For Margo Tantau, decorating inspiration is more likely to come from a 1960s candy-box wrapper than from a fabric swatch.
A creative director by profession, a collector by inclination, and an artist in spirit, Margo has turned her house in Kansas City into a home for the flea-market finds, folk art, and offbeat collectibles she’s always picking up. An assortment of well-worn brushes designed for various long-forgotten tasks, a deer head made from old tools, a Calderesque wire carousel—in her skilled hands, this “more is more” mix works, and her cabinet of curiosities invariably leaves the eye stimulated, the senses amused, and the heart warmed.
The transformation of her 1912 Craftsman bungalow began on move-in day three years ago when Margo let loose with coats of sea blue and bright white in the basement, transforming a dingy throwaway space into an inviting storage area for many of her treasures.
Upstairs, to counterbalance the somber weight of original woodwork stained dark brown, she chose uplifting wall colors in diffuse shades of sage green and yellow, all inviting backdrops for her eclectic furnishings and wide-ranging collections.
For Margo, a DIY-er to the core, the evolution of the house unfolds as time allows, whim dictates, and as she goes shopping. The no-rush redo has unveiled original plaster finishes and vintage wallpaper, but her unique arrangement of furniture and objects brings the house forward to the present. “I’m adding my own layers, my own story,” she says.
Margo’s highly individual eye is testament to a well-traveled and eclectic life. From childhood, she was schooled to notice shape, color, and texture. “It was part of our vocabulary,” she says of her family. Her mother was an interior decorator and shop owner who always encouraged her to “Look up!” and notice the architectural details in a big city. Her father, a pilot, quite literally widened her horizons.
Fortunately, Margo’s partner, Johnny Stiff, a graphic designer, speaks a similar language. While it may have been his flashy orange Honda motorcycle that first caught Margo’s eye, she soon discovered in him an equal passion for treasure hunting and collecting humble, often handmade wares, from vintage board games and tools to tin toys. Besides mutual interests and wall space, these artistic mates also share an heir, three-year old Cooper, and a new Cairn terrier named Mr. Bean.
Out of the fourteen rooms and three hallways in the house, eight spaces have been freshly painted once, four at least twice if not more, and there is still plenty to do. With Margo at the helm, the decorating process remains unhurried and organic, a continuing evolution that responds to new ideas and the latest finds. Like any true artist, she doesn’t get overly attached to her collections–her “everything’s for sale” attitude simply gives her more opportunities to search for treasures anew. There is no grand master plan other than to fill her house with light, love, gratitude, and life.
Margot’s color inspirations can be seen in her one-of-a-kind collections.
German Italian pottery of the 1960′s and 1970′s are one of Margo’s curent fads, as much for their shapes and embossed textures as their colorful glazes. Dealer Robert Grano in New York’s Antique Garage is a favorite source.
Margo is drawn to the beauty of utilitarian objects and their inherent stories. “I love the primitive, the repaired, that which was never intended as art.”
A soft yellow (banana cream 275) warms the sun room, making it a welcoming spot even on cloudy days. Its cheerful retro-lodge vibe is due largely to a mix of rustic and modern.
The “bad deer” art collection is slated for an eventual lake house. At one end of the room, modern chairs in sunny yellow anchor an eating area defined by shaggy “grass” rug.
Stripe-on-stripe bedding and a globe jauntily sporting a sailor cap say “boy’s room” — minus the cliches. An old metal arrow sign has been re-purposed and as a shelf for tin toys and board games from another era-rich imagery for pleasant dreams.
Local artist Anthony Pack used found metal objects- an oilcan, shoe horns, and garden hand rakes- to create this wacky modern day robot. navajo white OC-95
A pale gray-blue keeps things calm in Cooper’s bedroom. A collection of toy holsters from earlier cowboy childhoods is cleverly showcased up and down one wall. beacon gray 2128-60
In the playroom Margo painted each basket of an IKEA unit a different hue. Not only did this work with the crayon box decorating scheme, but it also helps Cooler with colors, as in “Cars go in the red basket.” The rug is also from IKEA.
Color That Works From The Outside In
“The colors helped sell me on the house, ” Margo says of her 1912 Craftsman bungalow. With its deep porch, raised natural stone foundations and decorative half timbers, the building is typical of the style.
The exterior of the house boasts five different colors. The main color, barley 199 is used for the stucco, creating a warm prairie glow. wasabi AF-318, and acid yellow green, picks out the wood trim, defining the lines of the porch and window. A deep mossy green sterling forest 518 highlights key structural elements — the roof line and column tops — and the spanish red 1301 accent lifts the palette from the monochromatic.
Carrying one of the exterior accent colors into the foyer wasn’t in the original plan. After two attempts, Margo was finally charmed by wasabi AF-318, the same yellow-green color used on the exterior.
Margo’s palette for the exterior was bold and inventive. Red accents were an inspired addition.
|spanish red 1301||sterling forest 518||wasabi AF-318||barley 199|
Have you ever taken a color from your Exterior and brought it to life on your Interior?
This article was originally published in COLOR LIFE from Benjamin Moore, a digital color and design publication. Each issue takes a virtual tour through outstanding homes to see how color is used, shows the shades that are inspiring leading designers, and includes simple color makeover ideas. Get COLOR LIFE today!