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Open house: Elegantly eerie Halloween decor

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Silhouettes, vintage oil portraits, one-of-a-kind finds, bird imagery, lots and lots of patina -- sounds like a "Country Living" cover of flea market finds and Etsy artwork, right?

It absolutely is, said Sara Morrow, the features director for the magazine -- but it's also the modern way to decorate for Halloween.

"That elegant look, with, like, a slightly creepy factor," she said, is dramatic -- maybe a little more than plastic spiders and faux-cobwebs.

"The cabinet of curiosities, the ravens, the silhouettes," she said, "even without Halloween, I feel like that Victorian look has become a huge trend in decorating, almost year-round."

"You might hang a bunch of these oil portraits on a gallery wall in your home. You don't know who they are, you don't have any connection with them, but they're this window to what came before," she said. "And some of those portraits can be downright creepy, too."

Halloween provides adventurous decorators with the perfect opportunity to tinker with trends.

Halloween decorations like raven figurines, candelabras, Edwardian-portrait zombie holograms or even feathered wreaths are part of the larger movement toward decorative items that feel more genuine, more authentic, more personal, she said.

"A lot of shops, like Michael's and Target, are selling products, especially holiday decor, that hark back to the early 1900s," Morrow said. "People want to feel connected to the past that way."

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Eschewing creepy green witch hands in candy bowls or gigantic plastic skeletons for something elegant and glitter-free doesn't necessarily mean Halloween decor has lost it's scream factor, Morrow said. The holiday has simply grown up a bit, and donned a more classic look.

"Halloween has always been a huge holiday for us at Country Living," she said, "but it seems over the years it's become more of an adult holiday than it ever has before. People aren't just looking for cutesy, cartoon decorations and costumes."

So what is hot these days? Skulls of any sort, Morrow said, birds --the creepier the better -- bat silhouettes, wreaths and black lace.

Even the humble, snaggle-toothed jack-o'-lantern is getting a makeover.

"It's amazing the things you can do with pumpkins when you think beyond carving," Morrow said. "In the past couple of years for Halloween, we've explored all sorts of different no-carve ideas. We're huge fans of painting pumpkins."

"We've done everything from painting a pumpkin a really beautiful sagey-green fall color and using a stencil to paint your door number on the pumpkin and putting it on your porch," she said, to decoupaging pumpkins with fall leaves.

So how can you add your own twist to Halloween? Here are other lessons from this week's Open House contributors:

Make it fun for kids and adults

"We love Halloween around our house because, for us, it's the official kick-off to the holiday season. Having said that, however, we have four tiny granddaughters, so all of our decorations are little-kid-friendly! My porch decorations (as well as the owl party favors) center around cute Halloween friends and my favorite fall elements: Pumpkins, hay bails and mums!" -- Robin Gay

"I balanced the kids' requests for spooky Halloween decor with my desire to keep things sophisticated." -- Sarah Macklem

"I chose the (styrofoam) pumpkins because they last longer. With styrofoam pumpkins, you can decorate early and use the decor year after year ... as a mom on a budget, I definitely love that." -- Jessica Kielman

Tell a spooky story

"My favorite piece(s) are the skull photos since they are from our vacation. My son loved visiting the ossuary on the outside of Prague and he is thrilled that they hang in our dining room for Halloween." -- Julia Konya

"I looked at the vintage typewriter, the table and old door and thought to myself, 'There are many holiday stories that can be told with these three pieces.' For Halloween, why not honor the great writer, Edgar Allen Poe? After that I began reading ("The Raven"). The object was to place the reader inside the poem ... the raven rapping at the window, the narrator lamenting over his lost love, Lenore, all while trying to preoccupy himself with a book of forgotten lore." -- Melinda Hartzog