Minimalist Halloween Decor Proves Less is More in This Arizona Home

·5 min read

On summer weekends, Liz Roth and her family eagerly pack up the car for the two-hour drive north to their cool cabin in the woods and a reprieve from Phoenix's 115-degree temperatures. But in the fall, as the weather cools and Halloween nears, they're happy homebodies—and overall just happy. "Something about Halloween sets the tone for fall and all the holidays to come," Liz says. "It gets us excited about a new season."

And so begins the chili cookouts, baking with kids, and for Liz, the decorating. A pro at seasonal design; she shares decorating stories on Instagram @desertdecor. Toward the end of September, she dresses rooms in an autumn layer. Neutrals, like feathery pampas stems, keep the look low-key and complement the home's subdued palette. A few weeks later, she's in Halloween mode, hanging witch hats and accenting fall displays with spiders. "This way, it's easy to just take away the Halloween layer and leave the fall décor through Thanksgiving," she says.

Indeed, simplicity is part of Liz's strategy. She's light-handed with Halloween decorations in most rooms, giving her time to focus her energy on the front entry, the most-seen space. "It's my signature area to style," she says.

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"When people walk in, this is what they see, so I like it to be impactful," Liz says. She reimagined the family's catchall space as a witch's drop zone. The broom, shoes, and hat on the stool give the impression of a witch having just arrived. "I always shop my home first and try to get creative with what I have," Liz says. In the entry, for example, a pair of black dress shoes stand in as witch shoes. Fishing line (tied to an upper staircase railing) is the secret behind hats that magically float in the air. Faux spiderwebs are an easy-on, easy-off backdrop.

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Feathery plumes of wheat-tone pampas grass are the star attraction on the formal dining table. The neutral elements, including pumpkins and chunky candlesticks, stay out all fall. A golden spider is a classy nod to the spooky season.

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The buffalo plaid chair in the family room was part of the inspiration for the bold black-and-white scheme that threads throughout the Halloween decor. The custom hocus-pocus sign plays into the high-contrast look. A skeleton hand on a stack of books and faux spiderwebs draped on the antique-inspired clock reflect Liz's keep-it-simple decorating approach.

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A propped-open door, encourages second glances at the skulls, golden spiders, and graphic faux pumpkins displayed in a living room cabinet. Books with their spines turned to the back conjure images of worn and dusty tomes that have survived generations. Black gauzy fabric adds instant gloom.

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Pumpkins play prominently in both seasonal layers - mix real and faux pumpkins. "I think it elevates all of them," Liz says. For simplicity, her fresh pumpkins tend to be easy-to-transport mini or small ones. She uses real pumpkins sparingly and strategically, partially to avoid javelinas munching on them on the front steps and also to prevent another storage mishap. One year, Liz delegated post-Halloween packing to her husband, Mike. The following October, she opened a plastic storage tote to discover mold and realized her helpful hubby had accidentally packed real pumpkins in with the faux ones. "Lesson learned," she says.

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In the name of good-natured menacing, Liz leaves her mark on Mike's home office, when he's traveling for his job. He was pleasantly surprised with the scaled-down fall arrangement that includes a bouquet of fresh eucalyptus, pumpkins, and a faux eucalyptus garland. The pumpkins pop against the dark wall.

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Liz's obsession with bats shows in the media room, where paper bats seemingly take flight from behind the sofa and swarm onto the ceiling. "I've been collecting them for years," she says. "Over time, it evolved into 'Let's make it as grand as possible.'" Paper that isn't too stiff—or too flimsy—lets Liz bend the wings for an organic and realistic in-flight look. Double-stick tape holds the bodies in place. The buffalo plaid rug ($207, Wayfair) was a new purchase to help keep the graphic scheme flowing.

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Liz considers stairs another decorating opportunity. "I had this vision to have a little whimsical situation on the staircase," she says. Paper mice, scamper on the risers and along the baseboard. She cut the silhouettes from cardstock and secured them with double-stick tape. The only problem: The family's new puppy kept pawing them off and chewing them. Purchased vinyl cutouts are a quick way to get stair risers, walls, or windows in the spirit—an alternative to cutting your own. Stacks of old books, along with pumpkins and white candles ($6 for 2, Target), complete the scene.

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The remodeled gray and white kitchen is typically upbeat, but a Hitchcock-esque eeriness enters courtesy of crows. After propping the custom crow artwork on the range hood shelf, Liz let the theme soar by attaching paper crows to the wall, giving the appearance of birds flying in formation. "I always say less is more in the kitchen, but in this case, I was liking lots of crows," she says.

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"You don't need to go over the top, but I love to surprise my kids with a few holiday accessories," Liz says. In 11-year-old Owen's bedroom, has self-adhesive bats ground a white wall and visually connect with the black bed and wall-mounted lamp. The custom-made Haunted Mansion sign and seasonal pillows are easy-to-remove layers. Liz finds most of her small seasonal accents and inexpensive Halloween items at chain stores.