Upon receiving a shipment of mail-order furniture that’s a not-quite-right color, most people would probably send it back—but not Schaumburg, Illinois, homeowner Pat DeCarlo, who instead took matters into her own capable hands. When the dressers intended for her master bedroom arrived, “They weren’t the white I desired,” she explains, noting that they were more of a yellowy cream that didn’t coordinate with her gray carpet. “So, the next day, I got out my roller and brush, and I painted all four pieces. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard of anybody painting brand-new furniture, but I love them now!”
Painted a crisp white, the dressers perfectly suit the light blue walls in the cottage-themed master bedroom—a place where Pat’s husband, Angelo, can also feel at home amid the room’s more masculine furniture, such as a big black bed. Having grown up in a small town, Pat says that she has always had a penchant for country style with a particular focus on a cottage look, which she highlights to full effect in the suite. “The master bedroom is always the last room to get done because nobody sees it,” she says. “Winters in Illinois are so long that I wanted that room to remind me of spring. I love periwinkle and white together because it gives the bedroom a fresh, clean look. It reminds me of fresh white clothes hanging on the clothesline against a clear blue sky.”
To gather more inspiration for infusing the space with spring style, Pat invited Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad and Catherine Parker to share their advice. “Sally-Jo and Catherine added charm and coziness to our room,” Pat says, pointing out the pops of color and the other innovative ideas they gave her. “You just want to curl up in there with a magazine and a cup of tea!” Read on for more details about how the stylists awakened a springtime scene in the DeCarlos’ cottage-chic master suite.
Written by Elizabeth Preston Morrissey
Photographed by Maurice Victoria
Styled by Sally-Jo Enstad & Catherine Parker
Produced by Dennis Morgan
Dresser for Success
1. Take time to reflect. In addition to the ice-hued walls and the crisp white furniture, a cottage-style mirror makes the DeCarlos’ bedroom appear brighter by reflecting light, both natural and that of a nearby accent lamp. 2. Break it up. To visually tone down the mirror’s ample surface area, the stylists positioned a chicken coop-style cubby shelf in front of it. Springtime delights, including a framed flower print and a floral perfume bottle, contribute additional season-specific notes to the scene. 3. Feel the blues. Despite being a cool color, blue can make any vignette more vibrant when you choose the right hue. Here, the stylists took the wall paint a few shades darker with trailing violets, stacked blocks and a patterned scarf peeking out of a cubby to set off a white birdhouse.
4. Stand for something. One of cottage style’s signature elements is reinvented furnishings, so let your creativity take flight when decorating. Here, Sally-Jo and Catherine reimagined a trash-picked birdcage stand as a holder for a chandelier. “Have the chandelier rewired to plug into the wall to create a working floor lamp,” Catherine advises. “Or, use battery candles for a soft glow.” 5. Rock and roll. To play up her bedroom’s spring theme, Pat relocated an outdoor rocking bench that helps create a cozy sitting area alongside a paper roller used as a magazine rack. The stylists punctuated the blue-and-yellow cushions with red and yellow pillows that pick up on the wall art and the violet-filled pot on the bench-turned-coffee table, respectively. 6. Go easy. “Don’t overcrowd a coffee table with too much decor,” Sally-Jo says. “Instead, set it off with a bright rug, and top the surface with larger pieces that can easily be moved out of the way if you want to put your feet up.”
