The quilt above the family room fireplace answers the show-stopping question: What do you put in that huge focal point under the vaulted ceiling?
If you're Debbie McArdle, the answer is a red, white and blue quilt in a star pattern, hung on a custom frame.
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If you goWhat: The 56th Spring Fox Valley Antiques Show
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 9, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 10
Where: Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles, between North Avenue (Route 64) and Roosevelt Road (Route 38).
Admission: $8. $2 discount with ad found at csada.com
Sponsor: The Chicago Suburban Antiques Dealers Association
Benefits: Garfield Farm Museum
Yes, she and husband Jim are patriotic. And the nation's colors -- translated to muted red, oatmeal and cobalt blue -- work well with the country store antiques in their 1970s Dutch colonial style home.
Under the name Iron Horse Antiques & Appraisers, the Crystal Lake couple will sell antiques and answer questions at the Fox Valley Antiques Show Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10, in St. Charles.
As a young wife without much money, Debbie decorated with antiques, and she thinks that's still a good strategy, not to mention it fits with today's green sensibilities.
"As we moved, we found that we could sell those antiques at a higher return than if we had bought new," she said. "We changed our decorating schemes as our tastes were changing. The trees were already cut years ago, and they don't have the chemicals you can find in new furniture."
Anyone who learns an old piece has lead paint not compatible with young children could have it stripped, she said.
Even when certain antique styles go out of favor, you can still recover a larger percentage of their purchase price than you would with low-cost new furniture, she maintains. The McArdles' first furniture was Victorian, and now they choose the simpler country store fixtures, generally from the same era.
The history demonstrated by their antiques -- especially those associated with 19th and early 20th century shops -- is important to the McArdles. Both come from lines of merchants or storekeepers. Debbie's parents operated J&P Telemart -- customers used phones to order deliveries, "the first Peapod" -- on the south side of Chicago, and Jim's ancestors operated a gas station in Denver, the first west of the Mississippi River.
From an oak veterinarian's cabinet decorated with animal carvings that shows Jim's collection of pewter-trimmed graniteware to one that lured early 20th century housewives to purchase ribbon for their sewing projects, the McArdles have acquired antique cabinets to display their treasures or serve as storage.
Many of these not only have glass on all four sides for the convenience of the doctor or to show off the product, but they also turn to make each side easily accessible.
"More than 100 years ago shopkeepers knew they had to get customers' eyes," said Debbie. "How could a woman seeing this leave the store and not buy some ribbon?"
Coffee tables were not around in the 19th century, so Debbie very creatively reused a bed built for a hired farmhand. Shorter, lower to the ground and more narrow than our beds today, it was transformed with new rope strung in the simple pine frame held together with square nails and a sheet of glass for the top.
"Sometimes I look at this and think, 'He worked so hard all day long and then went to bed on that, maybe with some type of mattress on top of it.' Who slept in that bed? Did he have all his teeth? Probably not. What about all his fingers?"
Two noteworthy pieces in the family room are a tall 1890 oak lawyer's bookcase that fits perfectly into a corner near a window and a dry sink with red and blue paint, irresistible for homeowners with this color scheme.
A 3-foot-tall boy, in a "dandy" outfit painted and cut out from wood, stands in the living room. This is called a dummy board, said Debbie, and even museums don't know exactly why they came about in 1700s England.
The McArdles took theirs to Navy Pier when the Antiques Roadshow came visiting, hoping to gather more information.
The first thing the expert said was it was obviously a reproduction. The McArdles were unbelieving and didn't know what to think until the man said it was made in the 1840s, not the 1700s.
"That's old enough for us," said Debbie McArdle.