Decorate with Crafts

Garden Variety

The Country Sampler stylists artfully accentuate the architectural features in a light and airy garden room by introducing bright colors and charming details.

To view a video with more creative centerpiece ideas, visit us on YouTube.

Some folks see retirement as a time to slow down, to stop to smell the roses. Mart and Buck Comstock, formerly a dedicated teacher and a hardworking engineer, respectively, prefer a different approach: The only blooms they're smelling are the ones they cultivate in the flower beds outside of their Elgin, Illinois, home -- and that's just when they take a break from all of their other post-employment hobbies, from woodworking to entertaining. In between garden clubs and book clubs, the couple have managed to carve out enough time to fill their ranch-style home in a 55-plus community with cheerful, sunny style that matches the floor plan's easy flow. "The open floor plan is what we really loved," Buck says. "It's very open, with very few walls between the kitchen, dining room and family room."

The Comstocks did want a little separation between their family room and the adjacent garden room, which is where Mart's vision and Buck's woodworking skills united to create an airy space full of architectural details. In addition to bookcases, pillars and a 14-foot beam denoting the entrance, the space also features what the couple call an arbor shelf extending along an entire wall. "I come up with the ideas, and he'll say, 'Yeah, I can do that,' " Mart explains.

Seeking a little outside help with highlighting their handcrafted features, Mart and Buck invited Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad, Debbie Plantery and Nancy Borsodi to share hints for embracing a summery look. Read on for their 20 carefree decorating ideas!

Going Up
1. Channel a vintage vibe. "When I’m trying to achieve a cheery feel, my go-to accessory is retro linens," Sally-Jo says. Here, a fruit-motif runner plays up the past-tense panache of an old red-and-white table.
2. Think vertical. Instead of spreading a buffet out horizontally, build up to maximize your available space. The stylists stacked tinware platforms to create a multitiered tea service, which provides enough space for even small touches -- such as lemon slices arranged on the rim of a small ceramic pot -- to shine.
3. Contain creatively. Look around your house for vessels that you can smartly repurpose in your grouping, whether it’s a bowl or a graphic tin hosting herbs or a pitcher keeping together a handful of flatware.

Sunny Disposition
4. Be dramatic. A plain wall becomes an architectural showstopper thanks to a custom feature that includes a shelf for display as well as a half planter mounted on the wall. "We wanted to create the sense that you can walk through the pergola into something else," Buck notes.
5. Improve your frame of sign. Debbie hung a weathered sign inside a red frame that draws attention to the placard and contrasts the room’s pale palette.
6. Watch the birdies. "It wouldn’t be a garden room without bird-themed accents," Debbie says, noting the ceramic birds on the wall. Plus, a canvas pillow echoes some yellow birdhouses Buck built, and, on the table, a rusty birdcage covers candles on a tinware platform.
7. Wait your lantern. For a different take on a centerpiece, place a petite bloom inside a lantern or boost a motion-flame candle on an overturned box.
8. Hear it through the grapevine. Replace traditional chargers with grapevine wreaths to provide a nest-like resting spot for plates at each setting.
9. Table the discussion. To maximize a room meant for entertaining, choose a mix of accent tables -- including a TV tray that frees up space by hosting drinks.

Primary Focus
10. Retask towels. Instead of sticking with their usual purpose, hang primary-hued vintage tea towels on a tension rod using clip rings; choose a rod the same color as your blinds so it blends in.  
11. Know when to fold ’em. Turn another tea towel into a simple pillow cover that follows your color scheme: Nancy folded a striped towel around an accent pillow and sewed on buttons to hold it in place -- you could even use fabric glue as a no-stitch fix.
12. Boost your shelf-esteem. The Comstocks’ garden room features plenty of cute accent tables. The stylists couldn’t resist bringing in one more option: a large graphic tin boosted on a bench and topped with glass.
13. Go to your happy plates. Take a wall-mounted plate display up another notch by attaching craft letters to the dishes with adhesive hook-and-loop squares. Or, rest jar candles on flower-shaped plates as a quick space filler.
14. Be seen and herb. Set a petite plant inside a vented glass lantern. "It’s like creating a miniature greenhouse for herbs and other small plants," Nancy notes. "Choose a bright-colored pot that shows through the glass nicely."
15. Glass up the joint. Mount a vintage-look label on card stock, punch holes in the upper corners, and thread a ribbon through the holes to create a hanger. Loop the ribbon over the lid of a glass jar for a dash of graphic charm.

X Marks the Spot
16. Make a big entrance. For division between the family room and the garden room, the Comstocks designed this pillar-and-shelf feature crowned by a beam accented with Xs and white lights. 
17. Find greener pastures. A fitting complement to the garden room’s moniker, assorted green accessories lend a natural touch to this spot. A sage spice cabinet, an artichoke accent and spring-green stacked baskets highlight varying shades that run the green gamut.
18. Test your metal. Remember that metal wall decor has an often underrated bonus: "Not only do these stars add dimension to the wall, but you can also attach photographs or other lightweight decor to them with magnets," Sally-Jo says. 
19. Have a little fun. Bring in graphics somewhere other than the wall or floor with a hooked pillow featuring a whimsical image; this design of a watermelon truck and a dog is well-suited to the white wicker chair and red cushion.
20. Get crafty. To complete a seasonal scene, DIY a few summer-ready items. Reinvent a chalkboard-adorned wood crate as a planter by lining it in plastic and placing potted blooms and grass inside. Or, capture prim Americana flair with a set of red, white and blue wood blocks bundled together in a flag motif and tied with a burlap bow.

For more information, visit our Craft Fair online.

Vintage label tin canister, Folkart Gatherings
Tinware platforms, Olde Farm Creek

The Gathering Room sign, Hare Hollow
Bird House on Green canvas pillow, Williamsburg House, WI
Damask (ivory) and regular (blue) flameless candles, The Red Brick Cottage
Tinware platform, Olde Farm Creek
Patina-finished lantern, Smicksburg Drying Shed
Red, white and blue motion-flame candle, Raggedy Junction

Vintage label tin canister, Folkart Gatherings
Folk Crow dinner plates, Lake Erie Gifts & Decor
12" black country lantern, Smicksburg Drying Shed
Garden candles, Willow Moon Candles
Large black star glass jar, Heart-N-Hand

Linda's spice cabinet, Red Bud Primitives
Amish barn stars,
Red Truck with Watermelons hooked pillow, Williamsburg House, WI

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