Milk Farm Road: A Handmade Tale
SHOP TALK – March 2014
by Veronique McAree | Photography Amanda Kowalski
Come with us for an inspiring morning talking shop with Heather Chontos of the very creative Milk Farm Road
Take a look around Heather Chontos’s studio-meets-shop and you immediately know a lot about her. For starters, there’s color everywhere—from bright hand-printed textiles to her bold abstract paintings that cover the walls. There are also scores of vintage pieces, thoughtful finds, and an eclectic mix of stylish items that she’s tweaked here and there or repurposed—hints that the artist is drawn toward transforming rustic and vintage objects into modern pieces for the home.
While Chontos’s day job is to work commercially as a prop stylist and set designer for an impressive list of clients, from HGTV and Italian Vogue to Anthropologie, Elle Decor, Real Simple, House and Garden, Country Living, and others, it’s her art and repurposed goods that draw the decorative minded and curious creatives to her studio in Portland’s West End.
Chontos’s business, Milk Farm Road, operates as a pop-up shop for her online site of the same name. Visitors will find all manner of pillows, napkins, table runners, and bedding. Each one is made by hand, from the stitching to the wonderfully colorful painted or block-printed designs. Her found objects and vintage pieces are dipped (some drenched) in color too for an unexpected twist, while her paintings are infused with modern compositions.
An extra bonus of visiting Chontos: her life story is as unexpected as the goods she sells. Chontos relocated to Portland (just a few months ago) by way of Montana, Brooklyn, Barcelona, and London, the other places she’s lived during the past 15 years. Instead of the typical college path, the New York native studied Egyptology in Barcelona, then went on to London, where she pursued a degree in art history. After her studies, she worked as an assistant at the much-revered World of Interiors magazine, where her career as a stylist/set designer began to take shape.
Chontos’s set design and styling work takes her all over the country and has garnered some great media attention—including a piece in Martha Stewart Living—along with partnerships: she’s currently designing children’s bedding for Land of Nod.
“In my work as a stylist, I always add an element of surprise, whether through an unexpected object or via color and texture,” she says. Chontos uses this same approach in her interior design consultation projects, which she hopes to expand here in Maine. “I love helping clients figure out how to make it all come together with textiles, color, vintage pieces, textures, and so on,” says the artist.
In addition to the art, handmade goods, and ceramics (she showcases work by Michele Michael of Elephant Ceramics), Chontos offers workshops about design and painting (go on, request one!), as well as informal creative gatherings. These “design fests” sometimes revolve around a specific single color, and participants are often asked to bring something in a particular color family to these Milk Farm Road show-and-tells.
1. The artist Heather Chontos in her vintage-meets-modern-meets-colorful studio.
2. From paint to pillows, bright hues are everywhere in Milk Farm Road’s color-filled space.
3. Chontos’s textile designs are available online at milkfarmroad.bigcartel.com.
4. This modern molded chair looked a little “tired,” so Chontos spruced it up with a painted stripe and plaid pattern.
5. Chontos with Zana, her youngest daughter, who loves to help inform many creative decisions.
6. A large Heather Chontos painting.
7. Design sketches that inspired some of Chontos’s work for the Land of Nod catalog.
8. A trio of hand-painted pillows.
CHONTOS’S tips FOR adding color to your space:
Incorporate vibrant colors with vintage pieces in whitewashed or muted wood tones. Example: Try hot pink table linens on a primitive wooden table.
Want to reinvigorate a neutral sofa? Throw a few graphic and brightly colored cushions into the mix for a dramatic, modern look. Working with neutral tones? Stick to bright blue and pink accents. Anything with yellow or orange will fight with the creamier tones.
Shelving is great spot for color. You can paint a wall a bright hue and then hang natural (lighter toned) wood, white, or gray shelves to break up the color and give the room a wonderful contemporary accent.
Milk Farm Road: 26 Brackett StREET | Portland | milkfarmroad.com