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Good taste is a Halloween treat

  • The Baltimore Sun
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, at 8:54 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at 7:52 a.m.

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Halloween doesn’t scare Melanie Brzozowski into a fit of random decorating. She treats the holiday with the approach she takes to other seasonal events.

Two weeks ago, Brzozowski switched out the blue seascape decor from the warmer summer months in favor of a little black magic perfect for October’s spooky vibe.

“It’s not so much about the gore. It’s embracing a great holiday,” said Brzozowski, an event design consultant in Baltimore. “I am like a mad scientist with my Halloween entertaining: I add a cup of funky, a spoonful of elegance and a pinch of sparkle — always have to have sparkle — to get the proper balance with my decor, events and menus.”

Even though Halloween is usually associated with kitsch and gore, it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice good taste. Brzozowski strives for an upscale appearance without spending exorbitantly, which is why she shops at Michaels and Target. She also goes to Pinterest for some ideas, but mostly dreams up ways to incorporate her decorations on her own.

“Entertaining is an art and should be treated as such,” she said. “Even with the ‘fun’ holidays, like Halloween, you should still use the proper silverware, glassware, real linens, etc. If you are going to do something, you do it right.”

Carmen Brock, owner of Trohv, a home furnishings store in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, prefers a subtle approach. This year, Brock scattered white pumpkins along the porch and staircase of her home.

She suggests that customers decorate spaces such as mantels in a less flashy manner, perhaps skipping the traditional orange and black in favor of texture and nature.

“Do not over-clutter with a lot of pieces,” she said. “It’s good to keep it simple and monochromatic. Throw in something organic — from nature like driftwood colored sticks and dried leaves. Stay within that palette. Add some coziness and sophistication. And incorporate some other textures: burlap and dyed canvas.”

Philip Smith, a design consultant at The House Downtown in Baltimore, thinks that small touches using minimal materials can make a big impact during Halloween.

“Hang a single hanging light bulb from your front porch,” he said. “Give it an eerie, neglected look.”

Glamorize the typical white sheet ghost silhouette by using tulle. “If you have a little girl, use pink tulle,” he said.

Smith arranges Halloween figurines or small pumpkins along a table or mantel. He also anchors tablescapes with “really cool” topiary jars. Fill the jars with small gourds or candy corns. The more tiers and layers, the better, he said.

“If you’re not crafty, simplicity is very good,” he said.

Smith also suggests decorating a chalkboard in seasonal designs for an additional piece of art. In his home, he decorated his chalkboard with a “spooky” picture of his home surrounded by bats.

“It sounds kitschy, but it’s really nice,” he said.

Brzozowski has loaded her living room with sparkly pumpkins. She’s also filled vases with items such as plastic skulls and glass ghosts to give them a different look. She crowns each vase with pillar candles.

For food, Brock says the best way to incorporate that Halloween feel is through homemade treats. “Use orange frosting for a chocolate cake,” she says. “You don’t have to do a million things. Take one item and put a Halloween twist on it. It will also photograph well.”

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