Monday, April 7, 2008

Style Guide: Mexican Folk Art

Early American and Mexican treasures distinguish a 1920's adobe dwelling in Little Rock.

The owners of this 1927 Spanish adobe home in Little Rock, Ark., created a showcase that reflects their passion for antiques and folk art. It is the type of furniture styles and collectibles that makes this Collectors' Showcase so unique.

When remodeling their home, the owners drew inspiration from dwellings they admired on travels through Mexico. They created an interior courtyard, embellished surfaces with painted tiles, and selected an expressive color palette.

What they found when they began mixing New England antiques with authentic Mexican pieces was that the two styles actually complemented one another, with the simplicity and warmth of one playing off the intriguing forms and colors of the other.

Although sombreros are not required for this home tour, they would hardly seem out of place. Olé!


Looking at the interior courtyard, you would think you were in Mexico rather than Little Rock. Tropical plantings frame the space occupied by an umbrella-shaded iron table and chairs. The umbrella -- made of burlap and featuring a graceful hand-crocheted edge -- was made in the Mexican village of San Miquel de Allende.

As in the kitchen, hand-painted decorative tiles appear on the tabletop and the wall beneath the windows. A jardinaire, now brimming with the tendrils of a lush fern, complements the blue and white design. The "lacey" porcelain candlesticks on the table were handcrafted nearly 100 years ago by Mexican artisans.

Dining Room

Displayed in an early Welsh cupboard, contemporary Mexican ceramicware from the village of Delores Hidalgo carries South of the Border spirit into the dining room. The Sheraton drop-leaf dining room table is surrounded by Rhode Island Windsor chairs. As a centerpiece, purple sage from the garden provdes an unusual look and unusually fragrant scent.

Keeping Room

Hung above the keeping room's faux marble mantel is an 1820 portrait and hand-lettered meeting hall sign, both from New England. A century -- or pilgrim -- chair claims one corner of the hearth. On the opposite side, a New England drop-leaf table displays a variety of collectibles, including a tin maple-sugar mold. A floral painted firescreen is mounted on the wall above.

The sofa's flame stitch upholstery complements the color and design of the oriental carpet, table linens, and decorative throw. The coffee table at center is a c.1800 tilt-top table, cut down and valued for its original blue paint.

Corner Cupboard

Collections require display space, and the antique corner cupboard in the living room provides a beautiful showcase for patterned tableware. Made in New York and dating from 1820, the cabinet is unusual for many things, not the least of which is its original blue paint finish.

Guest Bedroom

In the guest bedroom a profusion of floral blooms and vines decorate the vintage fabric used for the sumptuous bed hangings and linens. Deep green-colored walls and dark wood floors add a dramatic richness to the setting. On the windows, embroidered panels serve as decorative valances, with sheer draperies providing a translucent filter for natural light.

The room showcases a number of treasured family heirlooms -- like the Victorian taffeta-upholstered couch and feathered hat. Other unique vintage textiles include the early patchwork quilt on the bed and 1840's silk taffeta dress hanging in the corner.

Three bandboxes sit atop the cupboard, each featuring a primitive American scene in shades of blue and white. To complement the rich texture of the whitewashed adobe walls, drapery panels are stenciled with repetitive vertical patterns and hung from branch-like metal rods.

The yellow-painted adobe walls complement the room's furnishings and architectural details, like the exposed ceiling timbers and wood-plank flooring. During the evening a tin chandelier -- which the owners claim is of "mysterious date and origin" -- gives the room a special ambiance.

Master Bedroom

From the checkered bed linens, toile patterned table skirts, assorted blankets and throws, and buffalo plaid drapery panels, the master bedroom relies on shades of blue and white to unify the rich interplay of texture and pattern. The solid blue coverlet and painted louver doors add balance to the pattern-rich scheme, and contrast to the cream painted walls and ceiling.

The room features a number of early American country accents, including the spinning wheel and child's Windsor chair shown in the foreground; both were handed down from the owner's mother. An unsual lace canopy dresses the Shaker-inspired pencil-post bed.

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