Brighten spirits with a Halloween bash

This story originally appeared in the Wednesday, Sunday, October 8, 2006 edition of The Kansas City Star

Q. I just moved to a new city and want to have a Halloween party so I can meet some of my new neighbors. Do you have any easy decorating ideas? -- Susan from Dallas

A. Hosting a trick-or-treating party is a fabulous way to get to know the neighborhood gang. That’s exactly what my friend Lynette did when she and her family moved to Kansas City from Washington, D.C. The first year, they invited everyone on their street to an hourlong potluck dinner before the goblins and ghouls hit the pavement to trick-or-treat. It was the fastest party in the West, but it was such a hit that it has become a neighborhood tradition.

Before the party, Lynette transforms her dining room table into a spooky buffet featuring the Halloween gingerbread houses she and her kids create, like a creepy candy castle or a haunted village. To make her dining room chandelier festive, Lynette filled hanging glass votive cups with candy corn, topped each with a small gourd, then suspended them from the arms of her chandelier with black ribbon.

There are lots of other quick and easy decorations you can use to make your trick-or-treat party a howling success. Paint a thin layer of clear glue on some small pumpkins then dust them with silver glitter. Cluster the sparkling gourds in a compote for a simple but sweet centerpiece. To give your candelabra singular charm, top each taper with a small pumpkin that has a hole bored through its center, then insert a candle. Or spell out the word "BOO" on white or green pumpkins, grouping them at your front door.

Don’t send your new friends off without a party favor. How about papier-mâché pumpkin totes filled with candy? Or pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies inscribed with each guest’s name?

If you don’t have any trick-or-treaters in your house, host a Hat-o-ween party. A customer of mine told me she and her friends wanted to throw a masquerade party for Halloween, but they couldn’t get their husbands to wear costumes. The men would, however, don a baseball cap or a cowboy hat. Thus, the Hat-o-ween party was born. Every year, the bash gets bigger and guests become more creative with their crazy headgear.

Q. I love Halloween decorations, but the traditional orange-and-black accents don’t look good with the colors in my home. Is there another direction I can go when I decorate for Halloween? -- Rita from Scottsdale, Ariz.

A. Since Halloween is such a blazing-hot holiday in the world of home decor, designers are coming up with a witch’s brew of home accent items. You’re no longer confined to orange and black but can choose from a wide array of imaginative pieces in a host of colors and styles.

If you’d like a playful look, go with vintage Halloween decor this year. Retro is all the rage. Innovative artists are creating replicas of kitschy Halloween pieces from the early 20th century that are so cute I couldn’t get enough of them at market. I also went wild over papier-mâché figurines of witches, cats and pumpkins. Straddling the line between darling and distressing, these unusual collectibles give Halloween an entirely new look and feel. Tuck them into a table centerpiece or showcase them on an entry table to lend a touch of whimsy to your decor.

If your style leans more toward sophisticated than silly, go with a Halloween color palette of cream, black and silver. Here’s an idea for a killer display on your buffet or entry table: Place an antique silver teapot on a black wire plant stand and surround it with a jumble of white gourds. Fill an apothecary jar with marshmallows. Put a raven figurine atop a pedestal and encase it in a large glass hurricane. Finally, rest a silver tray behind your eerie grouping for a shimmering backdrop.

Need a centerpiece? Top gothic black risers with silver trays that hold raven figurines and black pillar candles. Mix in two ornate silver candelabras with black taper candles, and you have a chilling look that’s anything but ordinary.

"There are lots of other quick and easy decorations you can use to make your trick-or-treat party a howling success."

From United Feature Syndicate. Mary Carol Garrity owns home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and is the author of several best-selling books on home decorating. Write to Garrity at