Monday, April 7, 2008

Style Guide: American Folk Art

An evolving collection of hand-crafted works enlivens a 20-year-old Illinois farmhouse.

When the owner of this welcoming Illinois home first began collecting, she gravitated toward unusual antique accessories. Through the years, however, she developed a special preference for the odd pieces of American folk art that now fill her home -- inside and out.

Throughout the dwelling, collectibles of every size reflect the owner's fondness for animals as well as her sense of humor. A cow weather vane and polka-dotted wooden chicken honor pets that reside on the five-acre farm. In addition to the rustic charm and hand-crafted quality of the pieces, the owner simply explains, "I love things that make me smile."

Although we wouldn't normally welcome you through the back entrance, we thought the patio was an ideal starting point for this home tour. Shaded from the afternoon sun, it seems to capture the essence of our story: the appeal of rustic styling, the beauty of natural surroundings, and the unique charm of American folk art.

Great Room

Cypress-twig garden furniture and abundant greenery integrate the great room with the woodsy patio located just ouside the multipaned glass doors. During the summer, the room becomes a natural extension of the outdoors, taking full advantage of garden parties and garden views. In the colder months, the room is a natural for combating the winter blues.

A 1920's wooden horse that once stood in a Maryland saddle shop now keeps company with a folk art couple created by a Georgia carver. Other unusual collectibles include a carved totem pole, a wood and iron plant stand, and various weather vane designs.

Family Room

Traditional upholstery, earth-tone fabrics, and cherry occasional tables set the backdrop for the family room's display of folk art figures and flags -- all dating from the early part of this century to the present day.

The beige and white flag, framed in gold and hung to the right of the fireplace, was made by the homeowner using cotton remnants for stripes and rhinestone buttons for stars. The homeowner believes the wooden V may actually date from the First World War.

Corner Detail

In this corner of the family room, Old Glory makes additional appearances in everything from pillow cushions to window displays. The framed poster represents a commemorative work by Jasper Johns celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Even the floorcovering mirrors the flag motif with its alternating stripes of red, white, and blue.

Among the more unusual art pieces is the airplane visible in the corner. It was ingeniously fashioned from soda-can tabs by an unknown artist.

Dining Room

The homeowner had the table custom built to fit the dining room's generous dimensions, then surrounded it with caned chairs she collected one by one. In front of a Log Cabin quilt in the Barn Raising arrangment, a papier-mâché eagle from Virginia surveys the room from its birch-log perch.

The copper horse-and-rider weather vane, manufactured by A. J. Harris & Co. of Boston, Mass., was salvaged from the homeowner's grandfather's barn. Pantry boxes, a wooden moose head, and a reproduction copper chandelier from Connecticut reflect the owner's eclectic eye.

Guest Bedroom

The guest bedroom, with its painted beams and high angled ceiling, features an unusual mix of colors, textures, and collectibles. The dark-stained wicker bed is dressed in floral and plaid linens and a colorful Beacon blanket -- much to the liking of Foxy, the owner's pet Corgi. Additional linens are stored in and above an antique pie safe near the room's entrance.

The room features an assortment of carved wood folk art, from miniature houses to a wall-mounted steer's head. The unusual horse and rider was carved from an evergreen root by a Canadian folk artist.

Exterior View

The exterior of the farmhouse is picture perfect with its weathered clapboard siding and wood-shingled roof set against a lush landscape of black-eyed Susans, bee balm, winter clematic, and tall natural grasses. A sign from a Girl Scout camp in the Adirondacks provides a clear message of welcome for guests.

In the foreground, the owners have provided a welcome for feathered friends as well: A lodge-like birdhouse made of weathered logs and wood shingles is mounted on an existing tree stump.

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