Spirited DECOR

The Baltimore Sun

When it comes to home decor, Halloween is the time to let your imagination run wild. From eerily spooky to fancifully playful to utterly elegant, there are endless fun themes for every age and taste, and endless resources with which to execute your ideas.

This is the time to let the kids get involved if you're going the tyke route, or the time to indulge in your grown-up fantasies whether ghoulish or upscale. Whichever direction you decide to go, you don't have to spend a fortune for fabulous results, though you can acquire fun new props. As the eclectic array of house decorations in every neighborhood illustrates, this is the quirky season that gives each homeowner the opportunity to express his individuality.

We've chosen three Baltimore-area designers from three neighborhoods to decorate their own homes in their own styles, offering the rest of us inspiration and ideas.

Over the top

Joe Ennd of Bolton Hill has been event planning in Baltimore for the past five years, producing parties, decorating homes for the holidays and advising clients on everything from flowers to decorating to props and menu planning. The owner of In Any Event, he is brimming with ideas for all sorts of celebrations and works with clients to come up with results that will reflect their tastes. While Ennd's preference for his Bolton Hill townhouse's Halloween facade is over-the-top "wicked," as he describes it, he is also known for the subtle elegance of some of his designs.

Because Halloween is one of his favorite holidays, Ennd owns a lot of props that he uses in various ways from year to year. The ones he used this year are in a scary, spooky vein with the entire house draped in black and white fabric (sheets and black plastic).

"I wanted to give an old-fashioned overall feel, a touch of Phantom of the Opera, which I love. For that reason, I thought the black and white background would make a good foundation for the overall design," says Ennd. "All the drapes are attached from inside the windows, either kept in place by the windows themselves or with weights inside the house. I didn't touch the brick or mortar. I only have one nail in each of the double front doors of my house, for different door designs and occasions."

Most of the other props Ennd used - a giant spider on the front door, rubber skulls, masks and fake tombstones - are readily available at local party stores. Ennd used skull props, wired onto hanging drapes, to fashion full figures of ghouls and ghosts, and made scary rubber masks mounted on sticks in his window boxes into three-dimensional props topped with hats and wigs. Because Ennd managed to decorate his house's whole facade in Poe-like creepiness, it's a showstopper on his street.

"It only took me a day to do, though," he says, "as the assembling of it was quite easy. I needed no more equipment than sticks and wire to put it together. And I had fun doing it."

Quirky fun

Judy Hillman, artist and owner of The Milk House, a home-and-garden gift shop in The Shops at Kenilworth, has been dealing in home-and-garden design for more than 20 years. The shop, which specializes in a variety of wreaths and table arrangements made from silk and dried flowers, berries, artificial fruit and the like, works with clients to create custom designs for every occasion.

Hillman describes her design style as "quirky, eclectic and different." Certainly the design she created for her Timonium Cape Cod-style house is all of those things. She's gone for a fairy-tale look, appealing to a juvenile audience. Instead of ghouls and ghosts, there's a life-sized topiary horse in the front yard, decked out in a pirate hat with a vulture on its back. Carved jack-o'-lanterns are scattered throughout the front and side yards with a couple on the stairs leading to the porch. "I mixed real pumpkins with artificial ones I had on hand, which limits the number of real pumpkins you have to purchase. And, mixed together, you can't really tell the difference."

Next to an eclectic bunch of brooms on the porch, a sign reads: "Witches, leave your brooms at the door." On a nearby bench, an egg basket full of gourds is topped with what looks a lot like a real chicken. And above the bench hangs one of the silk and dried flower wreaths with green apples, pink mums and touches of orange from The Milk House. Hillman placed jack-o'-lanterns in her window boxes atop pansies and mums in reds and pinks with some dangling bittersweet.

Hillman used her artistic talents to paint owls on the inside of her windows in water-based acrylic paint - a great way to create affordable, one-of-a-kind decoration that is also easy to clean.

Floral elegance

Typical of her style, Christine Rubin, owner of Fleur de Lis Florist, aimed for simple, natural elegance when it came to decorating the facade of her Baltimore bungalow. "I'm adamant about using only fresh flowers of the highest quality," she says, having chosen sunflowers; dahlias in reds, fuchsia, burgundy and pink; hydrangeas; and roses. To these, she attached long, cascading satin ribbons - "a tendrily effect," as she describes it, "to blow in the breeze." Rubin's preferred source for flowers is farmer John McKeown of Locust Point Flowers at the Saturday Waverly Farmers' Market.

In keeping with her affinity for unique, textural arrangements, she placed buckets of "crazy, wild, stalky flowers" - green peegee hydrangea, rust amaranthus, horsetail, curly willow and big faux coral and yellow sunflowers - on either side of her doors.

designers' tips

Joe Ennd

* Use first what you already have on hand - props from past Halloweens or other holidays, like Christmas lights, masks, wigs, sheets and large pieces of fabric. Add to that, if necessary, with inexpensive purchases from local party stores.

* Don't compromise the facade of your house with unnecessary nails or electrical tape that will leave permanent marks on your home. Decorations can easily be attached through windows or planted in window boxes with sticks and wire.

Judy Hillman

* Combine real and artificial flowers and pumpkins as a way of expanding on what you already have. Once mixed in, the artificial props take on the look of the real thing, and you can reuse them from year to year.

* Paint your windows with easy-to-use (and easy-to-clean) water-based acrylic paints using your favorite Halloween themes. If you're not confident of your artistic abilities, you can use stencils from a crafts or party store.

Christine Rubin

* Literally look in your own backyard. You can use hydrangea, branches, foliage and berries cut from your yard. Also you can see what is available at your local farmers' market and incorporate flowers, pumpkins and gourds.

* A trip to a local crafts store is helpful for goods like ribbon and oasis foam wreaths.

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