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This Halloween, if you’re looking to make your house the spookiest on the block, you don’t need the biggest budget. A little time, creativity, and — experts assure us — a lot of skeletons can go a long way when it comes to upping the ante on this peak autumn holiday’s decor. For tips on how to get your house in the mood for Halloween, read on.
Create focal points.
Bob Pranga and Deb Staron, owners of Dr Halloween, a decade-old professional decorating service based in Los Angeles, California, have created spooky houses for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Pranga suggests creating a cohesive design and planning ahead so that the house feels coordinated rather than piecemeal. “In other words, pick a theme and color palette,” he says. “Pick strategic areas that can showcase your designs and not be in the way of functional living.”
You can still have a spooky house without having a scary house.
Once you have an idea of a theme, implement it throughout your house — in windows, around mantelpieces, on coffee tables, etc. — building vignettes that draw the eye in. You may want to dedicate certain parts of your home to animatronics or a large-scale scene (think: your favorite scary moment from a movie with lifelike characters and set pieces). Other areas can be smaller and more controlled: Scenes playing out in windows, for instance, support the overall theme or vibe (apparitions in windows that refer back to a ghost theme, for instance). You can also have images projected onto the side of your home that are tied to the larger idea that you’ve chosen for your spooky house.
Skeletons are the snowmen of Halloween.
Ubiquitous, supremely thematic, and never not on-brand, skeletons, Pranga says, “go with everything and make great filler to round out your designs.” Party City, for instance, offers ample skeleton decoration options.
A little time, creativity, and a lot of skeletons can go a long way when it comes to upping the ante on this peak autumn holiday’s decor.
If you’re not ready to splurge on plastic bones, the most cost-effective Halloween decor is spider webs, Pranga says. Homeowners can easily distribute webs on window sills, door frames, in trees, and across hedges without professional assistance (clean up, however, can be tantamount to removing tinsel at Christmas, he warns).
Consider depth and texture.
Although beefing up the spook-factor of your house with skeletons and spider webs is a great DIY hack, Pranga suggests adding dimensionality to your spooky house by layering textures and patterns within a display. LED color string lights from Spirit Halloween, he says, can help bring the entire experience together. “They come in beautiful, rich colors and make your display pop.”
Corn stalks, hay, and synthetic materials used in decorations can easily set fire, so pay attention while decorating and make sure that everything is kept far from any heat sources.
Natural materials work well, too. Hay bales, corn stalks, pumpkins, and other elements that can be tied in with the spookier side of things. A haunted scarecrow (Spirit Halloween has an animatronic version for sale!), a skeleton hanging menacingly over a hay bale, or a few wisps of dried corn stalk covered in cobwebs can set the stage for a very scary house. These items can be affordable and whimsical (and you can even keep them around for your post-Halloween fall decor once the holiday is over).
Decide on your level of spook.
You can still have a spooky house without having a scary house — but ultimately, the type of decor you are looking to embrace is up to you and you alone. “Be clear about the experience you are looking to create, whether it’s family-friendly or stay-off-my-lawn scary,” Pranga says.
Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to leaning into a theme, and you can opt for a house that is scary, thrilling, funny, fun, or all of the above. If you’re looking to attract adults and teenagers, a haunted carnival theme (on the scarier side) may work. But if spooky-not-scary (and younger-kid-friendly) is more your milieu, a fog machine from Party City still creates a Halloween-y vibe while getting young kids really excited. (Make it even more fun for the season by using their "pumpkin spice" fog scent!)
Set a timer.
To pull off the most efficient — and energy-saving — spooky house, Pranga suggests that you “put all of your displays on a timer or a remote. It makes the process of starting it all up a breeze.” Fog machines are often sold with their own separate timers, too, so that you can set them to come on at dusk for extra spookiness.
Setting up timers to coincide with the onset of darkness can generally help to make your home feel more dramatic. Set your lights, fog machine, sound machines, and animatronics to come on after sunset so that the spookiest time of day is greeted by the awakening of your spooky house.
Leave yourself plenty of time.
If you’re planning to decorate your home yourself, one thing you will need is time. Depending on the size and scope of your spooky house, you can expect to dedicate about four to six hours to decorating, says Pranga, so make sure to set aside ample time. This is especially important, he notes, because Halloween decor can be extremely flammable, so it’s best to take the time to be as careful as possible.
"Put all of your displays on a timer or a remote. It makes the process of starting it all up a breeze."
Corn stalks, hay, and synthetic materials used in decorations can easily set fire, so pay attention while decorating and make sure that everything is kept far from any heat sources. Safety, Pranga emphasizes, is the most important part of any Halloween setup. “Make sure you use updated electrical items like extension cords, power adaptors, and lighting,” Pranga adds.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Spirit Halloween