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Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun With Retro Halloween Decor

Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun With Retro Halloween Decor

colorful chairs are featured in a family room decorated for a halloween party
Written by Kathryn Drury Wagner
Photography by Scott Mason

“I DO HALLOWEEN AS BIG AS I DO CHRISTMAS,” says Jennifer Perkins. Looking around her Austin, Texas, home, you might even be reminded of the film The Nightmare Before Christmas, as you will see a joyful mashup of Tannenbaum- meets-pumpkin patch. Jennifer is a writer and stylist who creates content for the DIY network eHow and more. She has hosted several programs for HGTV and DIY Network including Stylelicious and Craft Lab, and is the brand ambassador for Treetopia Christmas Trees.

Hutch featuring Halloween themed board games lunch boxes even a pennant from Salem Massachusetts
THIS HUTCH IS USUALLY FULL OF THE OUTSIDER AND TRAMP ART JENNIFER COLLECTS, but at Halloween time, it’s a different story. Jennifer displays Halloween-themed board games, lunch boxes, even a pennant from Salem, Massachusetts.

Halloween was not a big deal to Jennifer when she was growing up, but once she had children, now 8 and 6, that started to change. “My son has a peanut allergy and all year long we go to birthday parties [where he can’t eat peanuts].” In response, Jennifer started throwing epic Halloween parties.

kitchen table dressed for halloween
A BIRDCAGE SERVES AS A CENTERPIECE for the kitchen table, while the table runner is a piece of vintage quilt from a flea market. The garland at the window mixes her children’s artwork with vintage X-rays. In the background, you’ll see an ombre black-and-gold tree. “I got this gig as a brand ambassador because I was already obsessed with Halloween. I told them, ‘I know you have a candy-corn tree!’ I use trees all the time in Halloween decor because they are a great way to display things and easy to decorate. And it’s unexpected.” The table is from “my parents’ 1970s shag pad,” Jennifer says, and she found the chairs at Salvation Army.

The events, worthy of Willy Wonka, involved three months’ worth of prep to bake and freeze cute treats—all peanut-free, of course. “I like to blame my son for my Halloween addiction,” laughs Jennifer. “It’s really an excuse!”

gallery wall featuring custom family portraits
EACH SPRING JENNIFER GETS A CUSTOM FAMILY PORTRAIT DONE. That’s what this gallery wall was made from. She made it more Halloween-themed using ephemera. “Or you can add little touches to the portraits,” she suggests. “Stick mustaches and googly eyes onto the glass.”

“I’m not super hardcore, but by July I’ve usually firmed up the date for the party,” Jennifer says. By August, the Halloween decor start to come out, and Jennifer is in full swing. Luckily the house she lives in has two attics, one devoted solely to holiday items, the other to thrifted finds, so there’s plenty of room to stash everything the rest of the year.

gallery wall featuring alamo drafthouse cinema vintage chairs
JENNIFER ADDED BATS AND MICE TO HER GALLERY WALL to give it a more ominous feel for the haunting season. “I think of gallery walls as organic; they are always changing as pieces are coming in and out,” she says. The movie seats are from a vintage theater, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and Jennifer says, “I even left the gum on them.” Now that’s ominous!

“Since I work for DIY Network and HGTV, I have to get Halloween decorations down and Christmas up pretty early. It’s like a winter wonderland here by the end of October. When trick-or-treaters come to the house, they see a Christmas tree by the doorway. My children are seasonally confused.”

Thayer Coggin chairs stand out in a festive family room
THE TWO CHAIRS are by Thayer Coggin and belonged to Jennifer’s parents. “My parents used to live in this total 1970s shag pad. Then they moved into a pristine Victorian! I had the chairs reupholstered.” The bar is midcentury, and the owl is actually a vintage umbrella rack. Medical equipment, such as microscopes, stethoscopes and a model of an ear, add a mad-scientist touch.

Speaking of seasonal, she shops all year long for vintage Halloween items, especially at Round Top Antiques Fair. Her advice? Think Halloween in the spring, as dealers tend to mark prices up in the fall.

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She also suggests thinking about things that aren’t blatantly Halloween. “Things that are black, white and orange, in the right vignette, it could be Halloween. Like black diamond-point glass, I got into it,” she says.

“In Goodwill and thrift stores, comb the aisles, and once in a blue moon, you’ll find a papier-mâché jack-o’-lantern.” One of her prized possessions is her father’s papier-mâché jack-o’-lantern, from when he was a baby. “It’s labeled with his name and age (1) … My collection is not a collection born overnight.”

halloween party themed shelf featuring teal pumpkin project pumpkin
ON THE TREE, JENNIFER DISPLAYS VINTAGE BEISTLE items. That blue pumpkin is part of the Teal Pumpkin Project, a national effort to raise awareness about food allergies. Families place a teal pumpkin outside their home to indicate they have treats, such as glow sticks or small toys, that are safe for trick-or-treating kids with food allergies.

Surprisingly, Jennifer isn’t into dressing up in costumes for Halloween; she truly relishes the decor and baking. The vintage plastic masks from the 1960s and ‘70s she collects aren’t used for transforming into characters, but rather as artwork. Her kids know better than to mess with these hard-won treasures.

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