Un­ex­pected Ap­peal

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.

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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

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