Inspired by family heirlooms and a mutual preference for a red-white-and-blue palette, Monica and Mark Knigge didn't have far to look for the foundations of their flag-infused Americana room. Powered by their patriotism, the Knigges chose decorating the room as job number one when they moved into their Wauconda home in the fall of 2001. Colonial blue walls punctuated by a bunting wallpaper border serve as a fitting backdrop for heirlooms with military origins, such as a 48-star flag presented to Monica's step-grandfather by the Navy when his son, a Naval photographer, died in action.
"As in all our rooms, there is strong family history and presence," Monica says, also noting that Mark's father, Clarence's, World War II uniform holds a place of honor. "Clarence was a World War II paratrooper wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. His life was lived with a strong sense of patriotism, and we were happy to share this room with him before he passed away in 2006. He really thought this room was special."
Although the stars-and-stripes space was initially decorated around those handed-down treasures, Monica spent the following years finding additional Americana antiques to fill out the room. Her favorite pieces include a general-store display case containing a folk-art box emblazoned with an eagle, a trio of Civil War-era tintypes and star-shaped anchor plates similar in looks to barn stars, which were once used to support brick buildings.
Wowed by Monica's five-star style, Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad and Catherine Parker offered to show her ways to play up the room's patriotic theme with fun summer fare. "We wanted to share some ideas for bringing in more seasonal decor that doesn't detract from the Americana antiques that the Knigges are so proud of," Enstad says. Read on for a slew of star-powered ways to craft a summery scene around past and present pieces.
The wheel deal
1. Eat your heart out. Some of the most charming seasonal decor is made for the kitchen but can easily serve up fun in other areas of the home. To create a tabletop arrangement that sets off decorative fireworks here, the stylists reinvented a wagon-style casserole holder as a base for a matching utensil caddy filled with wheatgrass. Simple white candles in pebble-filled glass holders round out the display.
2. Investigate other options. Instead of giving up when she couldn't find the perfect recliner for her red-white-and-blue room, Monica opted instead to reupholster this one in plaid fabric she found online.
3. Be a star. Appreciative that the room's windows offer views of their 1-acre parcel, Monica didn't want heavy curtains that would block the scenery. "I was so happy when I found the gauze fabric with stars on it," she says, adding that Mark's aunt, Barbara, helped her handstitch the delicate panels. Enstad and Parker played up the star-spangled curtains with a battery-candle star perched on the window sash.
4. Go for the bold. Perk up upholstered seating with artwork-status accents featuring picturesque designs, such as this hooked pillow embellished with a red barn.
5. Get in the game. "Summer is all about fun, so your decor should be, too," says Enstad, who fashioned an accent table by screwing four colorful croquet mallets together, wrapping the junction with twine and adding a glass top. The playful piece provides a resting spot for an Americana grubby candle, a glass lamp filled with festive red oil, and a jar of red, white and blue candies that acts as a taper holder.
6. Stay sweet. The stylists used leftover candy to fill another jar tucked into a wall-mounted sconce, this time tasking the treats with holding a miniature flag in place.
7. Show your true colors. Repeating the room's signature palette on a smaller scale, the stylists outfitted a star-studded wood sconce with red, white and blue tapers. "Look for little ways to do this throughout a room," Parker advises. "Try solid-hued red, white and blue pillows, jar candles or picture frames." Below the mirrored-star sconce, stacked red and deep blue footstools boost a distressed white flag spindle that points upward to a blue-accented basket dangling from the sconce's center arm.
8. Step up. Another stool gives a lift to one of two crocks filling space around the base of a form dressed in Mark's father's World War II uniform, which balances out a life-size Uncle Sam at left.
9. Roll with it. Instead of a traditional coffee table, Monica positioned this antique wood-and-metal wagon topped with a cut-to-size piece of glass in front of her love seat. She thinks it's the perfect spot to showcase additional Americana fare, such as an antique flag or other larger-scale accent, but she hasn't yet decided what would look best.
10. Have a ball. As a charming nod to the makeshift mallet table across the room, Enstad adorned the croquet set's colorful balls with letter stickers that salute the season. "You could spell out other words, too, such as 'independence' or 'Americana,'" Parker adds. "Or, try red and blue letter stickers on old baseballs for another look." To keep the balls from rolling away, the stylists placed square plastic furniture pads beneath every other sphere. Now, the orbs stay put in formation, creating a half circle around a glass vessel full of hydrated floral beads called Dew Drops that support a globe-topped garden stake.
11. Make your case. Similar to the wagon-turned-coffee table, a general-store showcase takes the place of a traditional end table next to the love seat. Monica makes the most of the vintage piece's display potential by showing off some interesting antique collectibles inside. An eagle-adorned rattle and a World War II fan featuring a lady's face rest on the top shelf; a hand-painted folk-art hatbox that Monica believes was made for a Veterans of Foreign Wars post brightens the bottom shelf with its vibrant graphics. On top, a flag lamp found on eBay, which Monica considers the crowning jewel of her Americana room, sheds light on some pewter and a plaque featuring a silhouette of George Washington.
12. Be a knob-it-all. Employ a cabinet knob as an innovative hanger for wall art, such as the stenciled sign hung from a knob above the love seat. Monica employs a similar look for her window treatments; ribbon loops sewn onto the bottom corner of each panel hook around antique flag-and-eagle curtain pulls screwed into the window frames.
13. Help your shelf. Instead of sticking with matching shelves, consider pairing up a few that are painted in contrasting patriotic hues, as the Knigges did with this dynamic duo of corbel-adorned platforms. Old framed photos flank a hand-painted gourd basket with a grapevine handle on the white shelf. Below, rustic star anchor plates, once outfitted with tie rods to support brick buildings, rest on either side of a Civil War-era tintype in which a soldier holds a musket that dates to 1842.
14. White it off. Make sure that, in a room filled with museum-quality treasures, the eye has somewhere to rest in between visual delights. In addition to white curtains and light-toned carpet, Monica also brought in a slipcovered love seat to incorporate some white space into the scene.
15. Pop out. To tone down the starkness of solid white furniture, introduce a few soft-sided accents that provide pops of color, such as a red-and-cream plaid coverlet or decorative pillows. "Always look for ways to embellish what you already have," Enstad says. "We added another dimension to Monica's ticking pillow by tying on a bandanna."
Bookcase in point
16. Know when to bifold 'em. Attracted to the star-shaped cutouts, Monica brought home these bifold doors and added more star power with a rusty garland. The stylists hooked a wood canteen serving as a holder for fresh daisies over the hinge. A painted fence post, an ornate piece of folk art and some stacked old drums, one of which boasts drumstick legs, further the corner's Americana appeal.
17. Book it. Read between the lines -- or shelves -- and utilize old books as an inexpensive way to fill space around other pieces on display in a large bookcase. The Knigges chose old medical books that pay homage to Mark's former job at a research lab.
18. Mix and mingle. For a diverse scene, intersperse some newer accents or reproduction pieces amid your antiques, such as the electric glass-sided lantern on top of the bookcase that coordinates with the old light to its right. "Monica and Mark worked so hard to create this meaningful space that shows how much they care about both their heritage and their country," Parker says. "So, we brought in newer accessories, such as the 'Family' blocks and the framed drummer boy silhouette, that honor what this room is all about to them."