Decorate with Crafts

Putting the Fun in Functional

An active family of five open their recently renovated kitchen to the Country Sampler stylists for a few pointers on creating a family-friendly space that's both pretty and practical.

0511wDWC01After a seemingly endless series of disasters, setbacks and surprises, Alicia and Ted Skodol breathed a sigh of relief last fall when they finally moved into the 1916-built Colonial in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, that they had spent months renovating. From mending broken plumbing and moving walls in the basement to reallocating space for the master bedroom's closet and bathroom, the couple had undertaken extensive transformations from cellar to rafters. "Even though we got water in our basement, we were actually happy it happened," Alicia recalls. "We made the best of it and created the ultimate playroom for the kids."

One of the most noticeable changes was a kitchen enlargement that bumped up the square footage by 150 feet, a much-needed addition of space for a family of five -- daughter Lexi is 3 years old and sons Dylan and Trey are 6 years and 11 months, respectively -- that loves to cook, craft and gather in the heart of the home. "The kids are always into crafting something, whatever they can find," Alicia says, noting that the eating area is the epicenter of their artistic endeavors. "Currently, it's watercolor painting, and they have lots of leftover moving boxes that they decorate and make into 'houses.' "

With the bones of the kitchen makeover completed, including granite countertops and a mix of original and crafted-to-match cabinetry, the Skodols turned to Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad and Catherine Parker for advice on decorating the room to suit their fun-loving, family-focused lifestyle. "Function and storage are really important for a kitchen that gets this much use," Catherine says. "But it was important to include those things without sacrificing Alicia's sense of style or the gathering-place spirit a space like this should have." Unify utility and great design in your home with the stylists' 19 fashion-meets-function tips.

0511wDWC02Jar and Away
1. Gather 'round.
Rethink everyday items to create delightful additions to your decor, such as a grouping of glass kitchen canisters united with a band of gingham ribbon, or a spare vessel repurposed as a vase.
2. Open up. 
Welcome spring by retasking a glass-sided candle lantern as a countertop greenhouse for pretty potted bulbs.
3. Make it or bake it.
  When designing and decorating, focus on what a room will really be used for on an everyday basis. Alicia and Ted constructed their kitchen renovation around entertaining and food preparation, making sure there was plenty of countertop space and an ample eating area nearby -- not to mention, plenty of room for the kids to roam.
4. Plan a counter attack.  If you want to use an area for both work and display, employ baskets and trays to contain serveware or accents. "Items will be easy to move, and you can unite them with a bright-colored runner," Sally-Jo says.
5. Call for backup. 
Set off a lighter-colored container, such as a salt-glazed cookie jar, from a neutral-hued countertop and backsplash by propping up a dark-finish treen bowl or trencher behind it.
6. Follow the rules.
  Family commandments are important in any household, so Sally-Jo and Catherine brought in some law-abiding stenciled wall art that pleases both Mom's sense of right and wrong and her sense of style. "We also hung a bright yellow sign that draws the eye to the corner by the door and counters the dark color and the rectangular shape of the rules board," Catherine adds.

0511wDWC03Counter Offer
7. Keep it handy.
Prevent small odds and ends from getting lost in a big drawer by positioning a wood mail organizer with small cubbies on the counter for holding everything from stamps to spare keys.
8. Be on your garden.  "Even if you don't have a garden window, you can get the same look by placing a long planter behind your sink," Sally-Jo says. "Tuck in a fun accent, such as a black crow, that will look great silhouetted against the window."
9. Choose wisely.
  Outfit your kitchen with multipurpose wares, such as a mixing bowl pretty enough to pass around the dinner table or a green ceramic pitcher that can serve beverages or hold bouquets.

0511wDWC04 Fair Game
10. Play for keeps. 
Have some fun with your kitchen wall decor by hanging up board game-inspired accessories, such as oversize wood dominoes or a piece that powers your room's playful palette.
11. Shed some light -- and some crystals.
  Look at the bones of a light fixture or a piece of furniture before you write it off as being incompatible with your style. This chandelier that Alicia found at a local lighting shop came covered in crystals, but she removed all but one of them to make a more casual farmhouse-inspired statement in the eating area.
12. Repeat a pattern. 
Pick room-completing elements that share a common motif, but mix up the design's scale and color. In the Skodols' eating area, for example, small red plaid checks on the chandelier shades coordinate with light-green plaid valances and a black-and-white pillow tasked as a chair pad.
13. Go to bed.
  "Mixing up seating styles is a smart way to make any space feel more informal," Catherine says. "Alicia has these great benches backed with twin-size headboards that were made for her by a local artisan. They are a perfect match for the table and the wood armchairs."
14. Soften up.
Create a cozy scene with accent quilts and toss pillows dotting your kitchen landscape.

0511wDWC05News Bulletin
15. Put a cork in it.
  Use a narrow strip of wall to set up a bulletin board that supplies a showcase spot for family photos, children's artwork and more.
16. Pail in comparison. 
"Cork boards are ideal for extra adornments," Sally-Jo says. "Screw some mug hooks through the cork and into the wood backing, and then add colorful pails full of crafting supplies. It's a cute way to stay organized."
17. Complete the scene. 
Accompany your bulletin board with a complementary cabinet or attractive trash bin that provides plenty of space on top for an accent lamp, decorative boxes or other stylish accents.
18. Get into a good frame of mind.
"If you have an empty spot on the wall, take inspiration from something else in the area, such as the bulletin board's frame, and shrink it down," Catherine says. "This small stitchery's black frame coordinates well with all of the grouping's black accessories."
19. Go out on a ledge. 
Don't worry about your accessories getting in the way in a busy room: Just utilize often-overlooked spaces for showcasing charming little touches, such as the wood daisy perched above the window seat.

For more information, visit our Craft Fair online.

Glass hoosier-style canisters, Olde Farm Creek; star canister, Klages Kollectibles; reproduction treen bowl, Heart-N-Hand; Family Rules stencil, The Stencilsmith, LLC; Rooster Crossing sign, The Hen House Shop.

Mail center, Creative Woods; mixing bowl, Maple City Pottery; primitive crow, Pine Cone Gift Shoppe; green clay pitcher, Country Store of Geneva.

Parcheesi game board and domino plaques, CL Ltd.; red basket quilt and throw pillow, Choices Quilts.

Lamp with punched-tin shade and wood trash bin, Olde Farm Creek; "Our Family Is a Circle" framed sampler, Timeless Charm Gifts; decorative boxes, Copeland's General Store; wood daisy, Gainers Creek Crafts.

chandelier, Lombard Lighting, 630-953-0900,; benches with headboard backs, Gibertini Originals, 219-484-9457,

Written by Elizabeth Preston Morrissey
Styled by Sally-Jo Enstad and Catherine Parker
Photographed by Maurice Victoria
Produced by Dennis Morgan