Design Hints

Feeling Useful

Learn how to let functional objects take a fashionable turn by reinventing them as double-duty decor.

Be it grain bins, sugar buckets, rakes, apple peelers, beehives or canned preserves, Marcia Stroud loves to display utilitarian elements throughout her Fort Gay, West Virginia, home. From the kitchen to the living room to a stairway wall, she finds ways to work primitive and much-used functional pieces into her decor. Here's how she fits these accents into her rooms:

Can It: Whether you purchase them or do it yourself, show off those canned vegetables, fruits and preserves. Grouped together, "the variety of natural colors and textures provides an appealing contrast without being too bold or overpowering," Marcia says. Dry goods such as beans, flour, and vegetable and flower seeds stored in clear glass jars spice up a room's decor and are at hand when needed.

Leave It: The more worn something is, the more Marcia loves the item. "I like stuff that has been used a lot and shows that use," she says. If there's rust on a rake or an old washtub, leave it as-is to give authentically timeworn character to the overall display.

Hang It: Utensils, tools and other utilitarian items are better viewed when placed on a wall, Marcia says, because "it allows the details of the piece to come out." In the stairwell, an old saw and rake make a primitive statement on the wall; and, between the kitchen and the living room, wood spoons freed from a kitchen drawer lend a playful touch above a cupboard of canned foodstuffs.

Just Do It: If you love a piece, you'll find a place to display it. Who says exterior lighting is only for the outdoors or that an antique farm tool isn't wall art? "Don't be afraid to be different," Marcia says. "Sometimes your best ideas come from those temporary moments of decorating insanity."

Written by April Miller
Photographed and Styled by Franklin & Esther Schmidt