Pull together unusual antiques and rustic wares to emulate a one-of-a-kind style similar to the look a Nebraska resident created when decorating her century-old farmhouse.
Develop an eye for unusual antiques like those a Nebraska couple use to give their century-old farmhouse a distinctive look.
I like pieces that show evidence of simple, hardworking people who took nothing for granted and made do.
Tractor parts. Keys to a former meat locker. Tools meant for finding holes in flat tires. Anything and everything is decorating fodder for Dawn Anderson’s creative eye.
The Stromsburg, Nebraska, resident lives by a simple design credo: “The more unusual, the better,” she says, emphatically. That premise guides both her shopping and decorating, and the results are proudly displayed throughout the three-bedroom, 3,250-squarefoot 1908 farmhouse she shares with her husband, Jay, and their youngest daughter, Mckenna.
Dawn grew up in Minneapolis, but she had always wanted to live in a small town. Jay was raised in Stromsburg, a city of 1,200, where his grandparents owned a Swedish restaurant. After living in the Twin Cities, the couple moved back to Stromsburg in 1993 to buy and run the restaurant and to be closer to Jay’s family.
While living in Stromsburg, the Andersons spotted their current home, which, at the time, was owned by a friend’s parents. They asked the older Swedish couple to call them first if they ever decided to sell. Eventually, they did, and the house was theirs. It seemed a bit like fate, Dawn says. “I have always had a picture in my head of a house with a balcony with a quilt hanging over it, and a big room with a fireplace,” she explains. “My house has that now.”
Besides updating the Swedishinspired interior, which included lots of blue and yellow, the Andersons had little structural work to undertake. Luckily for them, the former owners had added a sunroom and laundry, plus a spacious great room/kitchen with vaulted ceilings that “just called out for prim and antiques,” Dawn enthuses.
While growing up, Dawn observed her mom’s enthusiasm for antiques but wasn’t drawn to the formal pieces she favored, preferring more rustic wares. The primitive look has long appealed to her, she says, even before she knew what it was called. “I always found myself attracted to pieces that were made of scraps,” she says. “I like pieces that show evidence of simple, hardworking people who took nothing for granted and made do.”
Favorite finds include the compartments, cubbies and boxes found throughout the house (for styling ideas, see “Decorating Inside the Box” on page 31). She also confesses to a penchant for crocks, buckets, stools and other prim pieces, many in need of more than a little TLC. “I’ve always been a champion of the underdog,” Dawn says with a laugh. “If no one else is going to love it, I will.”
After years of collecting antiques, Dawn began selling at a nearby antiques event, Gatherings On the Blue, flipping older pieces to stay on budget and make way for new, she explains. Doing so also had an extra perk—it gave her first dibs on what other vendors were selling, and she admits that she seldom returned home with an empty truck. “It’s an occupational hazard,” she observes. Today, Dawn and a partner sell antiques inside a friend’s local coffee shop under the name Primitive Chicks.
Dawn’s current home is her dream house, she says, with two exceptions: “If I could just move my house to a lakefront and install skylights, it would be absolutely perfect.” Even if she had her lakeside dream, she would fill it with rustic, prim and other pieces with a past. “Prim pieces are like me,” she explains. “They have dents and bruises, but they keep going and persevering. I admire that.”
Carve out more space for showing off kitchen collectibles by choosing to create cubbies on the back of an island rather than closed storage. Use the above-stove space for open shelving, as Dawn Anderson did to highlight a portion of her vast pottery...
Dawn created a relaxing retreat on her porch with the addition of a textured rug and rustic antiques, such as a recycled wooden bench and an ironstone bucket.
Gridley + Graves