When Mark Taylor and his design team presented a proposal to the Junior League of Buffalo for an "Eat, Drink and Be Merry!" dining room for this year's Decorators' Show House, they didn't go the conventional route and tack fabric swatches and room sketches to color boards.
Instead, they dragged in a 140-year-old copper apple-butter bucket stuffed with the fabric they intended to use, a sample of the china and silver, a bottle of wine and other items they envisioned in their Gothic-Revival-made-livable dining room.
Now that the house is open to the public, that same copper bucket -- with its cast-iron handles and generous 22-inch diameter -- has taken on a new role.
It is filled with dozens and dozens of wine corks and placed decoratively on a Chinese teakwood stand on the floor next to the mahogany sideboard.
"I think it adds an unexpected twist," Taylor said.
Not to mention providing a place for all those corks that connoisseurs tend to accumulate.
From pebble-covered window sills to gigantic pine cones nestled in a wall-hung wicker basket, Decorators' Show House -- the Miller Mansion at 175 Nottingham Terrace -- is the place to come for accessorizing ideas.
The event, a major community fund-raiser co-sponsored by the Junior League of Buffalo and The Buffalo News, continues through May 25.
It is here where you will see:
A trio of V-shaped glass vases, each holding a single red silk bloom, hanging on the golden yellow Venetian plaster wall above the tub in the Guest Bedroom Suite.
Oars used as display shelves in the cozy Anchors Away bedroom.
A realistic-looking bluebird sitting on a nest under the glass dome of a cake plate, used as a centerpiece in the third-floor kitchen.
Artwork of all kinds -- paintings from the Miller family collection; oversized works by Buffalo artist Alessi Fitzgerald; hand-painted black-and-white photographs depicting scenes of Western New York by Tina Tompkins Ames, and more.
Mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors -- some hung vertically, some hung horizontally and some so big, they are propped up against a wall.
A ceramic birdbath planted with flowers and placed on a black metal stand.
And a stack of 25 coffee table books piled high and transformed into a pedestal for an impressive vase of Black Magic calla lilies.
"There is a trick to it. I learned that the hard way; I broke an expensive vase," said Ben Kuhns, of Seasons, who decorated the Main Hallway.
"You can't just stack them up. What happens is that it gets rocky and tips over. You have to take your sturdiest, heavy hardcovers and work from largest to smallest. I also find that if you put magazines in there that face the other direction -- with their bindings facing the back -- it levels it," said Kuhns.
Some of the other accessorizing ideas are quite simple.
In the Asian Relaxation Room, for example, a bed of polished river rock covers the window sill and provides a nice base for tall terra cotta rose pots filled with silk spider orchids.
"It's the same polished river rock you see in tabletop fountains, and people love it," said Lacy Abbott, of Diggin' It, who designed the room along with Colleen Kitchens of Open House on Elmwood Avenue.
In addition to looking good, it's also a great way to disguise a faded or unsightly window sill, said Abbott, who carried the river rock theme throughout the room, including in fountains, around votives and even as "rests" for chopsticks.
But the river rock look is not for everyone -- or for every home.
"This is for single people -- for people without 3-year-olds or three cats," Abbott said.
Touring the show house, the former Nichols Middle school, also provides a lesson in pillow tossing. Pillows of different sizes and shapes, including one with accent beading, dress up the custom down-cushioned window seat in the Master Suite Sitting Room.
And a dozen pillows in oceanic shades of blue and green brighten the black hand-crafted daybed of the Retreat, in a mix of coordinating prints with some solid cotton-crochet pillows thrown in as well.
Decorative animals, too, are everywhere in this home, and those with a passion for pets can pick up a few pointers on decorating with animal-theme accessories.
It all begins in the English Entry foyer designed by the Kittinger Co., where a pair of tall, black canines double as planters and greet visitors.
The handsome pair, with their gold collars, flank the opening to the conservatory.
Other dogs -- and a few cats -- are found in the Master Suite Sitting Room designed by Myra Lee Vining and Della Vining Hall: a wooden Dalmatian standing tall next to the hand-painted armoire; a dog-shaped planter and, of course, a custom canopy pet bed complete with zebra-print cushion and sheer ivory curtains.
And a stone dog statue looks right at home next to a china cabinet in the dining room where, as any canine-lover knows, dogs tend to hang out during family gatherings.
"But our dog is a good dog; he's sitting away from the table," designer Mark Taylor said.
Note: Decorators' Show House hours have been extended next week. The house will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday in addition to the regular evening hours.
Looking for some off-the-wall ideas from Decorators' Show House?
Here are some of the things designers hung on their walls:
A wooden chair.
A canvas-lined wicker basket filled with jumbo-size pine cones.
Glass wall vases filled with silk flowers.
Boat oars used as display shelves.
A half-dozen "floater" shelves -- each about 6 inches wide -- holding a clear votive holder, candle and river rock.
A pair of old-fashioned bottles about 10 inches high attached to the wall near a dressing table, filled with tiny flowers and accented with decorative butterflies