Winterhaven is known for its top-notch decorating at Christmas, but some residents also pull out all of the stops as soon as summer gives way to fall.
“There’s spirit” in decorations, said Karen Miller, 40. “The kids get excited, and of course that’s what it’s all about ... It helps them mark occasions and memories.”
Miller’s husband grew up in Winterhaven, and every fall the family transforms their lawn into a graveyard in the weeks before Halloween. Another home in the neighborhood hosts a full-blown haunted house.
Decorations — whether a haunting front yard or an artistic display of pumpkins on a coffee table — import a little bit of excitement into autumn-challenged Tucson.
Without trees awash in sunset colors or nippy temperatures, Tucsonans have to work harder to embrace the changing seasons.
“We will not have much color change. We will not have snow,” said Shawn Barghout, an interior designer and owner of The Designer’s Eye. Barghout works with clients on touches they can do around their homes to make the transition from summer into autumn more believable.
“Marketing tells us what Thanksgiving and Halloween should look like. It’s about finding ways to kickstart that. (Clients) want to feel a part of that experience, but it’s not happening outside,” she said.
Fall decorating trends are earthy this year, as usual, highlighting burlap, dried materials and earth tones. Everything is textured and rich.
“Look for berries, acorns, nuts, those same things you can get right out of the produce department at the grocery store and stain them for decorations on the table or as potpourri filler,” said Kathy Askren, who owns Askren & Sons Inc. with her husband, Paul.
The family business buys decorating materials in line with national trends to sell to retailers.
Askren said fall decorating looks “very vintage and barn right now.”
The secret is not to swap everything in your home out for autumn-inspired counterparts — which can be tempting with store shelves stocked with the latest in all things pumpkin.
Keep fixtures simple and neutral, creating a canvas to add accessories with seasonal spice and color. Pick pieces that emphasize memories associated with the season.
Instead of displaying everything collected over the years, Barghout suggested cutting down on clutter by photographing special, seasonal gifts for a photo album to be enjoyed during that time of year. This leaves room to highlight the most important decorating traditions.
“Don’t feel that you have to buy this latest, greatest thing,” Barghout said. “If your kid’s art is the thing you treasure, that’s what you should be seeing because that’s what has the most value to you.”
Picking key decorations not only saves the trouble of unboxing and boxing again, not to mention storing the stuff, but it strengthens traditions and the mindset that goes along with them.
“Decorating is about reliving these sentimental memories that we’ve got and to create our own with our family every year,” said Barghout. “(Clients) want to feel community and that they’re experiencing what everyone else is,” she said.
“I can’t wait to fix Thanksgiving dinner for 25 of us and all get together,” Askren said. “To make the table and the atmosphere around special says who we are and how we’ve grown up, and it’s all about bringing our little ones together.”
Seasonal decorating comes steeped in tradition.
Joyce Callie decorates her home, both inside and out, for most holidays. She usually transitions from her patriotic theme of stars and stripes to fall decorations when temperatures drop. With a father who loved decorating, nine kids of her own and now grandchildren, Callie has always done this.
“The kids would be excited when I did it,” Callie, 69, said. “I have just continued doing it because the grandchildren enjoy it and I enjoy it. It gives me that feeling of home and family and love.”
Askren thinks that Tucson’s crafty community has an even keener eye for decoration than most.
“This community expects the incredible because of the art influence,” Askren said. “They’re spoiled and they just want the best.”
Winterhaven resident Neal Grissom makes most of his decorations by hand. He transforms his home for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas.
For Halloween, Grissom, 67, has in the works four steel faces that sing “Monster Mash.” Six feet tall, the heads of a cat, skeleton, Frankenstein and jack-o-lantern will serenade trick-or-treaters.
“I get more enjoyment out of making these things than displaying these things,” he said.