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Americana the Beautiful

Fourth of July brings out flags, bunting and everything else red, white and blue. But for some lovers of the U.S., it's stars and stripes forever, or at least year-round.


At Sue Kruse's star-spangled home in Placentia, it's the Fourth of July all year long.

Her living room is decked out in a red-white-and-blue Americana motif that makes visitors want to stand up and salute. Old flags and striped bunting drape over the windows and walls; mannequins pose in antique military uniforms; there are cases of presidential memorabilia and a red, white and blue marble floor.

"I've loved Americana forever," Kruse said. "When I was a teenager, I worked on the stage crew of 'Damn Yankees' at my high school, and I got sort of wrapped up in the flag."

Stars and stripes have been a popular decor motif since Betsy Ross sewed the first flag.

Some people love draping their homes in Old Glory. Their patriotic spirit can be seen on everything from sheets in the nation's primary colors from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection to antique pillows with the stars and bars in needlepoint.

During the summer, many people like to recall memories of old-fashioned Fourth of July picnics, fireworks and ice-cream socials, said Sue Jackson, owner of Country Roads Antiques in Orange.

"They love the Fourth because the weather's usually nice; there's an outside picnic or barbecue, and they're with their extended family and friends," she said. "It's a day of relaxing--not like Christmas, where they have to figure out what to do with a crummy gift."

Jackson devotes an area of her Los Alamitos home to Americana. In one vignette, she's arranged two antique American Windsor sack-back chairs, a vintage flag in a flag stand and a primitive blue country cupboard that holds a Statue of Liberty clock, old postcards and a pewter pitcher filled with small vintage flags.

Decorators have found all kinds of uses for flags besides pole-hanging. They drape them indoors on walls and above windows. They mix flags and banners with old architectural pieces such as posts and corbels anywhere in the home.

"I tell people, 'Start with a flag and just swirl it around something,' " said Kruse, an antiques dealer at Country Roads. "They look great just bunched in a window. I don't have curtains. I use flags."

Decorators use new flags if they're on a tight budget; the average 3-foot by 5-foot flag costs about $35. Flag stores, such as Nikki's Flags in Newport Beach, are a great source for postcard-sized flags ($1) to put all over the home and garden. Kruse prefers worn flags for a rustic look. She finds them at thrift stores, garage sales and swap meets.

Some gardeners plant flags in pots, baskets and watering cans. They can be used to dress up wagons indoors or in the yard. People associate old wagons with Americana because they remember pulling them in neighborhood Fourth of July parades when they were children, Jackson said. Flag-waving teddy bears also populate many Americana vignettes because of their connection to President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt.

Some people accent their homes with Americana from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They pull out quilts of red, white and blue or drape flags over old ice-cream buckets as a reminder of summer ice cream socials, Jackson said.

True Americana lovers keep their flags waving year-round. At Christmastime, Kruse puts up a tree decorated with Americana and garland decorated with flags and bunting.

Collectors of Americana seek a variety of old and new furnishings and figurines with patriotic colors and themes.

"It's a love of country," says Mary Ann Kennedy, part-owner of American Roots in Orange. Her store carries American country antiques primarily from the 1830s to 1920s, such as flags, striped flag poles, patriotic parasols, candy containers, pillows and baskets.

Among the recent offerings: a glass tray hand-painted with God Bless America and an eagle from the 1920s ($145), a 48-star flag ($45) and an antique basket decorated with a flag ($85).

A prime hunting ground for old and new Americana is the area around the Orange traffic circle at Chapman and Glassell, which has maintained the ambience of a small American town and has a large population of antique dealers.

At Country Roads, dealers carry an ever-changing assortment of Americana, including flag and Uncle Sam garden stakes, quilts and tablecloths in red, white and blue and old flags. The exterior is draped in reproduction red, white and blue banners to remind people of small-town Fourths from the past, when homes had big, wrap-around porches with banners hung from the railings, Jackson said.

Uncle Tom's specializes in early Americana such as primitive and colonial furniture, folk art, hooked rugs, miniature quilts and samplers. The store also carries new red-white-and-blue star-shaped candles, bed linens with patriotic vintage floral and striped ticking prints and whimsical Uncle Sam figurines.

"Americana brings people back to their roots," said Daneen Linder, owner of Uncle Tom's. "I love seeing an old, worn flag on a house. It shows someone has pride."


Flag Etiquette

* Flags should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset; if flown for 24 hours, flags should be illuminated during darkness.

* Do not display flags in inclement weather, except when all-weather flags are used.

* Flags should never touch ground, floor, water or anything beneath them.

* Do not fasten, store, use or display flags in a manner that would allow them to be easily torn, soiled or damaged.

* Never use a flag as a ceiling covering.

* Do not use a flag to receive, hold, carry or deliver anything.

* Worn, tattered flags or those not fit for display should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.

Source: Huntington Beach Historical Society

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