Decorate with Crafts

Winter Wake-Up Call

The Country Sampler stylists help an antiques dealer with a passion for primitives and Early American pieces awaken her recently renovated spare bedroom with 16 smart tips.

Hinckley, Illinois, antiques dealer and collector Nancy Nelson knows firsthand that raising three active sons doesn't leave much time for remodeling -- even though her 1872-built four-square Colonial was in serious need of some modern updates. "The upstairs was livable," she recalls. "My boys were into a lot of sports, so spending our time on family was more important than spending it on our house."

When their sons grew up and moved out, Nancy and her husband, Ron, finally had time in their schedule to work on repainting, rewiring and installing trim, although they had a little extra motivation to complete their projects. "We agreed to do the local house walk, and we knew that if we said 'yes,' we'd push ourselves to get things done," Nancy says. "We did eight rooms in eight months! My husband did a great job."

Although Nancy would prefer a more rustic interior to suit her primitive furnishings, she is committed to maintaining the 141-year-old Colonial's architectural integrity. So, instead of installing battered beams and simple trimwork, she compromised by choosing neutral tones for the ornate window casings and crown molding that help them serve as a suitable backdrop for her timeworn antiques.

Color still makes its mark in the home, such as in the guest bedroom that Nancy calls her "blue room." Read on for 16 ways that Nancy and Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad and Catherine Parker infused the space with primitive style.

Case of the Blues
1. Play it (pie) safe.
Bring furniture often found in other rooms into the bedroom for visual variety and added storage. Nancy tasks an 1800s blue-finish pie safe with stashing all of her bedding in her blue-themed guest room. 2. Make arrangements. To accentuate the safe's primitive patina, Sally-Jo and Catherine arranged an old-time bear in a make-do chair, a wood box with a candle and a button-bedecked jar lamp amid Nancy's treasures. 3. Speak sign language. Let a simple sign serve as a well-worded companion to three-dimensional wall accents. Here, a weathered wood placard accompanies a washboard and a shelf holding folded fabric.

Wardrobe and Peace
4. Have an open-door policy.
"A large wardrobe might feel somewhat blocky and overpowering in a modest-size room if both doors are closed," Catherine says. With one side open, Nancy's cabinet showcases a woven red-and-cream throw that provides this corner of the bedroom with touchable texture and pretty pattern. A star-studded wreath encircling a rustic lantern breaks up the closed door's flat surface. 5. Rule the roost. Highlight high ceilings with a tall cupboard topped with eye-catching accents such as this rooster windmill weight accompanied by cream and red wood houses that bring out the weight's coloring. 6. Take a seat. Have a chair do decorating duty by pulling it into the open and enhancing it with an embroidered pillow, a stack of antique books or a wood bowl filled with rag balls. "Ladderback chairs take up less space than a shelf or a cabinet, but their seats provide wonderful display real estate," Sally-Jo notes. 7. Forgive and "fir-get." Tuck a minimally trimmed tree inside a firkin for a seasonal delight that looks fresh all winter long. 8. Expect drape things. Dress up simple curtains, such as Nancy's custom-made burlap panels, with a nature-made garland.

Fan Favorite
9. Get apothecar-ried away.
Keep everything from folded fabric scraps to pewter mugs organized within a display by arranging them on a dough tray or inside a wood caddy such as the one on top of Nancy's cherished apothecary. Joining the caddy, a candle mold with greenery and a lantern-style lamp enhance the furniture's primitive patina. 10. Dry your best. "Always reimagine possibilities for your antiques," Catherine advises. "This drying rack found new purpose displaying photographs and postcards with clothespins." 11. Go for the bold. Spice up your space with a statement piece. This vibrant 9-foot-long architectural remnant sat in the Nelsons' basement for years until it found the perfect home here. 12. Mix things up. Instead of hanging accents, such as Nancy's antique clothing, on every peg, fill some of the wall space below a peg rack with a wood sign.

Your Best Bed
13. Shutter to think.
Adorn the area above the headboard with an innovative array of vintage and country items. "Start with an interesting flat surface, and then hang a seasonal accent for more dimension," Sally-Jo says. "We attached wintry socks and mittens to a faux cranberry garland and hung it on a weathered shutter." 14. Layer it on thick. "Everyone wants to get cozy during the winter, so dress your bed in layers," Catherine says. Nancy's late-1800s rope bed is topped with simple coverlets and pillows that feature warm hues or soft, inviting textures. A multicolored braided rug adds more comfort underfoot. 15. Hit the highlights. Get your room glowing with accent lighting, such as the period-look lantern backed by a textile-draped cheese ladder at left. Another of the room's illuminated accents, the candle mold lamp with a punched-tin shade on the nightstand at right is one of Nancy's few reproduction pieces. 16. Fill in the blanks. When your guest room isn't hosting a visitor, feel free to outfit every available surface with accessories. Accompanying the candle-mold lamp, some tapers wrapped in burlap, a honey-hued pantry box and a framed stitchery make a primitive statement that suits Nancy's signature style.

For more information, visit our Craft Fair online.

Primitive old bear, Blue Skies Creations
Live Every Moment sign, Hare Hollow
Candle box with berry ring and candle, Country Heart

Handstitched pillow, Blue Skies Creations
Primitive town set, The Black Sheep Primitives
Wreath with barn lantern, Smicksburg Drying Shed
Linen/brick patterned throw, Homespun Blessings

Dough tray and pewter mug, Farmhouse Primitives
Naughty or Nice? sign, Hare Hollow
Burgundy metal lantern lamp, Heart-N-Hand

Jute rug, Stonington Charm coverlet, tan chevron blanket, simple button sham and Christie s Pleasure throw pillow, Olde Farm Creek
Lantern light, Homespun Blessings
Family stitchery, Made by Jade

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Nancy Nelson's antiques business, Sweet Pea's Primitives and Such, 630-742-9824. 

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