The New York Times gets into the Halloween spirit with a piece on the fine cinematic tradition of haunted houses and how they've largely morphed from "creepy Victorian" to "suburban banal" in recent years. Case in point, the blah tract homes of the "Paranormal Activity" series. Oren Peli, the man behind the box office-topping "Paranormal" franchise, says of the home used in the first film: “I was never tempted to do anything to make the house look creepy. So the audience thinks, ‘If it can happen in a normal house, maybe it can happen in my house.’ ”


Apartment Therapy celebrates Fair Trade Month by pushing a random assorted of home goods — everything from pizza boards to recycled wine bottle soy candles to Dachshund bookends from Jonathan Adler — that were lovingly handmade by fairly paid artisans. And no, Julia Brenner, you're not living under a rock ... I had no clue that October was designated Fair Trade Month, either. 


The Hairpin welcomes the return of clean person extraordinaire, Jolie Kerr. In the latest column of "Ask a Clean Person," Kerr tackles a few "autumnal cleaning conundrums" such as how to remove salt stains from rain boots, how to properly maintain and store wigs, and how to deal with bathrooms stained by temporary-for-Halloween spray hair dye.


And on the topic of cleaning, The Huffington Post recommends a few DIY spiritual home cleansing sites for those living in homes plagued by the restless spirits of previous homeowners. Also, a choice quote from a witch named Amy from Delaware: "Ghosts are associated with Halloween because the divider between the living and the dead is a little bit thinner this time of year." Click here for my own do-it-yourself ghost detecting tips.


Gizmodo wonders if designer Danny Taylor's "emotional dimmer switch" that frowns when the lights are on and smiles when they're off, is the best way to teach the youngin's about conserving energy. Writes Andrew Liszewski: "Most childhood psychologists aren't exactly keen on the whole negative reinforcement approach. And besides, who can really enjoy curling up with a book with that upsetting frown on the wall? But if you disagree and think it's a clever solution to your kids leaving the lights on all the time, you can wait until this goes into production, or just grab a Sharpie and draw your own."


The Telegraph shares former "Changing Rooms" host Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's thoughts on the libidio-killing potential of IKEA furniture: "How could anyone enjoy having sex in an Ikea bedroom? I find Ikea’s attitude deeply unsexy. For a start, it’s all flat-pack — it’s going to rattle. It’s just all about cleanness and drinking black tea and rubbing yourslef [sic] in snow and hitting yourself with birchwood. That’s not what grown-up sex is like." Now I may be wrong here, but wasn't "Changing Rooms," a long-running British DIY home improvement program, somewhat famous for its MDF lovin'?


Grist isn't so sure about the Well Proven chair, an eco-friendly seat that's made from wood shavings and bio-resin and looks like "crystallized barf." Elaborates Sarah Laskow: Actually, the chairs basically are made of wood barf — little bits of wood, chewed up by a saw, mixed together with a liquid that makes it expand 'by up to five times its original volume.' That’s more or less what happens to food in your stomach. But at least no one thinks you should sit on that, or put it in your house."


The Wall Street hits the fields with a handful of celebrity chefs-turned-gentleman farmers who have started full-on agricultural operations at their fancy country homes. Okay, so maybe they — David Bouley, Jose Gaces, Zakary Pelaccio, etc. — don't consider themselves as strictly gentleman farmers: "... most expect to see a return on their investments in land, implements and time. Some of that return comes in the form of premium ingredients at a lower cost, but there is also bang for the buck in touting the farm-fresh nature of their food to customers."


Ecohome profiles a "nearly net-zero" suburban infill project in Leawood, Kan. Says architect Dominique Dawson of the lovely LEED Platinum home: “The clients wanted to get as close to net zero energy as possible but at same time create a bright, open space with a lot of light. We were also trying to keep the footprint smaller while making the house feel bigger.”


Core77 comes forth with some tragic news: New York City's supply of brownstone (brown-colored sandstone) has been depleted. 


The New York Times publishes a fantastic opinion piece from Allison Arieff on the micro-apartment craze. She writes: "It’s true that micro-units are not family-friendly, but it’s less true that a small apartment is inherently inhabitable. While the debate rages on about how much space is too little, there is little talk of how much is too much. Different constituencies may have their reasons for opposing these tiny units, but however varied they may be, all seem to reflect a distinctly American perception of what qualifies as 'enough' space. Actual needs have had precious little to do with home design in recent decades, as homes have gotten increasingly larger."


The Financial Times sings the praises of rammed earth as a building material.


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Playing catch up: Ghosts, ghouls and green home news
Scare yourself silly this weekend-before-halloween with terrifying tales of homes built from rammed earth, chefs giving farming a go and recycled content chairs