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Some people decorate for fun and other decorate for parties. Below is a room by room strategy
and suggestions for ensuring that unsettling things lurk in all corners of your home.

 

The Parlor

The Parlor

The parlor is the first room your guests will see and usually features a sitting area and a fireplace. The mantle is perfect place for a vignette that captures the eeriness of the home. Here, I used a wriggling snake wreath and bloody candles to add a wicked yet sophisticated touch.

Wreaths are easy to find, and even easier to make. To create a wreath, find a grapevine wreath at craft store as your base – they come in many sizes. Spray paint it black, orange, purple or any other Halloween color and let it dry. Using a glue gun adhere rubber bugs, snakes, spiders, bones or skulls, filling in areas with clumps of Spanish moss. Secure heavier objects with black wire from the craft jewelry department. You can glue just about anything to your wreath.

Another idea is to spray paint a large wreath ghostly white then adhere fingers, a severed hand, eyeballs or other body parts. Splatter the wreath with bloody red latex paint from the hardware store (small testers are available to purchase for a couple dollars) then position a meat cleaver in the middle tied with a ghastly bow.

The Living Room

The Living Room

The room where guests gather to sit, watch TV, or play games is a good place to illuminate with moody lighting. Replace every standard light bulb with orange, red or blue light bulbs. Make sure to consider uplighting, and downlighting. Place light fixture behind or below furniture to cause an eerie glow.

Drape tattered cheesecloth on tables and couches, and add a few battery powered candles. You can also drape furniture in painting tarps from the hardware store, and time it down with ropes, and create an attic feel right in your front room. Find a few old dolls from the thrift store or yard sales and stain them with diluted black craft paint; place on the couch when dry. For an extra gothic touch, add a few strands of menacing vines to the walls or furniture.

Since living rooms tend to be large, create one or two focal points with simple props like a skeleton sitting on the couch (in that corner of sectional where no one ever sits). Place a few Halloween books and magazines or a ouija board on the coffee table. Be aware that people who sit near props will likely play with them.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Counter space in kitchens are premium during parties, but open shelving and bars are a good place to create an apothecary of jars and bottles with questionable contents. Placing props in front of expensive kitchenware is also a way to keep guests from using your good China or liquor that's off limits.

Creating a good apothecary requires scouting for bottles and jars in home goods stores, garage sales or flee markets. Liquor, fancy water and vinegar bottles can be quite ornate.

Once you find a good variety of bottles, clean them well and remove existing labels with GooGone (some bottles are imprinted so you’ll need to cover those with paint or labels). Add Halloween labels from the crafts stores (Martha Stewart Crafts' labels are fantastic) or online at Etsy. You can also drip vivid colors of paint along the outside or stipple paint them with a rough sponge. Clear bottles could be filled with rubber bugs, black candy, or other odds and ends. Dark iodine from the drugstore either dripped or dabbed on will give clear bottles an aged look. Filling jars with strangely colored liquids and inserting things like cauliflower “brains” looks great but remember food can rot easily and smell.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Many Halloween addicts have an assortment of seasonal plates and drinkware collected over many seasons. (If you don’t, turn to the person on your left and them if they have any you can borrow.) If you love throwing parties, a great way to display this dinnerware is to set up a never-ending dinner party in your dining room – a room that’s often under utilized and forgotten. My dining room is located right by the front door, so setting up this table feels like I’m having a party all season long.

Start by finding a great tablecloth. Stores like TJ Maxx Home Goods, Target, and big department stores often have seasonal linens, but you can also start with a solid colored tablecloth and layer a few yards of sheer fabric on top. Jo-Ann Fabric carries many wonderful Halloween fabrics, and they’re often on sale throughout the season. You can also add a decorative runner and chargers if you want to be fancy. A few battery powered candles, a candelabra, some pumpkins, a spider or two, a severed hand, some bowls with bugs, and you’ve got a wicked tablescape. As a final touch, you can add a few placecards with ghastly names.

When it’s time for your real Halloween party, just clean the dinnerware and glasses and you are set to host.

The Bathroom

The Bathroom

Bathrooms offer a unique opportunity to isolate guests and unsettle them. Set up a portable MP3 player and download some haunting sound effects. Use cardboard to create a black silhouette, backlight it with a crimson red light and set it in the shower behind an opaque curtain or shower door. Coat your hand with fake blood and imprint the mirror being careful not to drip onto the porcelain sink because it will stain. If you switch out the lights in the bathroom with colored bulbs, make sure you have a second bathroom with bright light or a fixture you can turn on (in case of emergencies). Buy some inexpensive hand and bath towels and splatter them with red fabric paint.

Cabinets in bathrooms also allow for decorative vignettes, or small clusters of props that create a focal point. Remove some of the guest towels and group some jack-o-lanterns, with a few faux candles. (In general, avoid real candles which can be easily forgotten, knocked over, or catch costumes/wigs on fire.) Make sure to vary the heights so all the props aren’t sitting flat on the surface. To create a simple platform, stack books at various heights and cover with an old black tablecloth or other piece of fabric. Cut small holes in the fabric to route cords underneath and hide them from view. Fill in any gaps in the display with Spanish moss and stretch over edges to hang. You can also use artificial flowers or vines from the crafts store to fill in gaps.

The Patio

The Patio

The more guests you have, the more heat that those bodies will generate. Inevitably, some people will make their way outdoors to the patio or front porch. Adding dreadful decor to an outside area will make guests feel like they are still part of the party while getting fresh air, and it expands the capacity for smaller venues.

In all likelihood, you will be decorating ahead of the party so make sure your decor will weather the elements in rain and wind. Choose props made for outdoor placement and secure those props to the ground or fence using black wire, or rope and ground spikes.

Again, create an ambience with mood lighting,, draped tattered cheesecloth and stretchy spider webs. Fall weather is unpredictable and can change suddenly, so be especially careful if you include electric lights or props. You don't want your frightful fun to have a shocking turn.

The patio is also a good place to locate the bar, and the tub with ice and drinks. If anything spills just hose it down tomorrow.

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