Fill vases with bare branches spray-painted black, tying a few small bats from a craft store to the limbs.
Flynn suggests slipping belts around the backs of chairs to suggest that dinner guests may not escape the table easily.