It's all about perception and creating that element of surprise.
Celebrities like Heidi Klum are known for having extravagant Halloween parties, taking the occasion to another level. To create a memorable, celeb-worthy bash of your own, we asked interior designer David Brian Sanders — whose A-list clients include “Desperate Housewives” star Marcia Cross — as well as event planner Emily Cann to share his tips.
Pick a theme
“My first Halloween party I planned … I crammed [in] every single idea I had,” Cann said. “Everyone loved it, but it ended up being too many ideas and not necessarily cohesive.”
Sanders says it’s OK to draw inspiration from multiple places, but the key is to make it believable.
“You can always incorporate a little ‘Chainsaw Massacre,’ ‘Friday the 13th’ [and] ’70s,” he said. “Just keep it real. Keep it authentic.”
Once you narrow in on a theme, have fun with it.
“I would probably do something like ‘Twilight,'” said Sanders, who is friends with the creator of “The Vampire Diaries.” “But take it to the line and cross over. Create the illusion of what we think a vampire world could look like, and add an element of fantasy.”
Be a kid at heart
When planning a party for adults, it doesn’t have to be serious. In fact, Sanders says it’s important to create a fun environment not just for kids.
“Incorporating the idea of a fairy tale into holiday-themed bashes is huge — especially for adults,” he said.
One way to boost the fun factor: Add a game to your space.
“I’m doing a lot of foosball tables [in celebrity homes],” he said. “They’re back with a vengeance.”
He’s also a believer in a classic ping-pong or pool table. “It adds a rush to the evening,” he said.
Plan a surprise
Halloween is all about making people jump out of their skin, but Sanders says space planning can make or break a surprise.
“People will be more frightened when they don’t know what’s around the corner,” he said.
To add suspense, consider taking your house party outside.
“Create a house outside your home with tents, hallways and plywood ceilings,” he said. “Make it look fun with decorations. A lot of it is psychological.”
Watch the clock
If you decide to build something big like a haunted house, be careful you have enough time to take on the project.
“Time can definitely work against you when you are planning,” Cann said. “Cute items on Etsy, a place where I always look to get lovely and unique details, can take weeks to ship to you, and some vendors are booked until certain time frames, so the earlier you start the better.”
This advice also applies to the day of your event.
“Try to shoot for your party being set up 30 minutes before you had planned,” Cann added. “There are always those early guest arrivals that you want to be ready for!”
Creating a truly spooky party isn’t just about looks.
“The element of sound can make or break a haunted house [or party],” Sanders said. “You can have a recording going that’s all ‘ooohhh, aaahhh,’ but that’s not authentic. You need to have the element of surprise with sound.”
He recommends investing in sound equipment and making your own recording.
“Create a dead person talking, but make it as real as possible with no echoes,” he said.
While digital sound equipment can be expensive, Sanders says it’s worth every penny for themed parties.
Save and splurge
That isn’t to say you need to spend a ton to create a celeb-worthy party.
“With celebrities, the sky is not always the limit,” Sanders said. “A number of high-profile people are very conscious about budget.”
He’s a believer in spending $100 on one item and then going to a dollar store for other items.
“Mix how and where you spend your money to get the most bang for your buck and create that wow factor,” he said. “I love pumpkins, but I also love a good smoke machine and spending some money on audio/visual.”
Cann also notes Halloween candy can be surprisingly expensive.
“Bigger is always better from what I’ve learned,” she said. “Go with popcorn and jumbo marshmallows rather than black M&M’s to fill an apothecary jar.”
At the end of the day, Halloween parties are all about perception.
“It’s the collection of multiple elements that creates the experience,” Sanders said.