Style Means Everything For Your House

Painted furnishings and brightly hued accessories fill a Vermont artist’s lovingly restored home with the spirit of warmth and whimsy

DWDLWhat’s the surest and quickest way to elevate a room’s mood? I Start by injecting a healthy dose of color. Textile artist Susan Sargent learned that lesson well during an extended stay in Sweden, where it has long been the custom to rebel against the pall of long, dark winters by dwelling amid lighthearted hues. Susan applied this rime-rested theory–and utilized her own marvelous eye for color, pattern, and texture–when decorating the refurbished 1860s Vermont farmhouse she shares with her husband, Tom Peters, and their two sons. The playfully patterned pillows, hand-tufted rugs, applique coverlets, painted bed linens, ceramic tableware, and bright glazed tiles that Susan designs and sells under the apt rubric Handmade Art for Living are scattered about her farmhouse like jewels, providing something to please the eye, delight the imagination, and warm the spirit at every turn.


Everyone loves to linger in Susan Sargent’s eat-in kitchen.

* Snowy walls and a wooden floor painted pale green reflect light.

* The raised hearth eases fire starting; placing it in a corner allows heat to pulse where it’s needed most.

* Susan’s Bright Bird Tree rug anchors a painted table crafted by a friend and fellow artist, Dan Mosheim.

* Double-hung windows are shutterless and unadorned to capture every glimmer of sunshine winter has to offer.


Sherbet-hued pillows stand out against the living room’s slipcovered sofa. * To achieve a successful mix of pillows, stick to the same intensity of tone; patterns should relate in scale, too. * When high enough–at least 14 inches–an ottoman or bench comfortably substitutes for a traditional coffee table, a boost for folks who feel most at home where they can kick back and put their feet up.

Living with color is like inviting a rainbow indoors


A sense of artistry unifies pieces as disparate as a traditional Windsor chair and a playful, three-legged table. Call attention to outstanding pieces by giving each item sufficient breathing room.

Remember: Today’s artisan-made crafts are tomorrow’s antiques, like this David T. Smith Windsor.


Glass vases cast colorful shadows when hit by the sunlight, so they perfectly complement a window recess. Let wire whisks, beaters, and strainers fringe a kitchen window; their squiggly shapes cast filigree shadows on the wall. Play up the idiosyncrasies of specific objects; let them tell you how they should be displayed.


Any surface can serve as a pedestal for a spontaneous tableau, be it a table, a bench, a countertop–even the floor. In an echo of itself, a grouping of still lifes painted by Boston artist Peter Plomondon sets up a visual counterpoint against the window wall in Susan’s kitchen. Harmony is all in the eye, in how you assemble and view the objects you love.

Any still life has real or invisible boundaries, which are usually determined by its objects. Move them around until the grouping feels right. When your eye naturally rests upon the whole, then all is well,


The most resilient couch, especially for active families, is constructed with fairly firm down-over-foam seat cushions and all-down pillows. White slipcovered sofas are popular and available from several manufacturers, including Lee Industries (left), Broyhill, and Mitchell Gold.

mpThe most manageable pillow size for lounging is the 20-inch square. Susan’s huggable, tone-on-tone Lattice pillows are made of woven silk jacquard and accented with narrow piping in complementary tones. These silk organza pillow covers fold over in back, envelope style, and are ribbon-tied, making them easy to remove when it is time to clean them.


A guest room should be as cozy as your own bedchamber.

* Susan gave dingy barn siding a fresh look with soothing aqua-toned paint, “a wonderful color to display art against,”

* Dowels on brackets help solve the riddle: How can I give visitors the privacy they deserve if I detest window coverings? Thread curtains onto poles when guests come and remove them afterwards.

* A Thos. Moser Shaker-inspired chest provides storage in a room without closets.

* Susan’s hand-painted Pears bedding can be machine washed.

IDEAS Susan’s husband gave her a new bathroom as an anniversary present. “It’s my ‘solitary room,’ where I soak and dream,” says his appreciative partner. * Allusions to the period of the house include an old-fashioned faucet and the beaded board that sheathes the walls and tub platform. * Susan painted the checkerboard floor freehand. “It takes some time, but it’s easy to do in a room this small,” she says. * Barnacle-encrusted shells resting on the window sash support the room’s seaside theme.

Soothing shades of blue and green give the bathroom a seaside spirit making it a tranquil place in which to refresh and renew.


An accurate reproduction of a vintage handheld shower and faucet set adds an element of elegance to the tub and takes up less space than an overhead shower would.

Keep fixtures true to the period: Major manufacturers, including Waterworks, the maker of Susan’s faucet, and Kohier (whose faucet is shown here) offer finishes in polished chrome and nickel.


Hushed, fog-kissed shades of straw, sky, blush, sage, and gray form the basis of the palette employed in Susan’s bath–all colors equated with the Swedish country look.

Susan’s bath is a rhapsody in blue: Walls are painted in City of Lights with a border of Matisse above, both by Dulux.

Lightweight wooden pantry boxes can be picked up for a song BOXED SETS at crafts-supply shops, then decorated to suit your fancy. Some come nested for greater portability. To achieve the look of the boxes Susan stacked on the chest in her guest room, brush on a thin coat of paint. When dry, twirl on polka dots.

Pantry boxes need not be relegated to the kitchen. Use them to store all sorts of everyday items–safety pins, hair bands, crayons, paper clips, cotton balls–you name it.

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