Decorate with Crafts

Mixed Messages

The Country Sampler stylists introduce cohesive fall style to a three-season sunroom where hand-hooked rugs and unique flea-market finds meet cool high-end furnishings.

To view a video about budget-friendly autumn decorating, visit

Pardon the pun, but Kitty Olson was most definitely hooked the first time she spotted a hooked rug. Enthralled by the rooster-themed design, which she saw in a book she was perusing, she quickly ordered a beginner's kit and embarked on a hobby that spans more than a decade, has produced more than 100 rugs and other artworks, and fills much of her time. "It's a really simple craft,” she says. "I try to do 30 to 60 minutes of it every day to keep my projects going.”
In addition to giving the hooked pieces as gifts, Kitty also works them into the decor of the Elgin, Illinois, home she shares with her husband, Mark. Some of the rugs adorn the couple's three-season sunroom, which Kitty also furnishes with the unique finds she hunts for everywhere from flea markets to upscale furniture stores. "When I shop, I never look for anything specific, I just buy what I love,” she says. "I'm always asked where I'll put my purchases, and my answer is, ‘I don't know, and I'm not going to worry about it!' ”
From a red bench to a painted trunk to a green mirrored wall cabinet, Kitty's furniture packs personality into the sunroom and adjacent breezeway. To gather inspiration for a fall makeover, the Olsons invited Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad, Nancy Borsodi and Debbie Plantery to share some autumnal decorating hints. "What I love most about this room is the story behind every piece,” Debbie says. "Everything tells a tale!” Read on for the stylists' advice for infusing autumn oomph into your decor.

Life Imitates Art
1. Find inspiration. To honor Kitty's love of hooked rugs, we used a small hooked wall hanging as the basis for this tabletop display,” Sally-Jo says. "The most direct correlation between the two is the felt candle mat, but we found plenty of other ways to tie them together.”
2. Repeat after me. When using wall art as the inspiration for a vignette, pull out at least three complementary elements. Here, a black corner breadbox channels the hooked piece's dark background, a sunflower magnet taped in place mimics the black-eyed Susans, and a pair of pumpkins complete the crossover.
3. Crow about it. "Crows are a staple of country decor, but they come into their own in the fall,” Nancy says of the metal birds adding avian appeal to this display.

Unexpected Delights
4. Be colorful. "Why stick to a strict palette in a casual space?” Sally-Jo muses. "Kitty mixes old pieces, such as the weathered blue cart, with the newer red bench and a green painted trunk whose graphics really set a fun tone here.”
5. Pull the wool. Even Kitty's rug-hooking supplies can be called on for decorating duty -- orange wool remnants wrapped around a pair of toss pillows are a fitting complement to a hooked pillow featuring a spook-tacular black cat design.
6. Mix your media. Contrast fabric and wood accessories with metal, glass and other materials. To dress up the trunk top, the stylists used a primitive-labeled canning jar and an oversize pinecone as bookends in a galvanized tray and rested a flameless candle in an old metal strainer.
7. Go at a good clip. "You never know what kinds of decorating tools you have lying around the house,” Sally-Jo says. "I found a binder clip in a desk drawer, and it was the perfect way to attach a framed stitchery to a little rake hung on the wall.”
8. Divide and conquer. Be on the lookout for unique furniture that offers multiple display options. Kitty's ornate partitioned shelf provides a surface on top for a unified arrangement and different sections below for highlighting individual items. Choose elements that mix rustic, natural and quirky -- these chipped squirrel figures, for instance -- to keep a larger grouping interesting. Highlight distinctive accents, such as the hooked candy corns and redware pumpkin, by setting them on their own.

Window Seat
9. Show a united front. Create a dynamic focal point for the expanse of wall above a sofa by using a large vintage window as a backdrop for seasonal accents, such as a painted sign and a colorful fall wreath.
10. Go graphic. "The walls and flooring in the sunroom are mostly solid, so we brought in pattern via the pillow and the checkerboard on the crate,” Nancy explains. "Topping the game board with glass turned it into a makeshift coaster that protects Kitty's vintage coffee crate.”
11. Give the runner-around. Also contributing autumn graphics, a quilted runner provides a bright division between the bench's surface and the interesting decor lined up in front of the window.
12. Embellish the details. Kitty has a self-professed "thing” for birdhouses and birdcages; for a fall makeover, the stylists wired a wreath onto one birdcage and wound orange berry garland around the other, which also hosts a battery lamp.

That's Different
13. Cover it up. The green mirrored cabinet in the Olsons' breezeway features a pretty floral motif painted below the looking glass; for a quick fall makeover, a pumpkin sign hides the springy flowers.
14. Find a new way. To give a petite needlepunch piece more prominence, Kitty glued it onto a shovel now hung on the side of the locker-style shelf. Look around to find a dish, box or other everyday item you could embellish with a similar stitchery.
15. Feel at home. "The breezeway connects the house to the sunroom and to the driveway, so we wanted to make it a welcoming place,” Debbie says. Burlap-sack pumpkins in a bushel basket accompany round stacking boxes to add autumn charm to the passage.
16. Go beyond pumpkins. Although the pumpkin-and-leaf-themed accessories certainly herald the harvest, the stylists also wanted to highlight other aspects of the season. A schoolhouse rug Kitty hooked, complete with a prim alphabet and a flag pole, brings start-of-school charisma to the little green bench, where a heavy dog figurine holds a similar piece in place.
17. Foot the bill. "I love incorporating darker colors for fall to capture the cozy feel of the season,” Debbie adds. One of the easiest ways to warm up any space is with a rug, such as this black-and-gray patterned example that softens the breezeway's tile floor.

For more information, visit our Craft Fair online

Hooked-wool wall hanging and candle mat, The 13th Colony, LLC
Handmade pumpkin, Homespun Blessings
Hand-felted pumpkin, Whims and Wares
Iron crows, Heart-N-Hand
Small sunflower magnet, Ginther Village Craft Co
Corner breadbox, Red Bud Primitives

Redware pumpkin with stars, Eldreth Pottery
”Fall is Here” framed stitchery, Primitive Praise
Black Cat on Pumpkin hooked pillow, Williamsburg House, WI
Pumpkin Pie Spice prim label, Blue Cupboard Primitives LLC
Primitive flameless candle, The Red Brick Cottage

Eli Crowe & Son pumpkin sign, The Black Sheep Primitives,
Personalized 22" fall wreath, Smicksburg Drying Shed
Fall Harvest hooked pillow, Williamsburg House, WI
Two-in-one wood game board, DNL Woodworks
Autumn Splendor table runner, Choices Quilts
Redware plate with log cabin, Eldreth Pottery

Pumpkin with leaves sign, Country Store of Geneva
Primitive fall round stacking boxes, Gainers Creek Crafts
Jack-o'-lantern bags, Glory Days Mercantile
Duncan Shaker rug, The 13th Colony, LLC

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