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Loving American style: Patriotic themes take starring role on home-decorating stage

Red, white and blue d?cor is exploding before and after the Fourth of July this year. It's become a year-round home decorating theme and an obsession for collectors.

Red, white and blue décor is exploding before and after the Fourth of July this year. It's become a year-round home decorating theme and an obsession for collectors.

"The Americana trend has been coming on for a couple of years, but

Sept. 11 really helped it to catch on," says Mary Nelson, owner of the Moorhead Antique Mall.

Customers are snapping up vintage flags in all sizes, she says.

In fact, anything with the colors red, white or blue is flying out the door. Other hot sellers are milk bottles and watering cans which people use as receptacles for flag bouquets, white wicker furniture and old quilts sewn in patriotic colors.


Flags with 48 stars, made before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union, are popular at Dakota Antiques near Erhard, Minn., says owner Annette Thompson. Customers also are drawn to anything with star-spangled colors, she says.

Those who don't want a total room makeover are opting for accessories like Old Glory placemats and table runners, rugs, towels, napkins and red, white and blue berry garlands for table toppers or to drape over doorways or cabinets.

Small collectibles such as old postcards, especially ones featuring Uncle Sam, and old firecracker packages are being used as accent pieces for Americana displays.

Nelson has noticed that 1950s vintage furniture is enjoying a resurgence, possibly because red was a common decorating color in the 1950s. For instance, most chrome dinette seats had matching chairs upholstered in red vinyl.

People are buying such pieces to anchor their Americana look, she says.

Toile (a French countryside scene on a white background) is a popular textile this year. Choosing tablecloths or pillows in blue or red toile is a good way to showcase two trends at once. A red toile tablecloth topped with blue plates and white glasses is a novel way to wave the flag without even unfurling one.

Paint is your friend

Garage sales are a great starting point for Americana décor, says Mary Lystad, who along with Kris Carlson, owns Aesthetic Interiors, Fargo.


Lystad has festooned the front of her home in all-American hues this summer. First, she brought out a metal table-and-chair set she purchased at a rummage sale a while back and spray-painted it red. Next, she covered the seats in a blue-and-white-stripe fabric and topped them with plastic to protect them from rain. She purchased a $6 pine shelf at Fleet Farm, painted it white and uses it as a plant stand for red, white and blue potted flowers.

"Garage sale finds are a great thing to experiment on with paint," Lystad says. "Look for odd things that you like, and remember that paint is your friend. It's forgiving because you can change it later if you don't like it or get tired of it."

Indoors, she suggests changing the look of a living room by slipcovering a sofa in blue and white checks and finishing the look with red accent pillows. Like paint, slipcovers and pillows are an inexpensive and temporary way to redecorate.

The paint trend is attracting customers at antique stores, too, says Nelson. Old wooden furniture painted in any of the flag colors is popular, she says.

Style across America

Americana style is in full flower on the covers of trend-setting national home décor magazines.

The July issue of Country Living magazine offers 100 ways to show your spirit. Inside, several articles detail ways to bring home patriotic style, such as gathering bouquets of red, white and blue blossoms; using strawberries, cherries and blueberries on stacked milk glass cake stands as a centerpiece; and arranging red, white and blue rag balls (as our foremothers did with fabric scraps) as a yesteryear centerpiece.

The May/June cover of Decorating, a Better Homes and Gardens publication, features a red, white and blue seaside porch. The cover story explains how a Maine woman restored a seaside cottage, using a patriotic theme. She uses flag motifs and Uncle Sam carvings, but for the most part, the Americana theme is accomplished through the use of color. Rather than rigidly sticking with a flag theme, the homeowner employed colorful textiles -- blue-and-white plaid rugs on which white wicker chairs rest. A blue-and-white striped sofa sits next to red floral chairs.


Above all, the magazines say, Americana style is about freedom -- just like the nation it's named after is about freedom. American style isn't fussy; it should invite relaxed living and, when decorative objects are chosen from the heart, it should mix into almost any existing decorating scheme.

Victoria magazine's July issue carries a feature story about a Georgia homeowner who brought an Americana theme to her home by displaying her collection of rusty -- but still red, white and blue -- sandpails. The homeowner also displays blue-and-white plaid wool blankets and blue and white spongeware to bring grand old colors into her décor.

No messy walls

Americana is not a cookie-cutter look. Achieving the theme can be done a thousand ways, with pieces and techniques as individual as the homeowner.

For instance, some people may choose to bring the stars and stripes to their home via window treatments. A length of blue fabric with white stars, draped over a window frame, can work wonders in setting the right tone. A similar look can be achieved with red-and-white striped fabric. Try using a grapevine wreath to hold the patriotic swags in place.

Recognizing that trends come and go, the 3M company has introduced a line of wall-mounting items called Command adhesive. They allow a homeowner to change décor seasonally without leaving marks on walls. Command adhesives use something called "stretch-release technology," which holds things securely but leaves no blemishes or sticky residue when it's time to redecorate.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Deneen Gilmour at (701) 241-5525

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