Black and Blue
7. Man up. Provide a counterpoint to more feminine furnishings with a stately bed, as Pat did to accommodate Angelo’s tastes. “I thought my husband needed a little more masculinity in the room, so we purchased the black bed,” she notes. “It looks great against the blue walls.” 8. Pick something di-vine. To complement the walls and the white furniture, the stylists dressed the bed with crisp blue-on-white toile bedding in a vine pattern with matching ticking shams. “A quilt with a limited palette is perfect for a his-and-hers bedroom,” Sally-Jo says. “Here, the floral design suits the cottage theme, but the color and the subtle pattern make it husband-friendly.” 9. Provide punch. As they did in the sitting area, Sally-Jo and Catherine also brought in some bolder notes. A red blanket draped over the bed, throw pillows tucked in at the head of the bed and wall art featuring a red cardinal contrast the serene scene. Pat appreciated the suggested visual pops—she says that it has given her the confidence to factor red and yellow elements into her living room’s cottagey setting as well. 10. Be a copycat. Choose small accessories that mimic other furnishings in the room. For example, a black mantel clock set on the dresser repeats both the style and the color of the bed. The timepiece also offers a clean-lined counterpoint to its more ornate companions, including a scroll-based iron lamp and a coordinating cookbook holder that the stylists repurposed as a frame stand. 11. (Dress) form an opinion. Want to further amp up your bedroom’s feminine factor? If space allows, set up a secondhand dress form or mannequin as a fashionable model for everything from items out of your own closet to vintage nightgowns or other antique clothing. Here, a red jacket repeats the bold splashes found elsewhere in the room. The stylists also set up a companion display beside the form, topping a white chair with a season-appropriate watering can smartly used to showcase colorful accessories.
Bath in Business
12. Rinse and repeat. Play up cottage style’s fresh-from-the-garden appeal with a soap holder modeled after an old water spigot. “Because bathrooms are usually smaller rooms, you often have to make a big impact with more compact accents,” Catherine says, pointing out the pretty cameo soaps nestled inside the charming metal holder and resting on a contrasting towel nearby. “The upside is that, in a tight space, people will really notice the little touches you incorporate and appreciate your decorating efforts.” 13. Start off on the right footstool. For a more lived-in atmosphere, outfit your bathroom with small pieces of furniture, such as wood footstools or child-size chairs, that both maximize display space and give the room a well-furnished feel. The stylists took advantage of the DeCarlos’ wide tub surround with two stools; one boosts a dual-pot planter bursting with spring blooms, and the other provides a perch for a texture-rich wicker basket holding spare towels. “Even if you don’t have a spot on the tub for this kind of arrangement, you can always rest it on the floor nearby or even outside the bathroom door as an invitation to come inside,” Sally-Jo says. 14. Skirt the issue. For the bathroom, the stylists reworked the idea of the fashionista dress form in the bedroom to fit a smaller area. A pint-size metal form, which also repeats the scroll motif found on the bedroom lamps, adds feminine flounce to the tub corner when embellished with colorful butterflies and an artwork-status greeting card. 15. Sign up for visual oomph. Incorporate a bold-hued, handstenciled sign into your bathroom decor that stands out against white tile and breaks up what could be a sterile backdrop. The spring-heralding placard seen here playfully nods to the butterflies on the dress form and brings out the vibrant shades of blue found in the silk lavender in a shallow vessel at right. 16. Shutter to think. Pat knew that one of the most important elements in elevating her master suite to a perfect cottage retreat would be the window treatments, so she chose plantation shutters that suit the rooms’ unfussy feel. A heart-shaped plant rooter breaks up the white expanse over the tub—and capitalizes on the sunshine filtering in through the window. 17. Stow the line. Stash spare soaps in storage containers with plenty of personality. For the DeCarlos’ bathroom, the stylists picked a pair of white ceramic canisters set on a distressed black tray that put a French accent on Pat’s signature cottage style.
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DRESSER FOR SUCCESS
Double candlestick lamp, Copeland’s General Store
Flower print, My French Neighbor
Chicken coop shelf, Olde Farm Creek
Rise-N-Shine wood blocks set, Country Harvest Gifts & Stitcheries
“Geranium Wagon” artwork, Heart-N-Hand
Country bench in barnwood finish, American Country, LLC
BLACK AND BLUE
Brighton Blue toile bedding, House to Home Designs
Mantel clock, Pine Cone Gift Shoppe
“Dogwood Trails” print, George Boutwell’s Texas Collection
BATH IN BUSINESS
Water faucet soap holder, Heart-N-Hand
Lavender cameo soap, Carol’s Pansy Patch
Butterfly ornaments, Klages Kollectibles
Butterfly Wishes stencil, Scrappin’ Along Craft Stencils
Heart-shaped plant rooter, Roots Plant Rooters
Primitive commode tray, M & T Country Collectibles