Home & Garden

Celebrate Fourth of July in (old-fashioned) style

There are few homeowners who forego decorating for Christmas, so why should July 4 be neglected?

With patriotism running high this election year, up the ante on your curb appeal with vintage-inspired decor. Decorate with tea-stained bunting, reproduced Civil War-era textiles, red and white garden flowers and, of course, a multitude of stars and stripes.

Draping white clapboard houses with starred and striped yardage or weaving it through the splats of white picket fences has been a common practice for generations in small town America, but not so much in the modern subdivisions of suburbia.

If anything, an American flag comes out of the closet for the day to hang over the front door. A few line their property's perimeter with miniature flags impaled in the turf.

Since Martha Stewart began showing examples in the 1990s of frame colonials draped, swagged in red, white and blue cotton bunting, manufacturers and how-to magazines have come up with ways to deck the house for an old-fashioned Fourth whether you have a porch railing or not.

Fabric stores carry bolts of patriotic novelty prints that can be incorporated into custom decorations. Jo-Ann, for instance, not only stocks more than a dozen designs ($6.99 per yard) incorporating stars and stripes but currently has a blue-on-white "Democrats" pattern and a red-on-white "Republicans" version.

Other traditional outdoor adornments include pleated fans, which are traditional semicircles of striped fabric. They can be mounted under windowsills, over doorways or along porch railings. Ready-made versions, available in many sizes, are outfitted with metal grommets to hang on nails or to anchor with rope on railings. Pull-downs are vertical cloth decorations, usually striped, that hang in front of tall columns or flank a doorway.

Many people who take pains to decorate for the Fourth install their patriotic colors by Memorial Day and leave the decorations intact until after Labor Day. This year, you could properly leave the red, white and blue up until after the presidential election on Nov. 4.

How the flag should wave

If you are incorporating the American flag into your decorations, brush up on flag etiquette:

* The flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset, unless the flag is illuminated.

* Don't let any part of the flag touch the ground.

* Whether displayed vertically or horizontally, the canton (the rectangular field of blue with the 50 stars) should be in a top left position, to the observer.

Show your colors

Avoid plastic banners printed with sayings for this all-American holiday.

Choose instead cotton yardage printed with patriotic emblems or simply make your own bunting by buying inexpensive thin cotton solids off the bolt.

Buy equal lengths of 30-inch-wide red, white and blue and sew or hot glue the sections together lengthwise.

Hang the fabric vertically, gathering it softly at hip level like a drawn theater curtain, to decorate porch columns, posts or the entry.

If you have a porch railing, fashion graceful swags the length of it, fastening the cloth to the wood with a staple gun.

If you're entertaining friends that day with a barbecue, swag the cloth across the fence or deck railing in the back yard.