If you'd like to put the warmth of country decor in your kitchen, family room, or throughout your entire home, you can use some simple, inexpensive alternatives to the usual duck-duck-goose approach to country decorating.
First impressions are often lasting, and a visitor's first impression of your home begins at your front door. A welcomechange from beribboned straw wreaths are sculpted metal shapes of elephants, whales and pigs -- lined with bells -- that jingle every time there's a knock on the door. These "doorbells" cost $8 at the RebelTrading Post in Ellicott City.
An old bench or chair placed just outside the door also can be aninviting touch to visitors. It can be left "as is" or painted in a color that complements the exterior of your home. This may be the itemon which to try one of the popular "faux" painting (sponging, marbleizing, ragging) techniques.
A sturdy bark basket -- overflowing with seasonal flowers, and placed on the chair or bench -- is another great way to say "welcome."
A way to create warmth in the kitchen -- while helping the environment -- is to replace those paper napkins with colorful cotton bandannas, which sell for about $1 at novelty and outdoor clothing stores. Make a window valance from red bandanna triangles tied across a curtain rod.
Matching bandanna "napkins" that have been rolled into cylinders and placed upright in a teapot or other container can continue the flow of the pattern. Other touches, like knotting a bandanna around the handle of the refrigerator door, alight fixture or a basket also will help pull the room together.
If you have a lot of windows, but lack the funds for custom-made draperies, try a lighter touch -- lace curtains. Curtains also can be fashioned from tablecloths, old or new, tacked across the window frame. Or, try draping a bolt of lace through two small oval picture frames or brass towel holders mounted above the window frame.
For tiebacks, split the cloth in two, hem and thread onto a rod. For a feminine touch in a bedroom, tie back panels with ribbons. Two small nosegays of dried rosebuds -- placed on each tieback -- can be purchased in most country gift shops that sell dried flowers.
A swag of pleated fabric is another inexpensive window treatment. Take a piece of fabric3 yards long by 30 inches wide and fold. Make diagonal cuts on the shorter (30-inch) side. Cut a lining fabric to the same measurements. Sew right sides together, leaving an opening to turn inside out. Press and fold fabric like an accordion. Drape over finials or goose-neckscrews (found in drapery departments or fabric stores) on each side of the window.
If you want to update a bathroom at minimum expense, try this for an English country effect: Color schemes popular in baths 20 years ago can still work without tearing out the old tile. If,for example, you have pink and gray ceramic tiles, try to find one of the popular English floral prints in a new shower curtain that includes those colors. It's not as difficult as you would think -- most floral patterns include several colors and shades.
The Linen Barn in Columbia Mall has a wide assortment of shower curtains with coordinating towels, linens and accessories. Remember that sheets and pillowcases can be an economical choice for making curtains and valances. One ruffled, standard-size pillowcase can be turned into a balloon-type shade for the inside of a 32-inch window.
Open up the seam, hem one end of the pillowcase, and thread onto an adjustable rod that fits the inside of the window casing, ruffles down. Your window may needa larger pillowcase, or more than one, in order to provide fullness.Three strips of grosgrain ribbon in a coordinating color can be equally spaced across the rod, looped around the case and tied into bows -- bringing the curtain to the desired height. This will pouf the fabric into three ruffled scallops at the bottom, creating a surprisingly customized look.
Instead of using the conventional shower curtain hooks to hang your shower curtain, try threading some grosgrain ribbon through the openings in the matching shower curtain; tie each loop of ribbon around the shower rod in a bow.
Marlyn Ely, an interior design student and Ellicott City homemaker, turned a mistake into something special. Needing a quick lift for a drab powder room that had pale yellow tiles in her 25-year-old house, she chose a wallpaper in a striped pattern "that was really ugly" once it was up.
"I ran out and bought a Laura Ashley border that had a blue ribbon in the pattern, cut it out, applied it along the perimeters of the room, and Ithink it looks outstanding," she said. Ely said the cut-out ribbon gives a more distinctive effect than if the border had been applied intact.