Straight from the Art
An Illinois artist with a flair for vintage-chic style dresses her home for spring with fresh ideas for her eclectic decor.
Mixing media is something that comes naturally to Middleburg Folk Art Studio founder Susan Havens-Morris, who combines papier-mâché with paint, fabric and whimsical accents to create charming figurines and statuettes. Susan’s penchant for juxtaposition extends from her studio into the diverse decor of her 128-year-old St. Charles, Illinois, home, where she expresses a unique style as individual as her artwork. “My style is really anything old, anything from another place and time,” she says. “I like an eclectic mix; nothing is ever matchy-matchy.”
With a mostly neutral backdrop of white or taupe walls throughout the home, Susan has a veritable blank canvas for her signature look, which blends formal features with simpler pieces. “I like elegant and refined elements, like silver and brass, but I like to pair them with rustic and primitive accents,” she says.
Looking for a fresh perspective on how to change up her living, dining and breakfast rooms for spring, Susan invited Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad and Catherine Parker to assist her in adding seasonal touches. “We were so excited to work with Susan,” Sally-Jo says. “As an artist, she has a clear styling vision, which made it a real joy to help her transition the home into spring mode.”
Written by Elizabeth Preston
Photographed by Maurice Victoria
Styled by Sally-Jo Enstad & Catherine Parker
Produced by Dennis Morgan
In Susan’s light-toned living room, a white couch and neutral flooring set the stage for a quirky blend of elegant and rustic accents. Some springy pieces, such as Susan’s collection of adorable rabbit figurines and fresh flowers, stay out year-round, which gave the stylists a great starting point for their suggestions. “We expanded on what Susan already had on display in the room,” Catherine says. “The birdhouse and the resin bunnies on the coffee table play up Susan’s bunnies and the birdhouse her husband, Greg, made next to the front door. The watering-can arrangement on the teal tray, the basket of ivy and the vase of forsythia honor her love of fresh flowers.”
Susan accents her light decor with a few splashes of red (toss pillows, the front door), so the stylists chose red-and-white striped pillows and curtains to act as a bridge between the two hues. “In addition to linking the red and the white, we also brought in a few more black items to complement the black wicker chair,” Sally-Jo says. “The lamp with the black shade, the black candlestick on the side table and the small black stool underneath the table help ground the space.”
Bulb and Beautiful
Bright red tulips and some of their pre-blooming counterparts, which are planted in a teacup and a piece of Susan’s milk glass, bring springy character to the area around an antique mantel in Susan’s dining room. Her teal glass-doored key cabinet with dark gold trim (guarded by the family Pug, Vivi) serves as a makeshift buffet; the cupboard’s removable top was repurposed in the living room as a base for the coffee table display. Sally-Jo and Catherine suggested a tea-themed vignette for this space, pairing pieces of Susan’s teapot collection with pretty china teacups. “Don’t just use teacups for drinking,” Catherine advises. “Plant spring bulbs or place a jar candle inside to create a themed display.”
Above the cabinet, teapots perched on post-shaped candlesticks extend the motif upward to Susan’s rustic mantel. More charming accents, including three papier-mâché chicks from the artist’s spring line, a picket-fence frame and a framed bunny picture to the left, fill out the space with spring style. Pieces with architectural flair, such as the weathered shutter (one of two flanking a doorway) and the etched mirror with medallion details, contrast with the silver teapots and highlight Susan’s eclectic taste. “My shutters really add a bigger presence to the room,” Susan says. Sally-Jo adds, “The crackle finish of the mirror frame brings out the patina of the mantelpiece.”
In the center of the breakfast room table, a picket-fence display on top of criss-crossed table runners showcases a pair of bunny figurines and a watering can with seed packets arranged atop two stacked cake stands. A glass mug full of faux carrots, a green votive in a tiny flowerpot, a crouching white rabbit and beige dishware that complements the vintage chairs complete the sweet tablescape. More springy pieces rest on the adjacent built-in shelves, including a framed bunny stitchery and one of Susan’s own sculptures, a lady in a yellow dress feeding chickens. Susan’s black-framed rabbit painting works with a black sign above the window to balance out the area’s lighter accents.