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Montana is known as Big Sky Country. For stylist Heather Chontos, who came to Bozeman by way of New York City, London, and Barcelona, it's Big Inspire Country.
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A Fresh Take
Chontos and her two daughters relocated to Montana for the mountains, rivers, sprawling pastures, and big blue sky. It was time to explore a new place and let the landscape (golden willows, weathered red barns, blazing pink sunsets) inform her crafts -- all of which bring color and style to a Saturday-evening twilight dinner party.
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A Vintage Makeover
“I love the contrast of rough and rustic against something brighter and newer,” says Chontos, a stylist and set designer, as she dips the handles of vintage wooden spoons into buckets of colorful paint. The spoons -- and many other crafts and embellishments -- will become part of a dinner-party table setting.
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Hot for Pink
“I think everything in life should feel somewhat playful and creative, and certainly never dull,” says Chontos, who has started a housewares line, Milk Farm Road. “Maybe this is why my daughters and I love hot pink so much.”
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Take a Dip
Since color-blocking brings a modern feel to a rustic setting, Chontos makes crafts or embellishes tableware with bright inks and paints: She simply dips the handles of wooden spoons and silverware into buckets of paint, then either squiggles an eyedropper or blots with a brush to decorate napkins with Pebeo ink.
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Chontos makes many of the decorative elements from affordable raw materials -- ink-blot napkins, paint-dipped jars as water glasses -- with the intent that guests will bring them home as reminders of a beautiful evening.
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Make a SplashShould things get a little messy, all the better: "Paint splashes really help this sort of look," she says.Photography: John Kernick
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In her career as a set designer, Chontos says, she's been called the Queen of Distressing: "I like rough, scratched surfaces, paint splashes, worn-out woods."
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Plan the Meal
Heather Chontos's dinner party menu makes the most of the summer bounty from local ranches and gardens.
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You can begin preparing this splendid summer menu a week in advance so all is smooth sailing the day of the party.
11 of 13Bake blueberries and strawberries right into these shortcakes, and spoon more fresh berries on top for serving.Photography: John Kernick
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Chontos brings her colorful, handmade-meets-modern aesthetic to a twilight gathering in her barn.
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Raised in a Barn
A boxy barn-board table is rugged and rustic -- yet adaptable to a modern look. A woodworker can make a table to the exact desired size from salvaged boards, Chontos says: “I found mine in a pile, and they were deep red, but the woman who made the table sanded them down until it was just a light red with lots of wood grain.” While you could set a table like this on a deck, Chontos admits the overall tone owes a lot to the Montana environs. “It helps to have a barn,” she jokes.