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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.
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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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11 of 13Bake blueberries and strawberries right into these shortcakes, and spoon more fresh berries on top for serving.
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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.