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Spooky or sweet: choosing a theme for Halloween decorations

This undated photo provided by Party City shows a Halloween themed display.

Before they even know whether the candy will be top-notch or king-size, trick or treaters are drawn to houses decked out for Halloween. “When kids are trick-or-treating, that’s the first thing they see,” says Tanya Graff, style director at Martha Stewart Living magazine. “It’s fun when they see these amazing, decorated houses. It really makes it feel like Halloween. It makes your house look more inviting.”

Halloween offers the first big chance of fall to decorate – “the first big opportunity for people to really go for it,” says Graff. And you can go for it in different ways, from sophisticated to playful, subtle or over the top. Halloween decorations range from traditional harvest to family-friendly to maximum spookiness, with ghosts, ghouls, skeletons and more.
Any way you do it can make a big impact, and it doesn’t have to cost a chocolate-covered mint. When you’re creating a spooky scene, be sure to keep your theme consistent. “You want it to be unified,” says Barbara DeVos, category manager for Halloween decorations at the retailer Party City. “Whatever kind of theme you’re going for, you want all the lighting and all of the props to have the same kind of feeling.” And have a focal point that draws in passersby – “some kind of wow factor,” DeVos says.

Traditional harvest
For a simple and subtle look, try a wreath on your front door. Take a dried grapevine wreath, add moss, and give it a creepy-crawly twist by adding black plastic bugs and snakes. Or spray-paint the wreath black and add faux black roses, Graff says.
A seasonal harvest look is easy to get with pumpkins. Besides the traditional jack-o’-lanterns, you can add pumpkins to urns for a fall display, or turn carved pumpkins into outdoor vases for fall mums. The easiest idea, Graff says, is to place pumpkins up your front steps. “You could do different shapes, different colors, or ombre, starting in one color and graduating down to another,” she adds. With pumpkins now available in many different hues, you can create an ombre look with pumpkins ranging from gray to green to white, or peach to brown to orange.

Family friendly
For a fun and family-oriented look, think about adding color and smiling faces, says DeVos. “It’s having more color, like purple and orange and black tied in together, and having friendly witches,” she says. “There is no blood or death. It’s all about friendly pumpkins and friendly ghosts and scarecrows.” You can share a happy Halloween vibe using garlands or gel clings for the windows, DeVos says, or cute yard stakes or trick-or-treating signs.
Add some drama with paper-bag lanterns: Cut Halloween shapes or words like “Boo!” into black paper bags and put electric lights inside, Graff says.

Spooky and scary
There are so many decorations to choose from, including skeletons, skulls, reapers, ghosts, witches, bats, crows and other critters, not to mention semblances of blood and gore. For maximum impact, accessorize with spider webbing, lights and a fog machine, DeVos says. You can hang spider webbing from your roof to the ground and fill it with giant spiders crawling down, she said. Add to the scene by creating a crow-filled graveyard in your front yard with tombstones. “You can stick bones into the dirt so it looks like someone might be coming out,” DeVos said.

Bats, snakes and giant spiders can greet trick-or-treaters from a tree in your front yard. “You can put them onto the tree and have them hanging down, and have webbing and cloth coming down and drape it all over the tree,” she said. Skeletons can greet trick-or-treaters from rocking chairs or stools on the front porch; decorate around them with bones, skulls or cauldrons.-AP

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