I Took My Front Porch from Blah to Spooky Halloween Fun on a Tight Budget

published Oct 9, 2021
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It’s tough to pick a favorite part of Halloween. From the pumpkin spice lattes to the elaborate costume plans, I live for it all. Each year I especially look forward to spookifying our house, using the decorations I’ve collected over the years and new little touches that make every autumn slightly different. My main display area, the front porch, is what I try to make a true showstopper — after all, it’s the only part of the house trick-or-treaters and other passersby see. 

At the beginning of spooky season, the porch area is a tangle of dying summer plants and drooping trees. What was once looking lush and bright at the peak of the season is now overgrown, and making my house look like an accidental haunted mansion. Fortunately, Halloween lends itself well to utilizing some of those summer porch items in a new, purposefully dilapidated decorating scheme. Here’s how I made the most of what was left around to create a memorable and unique front porch display.

Repurpose seating into immortal rest areas

Make the most of that Adirondack chair — it’s the perfect home for a skeleton! You can theme your new porch-dweller  with an adult costume from years past (we use an old pirate outfit for ours), or add a prop for some personality. Let them spend the afterlife reading a copy of “War and Peace,” or clutching one last wine glass. 

Hunt around for natural textures in your own yard

Fall is a wonderful time for low-maintenance plants like mums, marigolds, sunflowers, and delightfully spooky ornamental kale. If you’re opposed to any and all watering, you can still utilize natural textures with hay bales, cornstalks, and, of course, pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. When you’re faced with that end-of-summer yardwork, take a second look at what’s in the bin. Spindly birch branches can be clustered together to create the illusion of spooky trees, and will cast fantastic shadows.

Fill those plant containers (but don’t bother potting anything!)

Planting containers can be repurposed to hold pumpkins, or can be extremely creepy with a fake limb sprouting out. Use pots and containers that were holding annual plants over the spring and summer, and remove all of the plant and roots. Leave the soil in the pot for elevation, so you don’t have to fill from the bottom. Just make sure that the dirt is dry before adding pumpkins or gourds on top of it, or they will quickly rot. You can also place fall potted plants in these containers. Since they won’t be around long enough to worry about roots, just dig up enough dirt to place the plant with its plastic container inside. This will make them easy to simply pick up and throw away once Halloween is over. If you don’t like the look of your summer planters, feel free to give them a makeover with a spookier material. I gave a box planter a pumpkin patch look by wrapping it in a coffee bean sack that I picked up for free from a local coffee shop. You can find these, as well as distressed black fabric and netting, at the craft store. 

Don’t forget your windows

If your porch has windows, make the most of them! Lit signs and blow molds are always effective, and there are numerous modern and vintage options that you can purchase. Be sure to check Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist first, because there always seems to be a neighbor or two clearing out their garage and getting rid of these decorations. You can also get creative with switching out the lightbulbs in the interior fixtures — red will lend an unsettling glow, while green will give you a distinct Monster Mash feeling. 

Go for similarity, not symmetry

You want a porch display to look balanced, but if one side is a mirror image of the other, it’s going to look too perfect (read: boring). It’s a look you especially want to avoid with an off-kilter season like Halloween. Two cornstalks or giant pumpkins on one side with a single one on the other is much better than one and one, or two and two. This is why we only have one Adirondack chair, with no twin on the other side. Add variations in height on either side, mix materials, and don’t be afraid to move things around until it looks right to you. 

Leave breakables out of the equation with young kids

It’s tough for me to remember that my house is a home for my family, not a holiday museum. Decorating should make Halloween more fun, not more stressful. Consider the age of your kids and adapt accordingly to ensure they can safely get around and won’t be knocking over the elements you’ve staged — you can always put out more and add breakables once they’re older. Once they’re old enough, let them in on the fun! You won’t find a more creative pair of hands to help stretch out and stage those fake cobwebs!