By Andrea Gable & Photos By Josiah Connelly
Beware: Halloween is not just for trick-or-treaters anymore. Shifting from a traditionally kid-centric holiday, Halloween has grown to provide just as much appeal for adults. For one night of the year the kid in all of us is able to let loose our inhibitions as we put on a different persona with the flip of a mask.
It’s much the same with a house. For a change of pace, living spaces can temporarily become both stylish and spooky, as long as you’re not scared of a little interior redecorating. Local resident Sheri Hess proves it doesn’t take any black magic to conjure up a successful Halloween bash for her Great Waters neighborhood. Each year she transforms her house into an eerily elegant forum for fall entertaining. She employs creative ideas to dress up her rooms that are both easy and inexpensive.
Many of her embellishments are gathered from local discount stores and fabric warehouses, accumulated throughout the year in preparation of Oct. 31. “I love picking up stuff throughout the year and thinking about how I can use it,” she says. Hess uses her finds to accentuate many items in her everyday home décor. She adds feathers to flower arrangements, black crows to bookshelves, and tattered cloth to curtains to create festive focal points in every room. When it comes time for the party Hess starts out with a bang. On the front lawn a skeleton grins at incoming guests behind the wheel of a classic Plymouth hot rod convertible, on loan from neighbors Jim and Suzi Bauch. Like oversized trick-or-treaters they come in costume. If not Hess has plenty of witches’ hats to go around.
“It’s a hoot to see some of the stuff our neighbors come up with,” says Hess who awards a prize to the best costume each year. “Some are just so darn creative, and sometimes hilariously risque.” Once they hit the entryway eyes from behind temporary masks attached to the painting in the foyer follow them into the living room. There white sheets draped over couches and chair give the room an air of an abandoned house. The sheets are one of Hess’ favorite ideas because they allow for a quick and easy, yet dramatic transformation of the room. The kitchen and dining area are the hotspots of any Halloween party, and Hess uses these spaces to carry through the home’s bewitching vibe.
Here the sweet treats and appetizers can become decorations in their own right: carrots can become witches’ fingers, Raisinets can become bat droppings, and a red velvet cake can be molded into a skull. Different food and drink stations encourage guests to mingle as they pick their poison in front of the kitchen’s haunting mural. In the dim light her dining room has the ambiance of a funeral parlor. Her husband Bob constructed a wooden replica of an old-fashioned coffin, worthy of Dracula himself, to serve as the main centerpiece on the buffet table. Stringed lights covered with dark, filmy cloth give an eerie glow to the table’s offerings.
To give height to the dishes displayed inside, Hess uses cake plates and tiers hidden beneath the fabric. At the end of the night, Hess does not let her guests leave empty-handed. Her adult-friendly treat bags are stashed with dark chocolates, mini liqueurs, Halloween fortune cookies, and other homemade treats. Ironically, Hess says she never had any traditional trick-or-treaters ring her bell on Halloween, even when they lived in the Atlanta suburbs. “I think that’s part of my problem,” she laughs. “This is me overcompensating.” • Andrea Gable is the editor of Lake Oconee Living.