Decorate with Crafts

A Fine Vintage

Accessorize vintage treasures with quaint country accents that have plenty of spring in their step.

Some people plan the most direct route to their destination to save time. Vintage treasure hunters Sandy and Steve Milano, however, prefer to take the road less traveled -- as long as that road takes them past an antiques shop or a flea market. "Every minute we have that we can squeeze in a trip to a flea market on our way to someone's house for dinner, we will," Sandy says. Steve adds, "Some couples go to Florida or Hawaii for their anniversary -- we go to Junk Bonanza in Minneapolis."

The couple's shared affection for old goods colors every room of their St. Charles, Illinois, home. They each have their own collections, with Steve preferring more refined items and Sandy being drawn to whimsical fare. "My collections just have to make me smile," Sandy says. Steve also loves old spindles and even artistically reworks them into lamps fitted with burlap shades.

The cottage-look lamps are the perfect fit for the couple's sunroom, which Sandy says they decorated to feel like a summer house all year round. Interested in seeing what the space would look like with a more country atmosphere, the Milanos invited Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad, Nancy Borsodi and Debbie Plantery to infuse some farmhouse flair. "This couple just has the neatest collections," Sally-Jo says. "Our goal was simply to accentuate the pieces they already have with complementary decor." Read on for 20 imaginative ways to lighten and brighten any space for spring.

Let's Do Lunchbox
1. Bring Your Lunch. Build a sweet display around any vintage container, such as this old-fashioned lunchbox. Instead of a turkey sandwich, place a cute Easter-themed figure inside. Boost the figure on a can or a block of wood, and then fill in the rest of the container with excelsior and decorative eggs.
2. Soften the Scene. For a departure from a typical tablecloth or runner, arrange a gauzy cottage cloth under your display, bunching it in spots for more dimension.
3. Let There Be Light. "It may be spring, but candlelight is a nice addition to your decor at any time of year," Debbie says. Here, battery-operated tapers contribute nostalgic graphics that reflect the bunny figure in the lunchbox.

Charmed, I'm Sure
4. Rethink Your Wares. The Milanos positioned a salvaged bank security gate over a washer bench to create a coffee table like no other. "We've seen a lot of coffee tables, but this is certainly one of the coolest," Nancy says.
5. Watch the Birdies. Incorporate old birdcages, such as the red and rustic cages here, to add heft to smaller bird figures or potted blooms.
6. Bring a Bouquet. Flowers are the key to making any space feel like spring, whether via a cute hooked pillow or some burlap blossoms tucked into a terra-cotta pot along with some wheatgrass.
7. Put Things Together. To craft a makeshift basket, Sally-Jo wired two grapevine wreaths together and attached loose twig handles. She rested the basket in a large saucer set inside an empty frame and added some moss.
8. Arch Your Backdrop. Another unique feature in the sunroom is a garden arch trimmed with burlap that accentuates a wood sign and bird prints displayed on clipboards.
9. Feed the Need. Turn vintage feed sacks into graphic-rich toss pillows.

Bright Spot
10. Pair Up. With their shared affinity for charming graphics and slightly faded finishes, farmhouse and vintage styles are a natural match for each other. For example, the farmers market plaque and the painted garden sign hung on the wall in this cozy eating area smartly complement the kitschy clock, soda sign and floral tray.
11. Cut It Out. Turn old farm tools into eye-catching display pieces. Like the washer bench table nearby, this workaday red saw hosting a folded feed sack shows off the Milanos' ability to find unexpectedly interesting ways to highlight their vintage finds.
12. Be Letter Perfect. Create a theme for a group of small collectibles with like-minded signs and a descriptive word spelled out in bright, oversize letters. Choose a color that pops amid your other accessories, such as the red letters above Sandy's salt and pepper shakers.
13. Repeat That. The wall-hung burst of color is echoed in the table setting, where red napkins are tucked into the back pockets of cast-off jean skirts cut into place mats.
14. Add Contrast. To help the denim stand out against the painted table, Debbie cut a runner into slightly larger rectangles, using pinking shears so she wouldn't have to hem them. The cut-up runner matches a crocheted mat set beneath a pail full of tulips.

Just My Type
15. Open the Door. Salvaged materials make for visually dynamic decor when repurposed into furniture, and this door-turned-desk outfitted with table legs is no exception. To create a uniform surface, have a piece of glass cut to fit the entire door.
16. Top Things Off. Accessorize your table with personality-rich items that offer both form and function. For instance, this drawer set with chalkboard fronts has space for stashing office supplies yet provides room for creativity -- not to mention showcase space on top for a sign and a tin toy.
17. Relate to It. "A great way to really make a favorite piece shine is to pair it with a related accessory," Nancy says, noting the simple "Hello Spring!" printout set in the vintage typewriter.
18. Tuck and Cover. The burlap shade topping Steve's handcrafted lamp perfectly suits the feed sacks found elsewhere in the room. To add spring graphics, Nancy wound twine around the shade and tucked in some colorful seed packets.
19. Keep It Going. Unite a large tablescape with spots of color spread throughout -- whimsical tin toys and pretty blooms add lots of cheer here. Their brightness also nicely contrasts the area's more neutral groupings, such as the clocks, scale and grocer's price sign (turned photo frame!) at right.
20. Drop Down. Another way to keep a big table display feeling balanced is by making sure the space underneath isn't empty. Old tin picnic baskets do the trick here.

For more information, visit our Craft Fair online.

Traveler Rabbit, The Unique Black Sheep
Grungy oversize eggs, Homespun Blessings
Easter Grass cottage cloth and brown hare and spring chick LED timer tapers, Glory Days Mercantile

Black cat with flowers hooked pillow, Williamsburg House, WI
The Porch sign, Hare Hollow
Ivory burlap daisies, Country Store of Geneva
French Rooster canvas pictures, Home Decor For Your Style

Farmers Market wall plaque and Fresh from the Farm container, Home Decor For Your Style
Mr. McGregor's Garden sign, The Black Sheep Primitives

Tin toys, Cowboy Creek Gifts
Life Is Better on the Porch sign, CL Ltd
Chalkboard drawer-front boxes, Olde Farm Creek

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Steve Milano's handcrafted lamps,

Written by Elizabeth Preston Morrissey
Photographed by Maurice Victoria
Styled by Sally-Jo Enstad, Nancy Borsodi & Debbie Plantery