Halloween's home: Couple share space with holiday goblins

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Marcia Nelesen
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

— The ravens perching on the banister help say it all.

Becky Johnson and her husband, Steve, don't live alone in their home on Janesville's Cambridge Drive. Halloween moved in for a spell, albeit in a kind and gentle way.

Black birds and black cats, witches and skeletons populate the home in orange-and-black splendor. They peer from every nook and cranny, occupy the space above the kitchen cabinets and preen upon tables.

Mostly, the décor is of sweet and whimsical objects that have captured Johnson's fancy over the years. You'll find no bloody fingers here.

A menagerie framed in a sectioned crate on the kitchen counter, for example, includes a small ceramic woman perched on a pumpkin, reading to a cat. The animal's mouth forms a circle of wonder.

"This little cat is saying, 'Oh!'" the retired library media specialist said, pointing with delight.

Johnson's collection started when she decorated the Roosevelt Elementary School Library.

Johnson is partial to cats, so it's no surprise they outnumber any other ghouls. They are old and new, wood and ceramic, paper and metal, and they are hand-painted on boxes and on canvas and captured in framed prints.

Skeletons make fewer appearances because they creeped Johnson out as a child.

Every spot is a stage onto itself, and each is as different as the next.

A 3-foot carved black cat holds a bowl of fall ornaments and greets visitors. Nearby, a 5-foot silhouette of a witch hovers near the staircase, with strings of fall berries around her neck and a raven gripping her arm.

In the kitchen, utensils sit nestle in a pumpkin canister. A baking tin hangs from the wall with jack-o-lanterns painted on each muffin bottom. Cat sunglasses with orange rhinestones wait for their witch owner.

Embellishments include candy-corn colored candles; a black-cat beanbag toss; a black cat vase holding the bright orange fruit of a Chinese lantern plant; and holiday children's books in a basket. Orange and black bulbs hang from a chandelier.

Every year, Johnson adds to her collection, haunting flea markets, gift shops, craft stores and the Internet. Her organization helps keep the collection manageable, and she has decorating down to a science.

It also helps to have an understanding husband.

"He has never, ever criticized, said it's too much, it's silly, you shouldn't do this, this is ridiculous," she said of Steve. "That's really nice. Most men wouldn't put up with it."

Johnson starts decorating the first week in September, first clearing away her regular décor. Containers are labeled not only by room but also by location in a room.

Johnson tries to take pictures every year.

While her decorating theme is "more is better," editing is equally as important, Johnson said. She alternates busy and calm areas and creatively varies display levels, using such items as stacked and decorated wooden boxes.

Color is as essential as form in tying it all together. Although not traditional Halloween items, a large metal orange star sets off one room and orange Chinese Foo dogs contrast nicely with a black cat.

Johnson's every day items get to stay only if they conform to the color scheme.

"I love the color combination of orange and black and a little yellow and green," Johnson said. She avoids purple.

"Sometimes, I get to the point and say, 'Oh, I don't have a place for this,' " Johnson said. "And then I'll find a place for it."


Last updated: 4:44 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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