Dialing down the gore: A toned-down approach to Halloween decorations

For certain individuals, the more frightful and spine-chilling the Halloween decorations, the better. They revel in the idea of having a zombie girl with glowing eyes, fearlessly ripping the head off her teddy bear.

Even a towering 6-foot-tall figure, wielding a chainsaw and emitting bloodcurdling screams and buzzing, is seen as a thrilling addition to their Halloween ambiance.

The idea of decorating with such terrifying elements is seen as an integral part of the enjoyment and excitement that the holiday brings.

However, there exists another group of people, particularly those with young children, who find these aesthetics deeply disturbing and unsettling.

For them, the preference lies in celebrating Halloween without the inclusion of graphic gore and horror.

Jamie Morrissey, a parent residing in suburban New York, expresses a heartfelt desire to safeguard the innocence of her young children for as long as possible.

The eerie, mischievous, and malevolent aspects associated with Halloween evoke a sense of apprehension within her, as they touch upon subjects she deems unsuitable for her children’s comprehension until they have reached an appropriate age to discern the fabricated nature of such phenomena.

With three children under the age of three, Jamie’s concerns are rooted in a deep-rooted parental instinct to shield her little ones from the darker aspects of life, allowing them to revel in the blissful ignorance of childhood until they are equipped to grasp the concept of fiction versus reality.

If one is in search of a slightly more subdued yet still haunting and captivating aesthetic, there exists a plethora of decorations and themes to suit their desires.

Certain options draw inspiration from ancient scientific practices and the realm of wizardry, featuring celestial illustrations and elements reminiscent of an apothecary’s den.

Alternatively, some themes adopt a playfully gothic approach, evoking a sense of whimsical darkness. While the classic orange-and-black color scheme remains a popular choice, it is by no means the sole option available.

However, it is worth noting that wildlife experts strongly advise against the use of artificial cobwebs and dangling lights.

These seemingly innocuous decorations can pose a significant threat to animals, as they may become entangled and trapped within them, resulting in potential injury or even death.


Jessica Dodell-Feder, the executive editor of HGTV Magazine, has a distinct preference for a monochromatic color scheme when it comes to her Halloween decorations.

She finds delight in incorporating natural elements with a slightly eerie twist, such as bats, snakes, bugs, or Venus fly traps.

Dodell-Feder envisions black-painted branches emerging from an urn and framed faux moth specimens adorning the walls.

She even suggests using black-painted faux snakes as table runners, giving a spine-chilling effect. On the other hand, if you are inclined towards a more nostalgic and vibrant Halloween, Kara Whitten, a professional crafter from Austin, Texas, has a plethora of ideas on her website, akailochiclife.

Whitten offers vibrant garlands adorned with multicolored pumpkins or phrases like “Hocus Pocus” or “I Put a Spell on You.” She also provides step-by-step instructions on how to spatter-paint faux pumpkins in eye-catching day-glo colors.

Moreover, Whitten suggests a fun craft activity that both kids and adults can enjoy together. By submerging white tapers in warm water until they become pliable, they can be bent into curvy shapes.

Adding facial features with a permanent marker and allowing them to cool and harden again will result in charming candle ghosts for the table. For a detailed demonstration, Whitten has created a DIY video on her blog.

Betsy Cribb Watson, Southern Living’s esteemed senior homes and features editor, holds a predilection for the captivating allure of fall colors.

In a departure from the widely celebrated Halloween festivities, Watson finds solace in embracing the bountiful array of nature’s hues that this season brings forth.

With an artistic eye, she gravitates towards the soothing sage greens, the warm and fiery burnt oranges, the radiant golden yellows, and the rich and earthy chocolate browns.

By eschewing the ghoulish motifs that often dominate Halloween decorations, Watson allows herself the luxury of savoring her chosen adornments from the commencement of fall all the way through the cherished Thanksgiving holiday.

In doing so, she creates an atmosphere that seamlessly transitions from one season to the next, exuding an ambiance of elegance and refinement.


However, Watson acknowledges that it is also not enjoyable to be a Halloween Scrooge. In her search for the perfect blend of sweetness and spookiness, she has discovered the handmade ghosts from Mollie Jenkins Pottery.

Mollie Jenkins, a talented ceramic artist from Columbus, Georgia, stumbled upon the creation of these unique ghosts during a fall semester while pursuing her B.F.A. at Auburn University.

Inspired by her mother’s love for holiday decorations, which included spooky Halloween candlesticks and large terracotta jack-o’-lanterns, Jenkins decided to put her own spin on these traditional items and created her whimsical ghosts.

Since then, her little specters have gained a devoted following and consistently sell out every year on her website.


Are you planning to host a spooky soiree and want to create a Hogwarts-inspired ambiance? Balsam Hill offers battery-operated “floating candles” that can be hung over your party table or entryway.

They also have stacked black pumpkin lights with cat faces and glittery black twig trees. If you’re looking for a mantel or door decoration, Crate & Barrel has a twiggy, matte-black wreath.

Alternatively, you can create a modern Halloween village using their matte-black haunted houses. For unique glassware and napkins, check out Lauren McIntosh’s collection for Anthropologie, featuring illustrations of a fortune-teller’s palm, ravens, night-blooming flowers, and mystical moon and star patterns.

Ceramicist Francesca Kaye has also collaborated with Anthropologie, offering trays, mugs, lanterns, and a candelabra adorned with bats, cats, owls, and ravens.

Dodell-Felder suggests a party idea inspired by the movie “Beetlejuice,” with black-and-white striped decor, neon green elements, drinks served on dry ice, and old-timey portraits on the walls.

For an elevated Halloween party, Caroline Utz, The Spruce’s editorial and strategy director, recommends setting up a tablescape with luxurious textures like velvet and adding orange, purple, and green candlesticks in various shapes and sizes.

To create a “Night at the Museum” vibe, consider incorporating sculptured Greek or Roman busts into your decor.


Emily Reaman, an interior designer based in San Francisco, leads a busy life juggling her professional career and the responsibilities of being a parent to a preschooler.

While her son has a fondness for all things “spooky,” Emily approaches her decorating choices with caution and thoughtfulness.

She recognizes the importance of creating a safe and inviting environment for her family and guests, steering clear of cobwebs or hanging skeletons that might be too overwhelming for her young child.

However, she still embraces the spirit of the season by incorporating subtle yet festive elements into her home decor.

One of her favorite traditions involves adorning the trees with twinkling lights, adding a touch of enchantment to her surroundings.

Additionally, Emily and her son engage in a creative activity by decorating gourds with paint and glitter, which they proudly display throughout the Halloween season.

These beautifully embellished gourds then find a special place on their Thanksgiving table, serving as a cherished reminder of the joyous celebrations they shared as a family.

Emily’s thoughtful approach to holiday decorating exemplifies her commitment to creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere while also nurturing her son’s interests and creativity.