Haute Halloween: Holiday goes upscale

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Haute applies to more than couture fashion. It describes the impressive selection of Halloween decor for this haunted holiday that shows no signs of slowing down. The popular celebration, where costumes and candy pair with colorful home goods, has grown to include an added layer of sophistication for those who want to tell a more fashionable tale when decorating and entertaining for the occasion.

So, this weekend as you attend costume parties and go trick-or-treating with the kids, don’t be surprised if you see fewer plastic pumpkins and more new and improved Halloween accents bound to become coveted collectibles.

“This has been such a fun holiday, not just for kids. It’s adult-oriented as well. It’s a shameless excuse to have a good time without feeling bad about it,” says Tim Travis, owner of Goldner Walsh Garden & Home in the historic district of Pontiac.

You can choose your mood. “There’s scary Halloween and then there’s fun Halloween,” he says. Some décor easily transitions to Thanksgiving and beyond, like owl figures that work year-round and fabric pumpkins that celebrate the fall season.

This year, Travis is seeing more pumpkins made from various fibers along with smaller items like tiny skull heads and bones that can fill a glass jar. “We have more new Halloween stuff than Christmas,” he says. “Some are Christmas crossover like the white ornaments that work for either holiday.”

Handcrafted pieces have become highly collectible, like the nostalgic holiday ornaments by Bethany Lowe.

Vintage-inspired items add character wherever they land. “Christmas is centered around family and Halloween is centered around friends. It’s a different type of experience, so there are a lot more animated themes,” says Travis.

“Christmas is more predictable. With Halloween, you get anything from animated and fun to some dark.”

Whatever direction you select, natural elements blend well, like the Amish gourds and pumpkins they get from the west side of the state.

Pumpkin and gourd decorating classes let you create your own masterpiece, says Travis. “It’s pretty amazing to see what they make. Give them a pumpkin and a bunch of eyeballs and they surprise themselves.”

Whether it’s DIY or something you buy, you can’t go wrong with pumpkins. “It all goes back to Halloween being about friends and fun. It’s the one time of year where people can be absolutely outside of their element and no one judges them,” he says. “You get to show your alter ego that you don’t get to express often.”

His advice to others is to pick what you love. “It all goes together. It’s not like clothing, it doesn’t have to match,” says Travis. “Set up vignettes with different pieces that have the same feel. Don’t take it too seriously. Whatever grabs you will all come together.”

Skulls, Spode tell a tale

Over at Leon & Lulu in Clawson, where spirited displays always tell an original story, co-owner Mary Liz Curtin says, “In a nontraditional way, Halloween is still a traditional holiday.”

Skulls are a hot item this year. “I love realistic ones,” says Curtin, who also sells elegant Halloween hats that can be worn or incorporated into your displays. “One hat is a whole costume,” she says.

Seasonal entertaining pieces get your home in the Halloween spirit. “I love dessert plates on top of Spode or Wedgewood,” she says. “Play it up and make it fun for sandwiches and toast. Spice up your dining table.”

Candles set the mood; body parts set the tone. “There’s something scary about hands,” says Curtin, who places iron skeleton hand bottle openers on plates as decorations and party favors.

Lidded Mason jar glasses with straws are great for kids’ Halloween parties and they can be filled with popcorn or candy corn for a colorful visual. “It’s a very sophisticated form of a sippy cup,” says Curtin.

“Pumpkin candleholders are small and pretty and fun,” she says. “Displaying them together gives an idea of what we can do just by massing things.” The same principle applies to an array of skulls that sit inside a pedestal dish bringing fright tactics to new heights.

Transitioning into November

“Everything old is new again,” says Kevin Bryzek, who co-owns the Urban Merchant in Rochester with Joseph Biondo III. This unique shop, formerly in Romeo, specializes in European and vintage-inspired home goods.

Papier-mache pieces are a hit right now as are everyday items turned into Halloween figures like the skeleton and witch silhouettes they sell.

Their delightfully eerie displays that include a sequin skull topped with a French tiara show how Halloween and drama go hand in hand.

For seasonal arrangements that last a little longer, Bryzek incorporates everyday items like a dining table adorned with urns filled with velvet pumpkins and a metal turkey that takes you to Thanksgiving.

He transitions with subtle changes that are easy to achieve. “I keep my pumpkins and flip them around so you can’t see the face. Then I add more straw,” says Bryzek. “That way you don’t have to get rid of everything and you still have enough to display.”

A bookcase backed with wallpaper holds bottles with Orange Extract labels. Though not intended for Halloween, they certainly fit the theme.

“I’m always trying to bring in everyday things like mercury glass or a pedestal, so it’s not completely one thing like Halloween,” Bryzek says.

Other holiday goods may come in handy, like the Christmas beads Bryzek mixed with Halloween-themed pieces on a vintage salesman’s bed dressed with pillows embellished with bats and a skeleton Halloween candy bucket that sports a tiara.

Dressing classic sculptures like a bust with a vintage reproduction crepe paper mask on her head and moss on her shoulder provides an eerie effect.

A ghost figure in an old trunk surrounded by a tabletop sign that spells Wicked and a fringed Halloween tree made from paper strips proves that this holiday is not the time to hold back.

While seeking out unique Halloween decor is a great start, putting it all together is what really makes a statement. “People say, ‘Less is more.’ I say more is more,” Bryzek says.

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.