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To Halloween and Beyond

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rick-or-treaters are on their way to your door, so why not dress your porch with a little spooky spirit? Decorating for Halloween doesn't just mean paper skeletons or mechanical cackling witches - get festive with these simple, expert-approved decorating ideas that will serve you well throughout autumn.

Delightfully Dark

Mar Jennings, a lifestyle expert, author and TV personality based in Westport, Conn., likes to spook up the house with a natural look. Take tree branches with their leaves intact and then use a black floral spray, available in any craft store, or regular spray paint to completely cover. Place them in urns and scatter pumpkins at the base. "It's a simple way to incorporate Mother Nature to Halloween design," Jennings says. "A very dark, black look but with interesting textures and natural colors that creep through."

Flower Power

Another way to makeover that carved pumpkin of yours is to make a pumpkin bouquet. Cut the top of the pumpkin like you normally would and then cut a piece of oasis floral foam exactly the same size. Simply add garden clippings. Jennings recommends using mums, long Cat Tails, hydrangeas and other plants to make this whimsical bouquet not just perfect for Halloween, but as a nice decorative for the fall season.

Web Design

Instead of buying a spider and its web, try making it yourself. According to Jo Pearson, a craft expert for Michaels Stores, the nation's largest specialty retailer of arts and crafts materials, it's easy to do. "Spider webs are inexpensive and add great effects," Pearson says. To make a spider, simply take black garbage bags and fill them with newspaper to form the spider's abdomen and then its individual legs. For the web, Jennings recommends using either rope or twine, depending on what size you would like it to be. "Take eight pieces of rope or twine, each three feet long. Lay one piece flat on a table and take another piece to make a cross and tie at the center," Jennings says. " For rows, take another piece and start in the center, and work clockwise then tie it in the end where you started. Go out a couple of inches and go again. Add as many rows as you like, but make sure you're following a web design so don't tie too tight. It's a web, not a net." To finish the look, hang your web from ceiling to wall by a nail, hook or simple thumbtack.

Mini Size

It's not always about going big and scary. Small, fun details can give a lot of look as well. For a fun project, ask a friend to lie on the floor and take masking tape to trace their body on the floor like a crime scene. "It makes a big impact," Jennings says. "And it's just basically using masking tape. I like to do something funny like trace them holding a martini glass."

Stack Attack

Pearson recommends stacking your pumpkins on your porch steps or on hay bales to add dimension and to play with the look of a pumpkin patch. "Carve your family portraits or draw onto the pumpkins with paint markers," Pearson says. "Add hair and clothes to really make a statement."

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