For some people, Halloween’s chief attractions are outside.
Pumpkin faces flicker on front porches. Kids in costumes walk the streets. There’s always a dark cat around, someplace.
Everything is black and gold — especially indoors. And design experts say fans decorating for the cheerfully grim holiday can use other options for creative and spooky living and dining rooms.
“What’s happening is some of the colors have changed, from orange and black to purple and neon green,” said Jerry Sykes, owner of the Party Warehouse in Albany. “They’re some of the more fashionable kinds of colors mixed in for Halloween, as opposed to just the orange and black. It sort of follows the fashion industry on color.”
Rudy Grant, co-owner of Experience and Creative Design in Schenectady, said people decorate for October. “It’s the second most-decorated holiday, after Christmas,” he said.
“It’s amazing, the holiday has just taken off,” Grant added. “I think back when we were younger and it was a children’s holiday. It’s becoming an adult holiday.”
Adults want ghosts inside their homes on Oct. 31, and Grant said it’s not hard to make a visual connection to the spirit world. “Some of the easiest tools to work with are white sheets and Styrofoam balls,” he said. “And you can go into any craft store and buy the netting that looks like webs in black and gray.”
Pumpkins don’t need scary faces to set a Halloween mood. Grant said small gourds can be creatively carved to contain votive candles. They can flicker on mantles or party tables.
Playing with light
Other colors have their places. Miniature lights — light-emitting diode technology, or LED lights — that work on batteries can help dress up a Halloween party table. No extension cords are necessary, so it’s a quick decoration move that takes up little space.
Some decorators say old reliable frights like the Halloween pumpkin get modern upgrades with battery-operated lights that flicker and fade. Without the candle, the pumpkin becomes a safer decoration, too — although traditionalists may miss the scent that comes with a flame-scorched pumpkin top.
Other lighting tricks help people locate their drinks in the dark. Sylvania, the company famous for light bulbs, is marketing coasters that glow different colors. They’re battery-operated; a pressure-sensitive button on the bottom of each coaster activates the light bulb when a beverage or other object is placed on top of it.
Party buff Kristin Peoples of the “Coupon Scribbles” website offered creepy foods for a Halloween buffet.
“Use cocktail wieners to create ‘ghoul fingers’ by slicing crosswise to make ‘knuckles’ and then boiling,” she said. “Serve with lots of ketchup and barbecue sauce.”
Another tip puts a plateful of “eyes” into the mix. “Deviled eggs are always fun at parties,” Peoples said. “This Halloween, use green food coloring for the filling. Then add a small slice of radish for the pupil and red food coloring on the egg white to give the appearance of bloodshot eyes.”
Making things creepy
Seattle-based chef and entertainer Heather Cristo likes other gimmicks. Baked red velvet cake in Mason jars — topped with torched marshmallow fluff — will remind some people of laboratory brains. They can be part of a buffet table decorated with spider netting, glitter-topped skulls and plastic spiders.
Andrea Correale, president of Elegant Affairs in New York City and Long Island, has planned parties for celebrities such as Mariah Carey and Kevin Spacey. She said it’s not hard to entertain ghosts and witches.
“One of the things I always like to do is get old sheets on the furniture, so it looks like an abandoned house,” Correale said. “And use red lipstick on the mirrors in the bathroom to write things like ‘redrum!’ or ‘boo!’” Fans of the Stephen King horror yarn and film “The Shining” will get the “redrum!” reference — it’s “murder!” spelled backward. “Boo!” is self explanatory.
“Change the light bulbs in the house,” Correale said. “And change the color to purple or red to make it look more ominous.”
A color change can also give pumpkins a sinister upgrade. “Spray paint them black or red and put them around the house,” Correale said. “You still carve them, but when you paint them black it looks really scary. It’s a really cool effect.”
Correale added that small fog machines can be found in party and novelty stores. “I put them by the front door, so it’s the first thing they experience as they walk in the doors,” she said.
Hosts or hostesses may want to set the mood outside. A small compact disc player hidden in bushes or behind open windows can play computer-downloaded music from the movies — “You want those scary sounds from ‘The Omen’ and ‘Psycho,’ ” Correale said.
Outdoor decorations for a Halloween party can also borrow a trick from Christmas — luminary light bags. “You can use black or orange bags, and line the driveway,” Correale said. “It’s not just about lighting. . . . It’s about creating an impact ambience.”
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