A California homeowner has plenty of tricks and treats up her sleeve as she decorates for her favorite fall holiday with vintage goods, flea-market finds and handmade creations.
Inspired by a lifelong fascination with spooky stuff, a California homeowner gives her abode a happily haunted look with vintage collections and handmade goods.
holds many memories for Rosemary Olson, who married her husband, Mark, in the month of October and had a childhood passion for reading ghost stories, so it’s no wonder she goes all out in her seasonal decorating. “Fall is my favorite time of year, and Halloween is my favorite holiday, so it’s particularly fun for me,” she says. “I have always liked spooky stuff.”
The couple has lived in their mission-style W Newbury Park, California, home for three decades, and Rosemary takes pride in continually coming up with fresh ways to decorate it, noting her style is best described as eclectic. “It’s a little flea market, a little industrial, a little farmhouse—and it’s always changing,” she explains.
When seeking out pieces for her home, Rosemary’s number-one rule is to keep an open mind, followed closely by the mandate to buy what you love, without hesitation. “If you’re looking for something special, you will never find it, but when you see it, you’ll know,” she advises. “And when you find it, don’t worry about where you are going to put it—buy it and bring it home, even if you need to sell a piece to fit it in.”
Sometimes Rosemary leaves furniture pieces as is, but she frequently picks up a paintbrush and chalky-finish paint to give them a quick makeover. And she’s quick to add decorative detailing to smaller accents, often using glitter or paper embellishments. “I can’t leave well enough alone,” she says. Her favorite addons include vintage sheet music, book pages, crepe paper and vintage glass glitter. She earns “flea-market money” by selling some of her creations wholesale to local shops and party planners.
Although Rosemary enjoys shopping flea markets and garage sales, some of her favorite pieces have come from unexpected places. For example, the chairs that surround the farm table in her dining room are like those from a favorite restaurant. “I mentioned I loved the fleur-de-lis on the back, and the owner ordered some for me. They were only $100 apiece, and I painted them with Chalk Paint and re-covered the seats with toile fabric,” she notes.
Her home is bursting with color, but the backdrop and main furnishings are mostly
white and gray. “I figure if you keep the walls neutral, you can add whatever colors you want everywhere else,” she says. Color really comes into play with her seasonal decor, particularly for Halloween. Rosemary began collecting vintage Halloween items, including noisemakers, games, costumes and decorations, in the 1980s. At the time, the goods were relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Today, they are a bit pricier, but she still keeps an eye out for unique pieces with interesting graphics. “I love the colors and feel of anything vintage Halloween because it’s fun and spooky, not too scary,” she explains.
During the fall season, she mixes her Halloween collectibles in with her own creations and other decor, plus piles of pumpkins. “Pumpkins are everything,” Rosemary relates. “I can’t pass a farmers market without buying some, but I keep them up through Thanksgiving and redecorate around them.”
Rosemary enjoys entertaining, and her lively holiday decor always attracts oohs and aahs from guests who enjoy checking out her newest designs. She’s pleased to see the tradition of Halloween decorating continue to the next generation—her adult daughter spends months creating a “graveyard” on her own front lawn. “She went more to the dark side, but she likes spooky stuff and scary movies, too. It’s in the blood or something,” Rosemary says with a laugh.
“I love the colors and feel of anything vintage Halloween because it’s fun and spooky, not too scary.”
Rosemary painted the master bedroom side table to match her mantel headboard. A metal bangle on the ornamental hand picks up the luster of the mercury-glass accent lamp and decorative dish. In the background, a vintage activity book printed in orange and black sets a Halloween tone.
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Left: On the living room mantel, a store-bought framed print is layered within other empty frames. Dried mums and white pumpkin gourds mingle with Rosemary’s collection of old trophies. She made the stamped pennant from the page of an old book.
Below: Rosemary began collecting the vintage Halloween noisemakers that are gathered in a bowl in her living room decades ago, but she still seeks new ones to add to her collection, which numbers about 40. She says the charming party favors now command prices from $15 to $50, depending on rarity.
To jazz up her front stoop, Rosemary applied porch paint in a black-and-white diamond pattern. Mark gave the plain door a makeover with wood trim and rustic iron clavos nails, and Rosemary added a distressed painted finish. It not only matches the style of the home but also provides a perfect showcase for fall and Halloween flourishes.