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Rediscovering American Home Décor

American art and design is known for its simplicity and functionality. When using American-inspired home décor or design, keep these things in mind – light pastels, balance, wainscoting, simple lines and curves, wall art, storage, country accents, and window treatments.
Rediscovering American Home Décor

American homes have always drawn from a diverse mix of influences, from exotic Asian and African to lively Mediterranean décor. In fact, for many new homeowners, it’s only a question of which foreign cultures will influence their home design. But few of us even think of going traditional, of embracing the American forms that our ancestors grew up with.

American art and design is all about simplicity and functionality. Whereas European design embraces royalty and opulence, and Asian homes are built around religious beliefs, American homes are designed for the common man. That’s not to say our homes are plain and boring—far from it, in fact—but simply that we want everything to have a practical purpose. If you’re the type who values function over form, simplicity over style, American home décor may be just what you’re looking for. Here are some tips on American-style decorating to help you get started.

1. Use light pastels. Pastel colors take attention away from the walls and onto the home furnishings. Aside from white, they create the least distraction and allow you to focus on the task at hand, whether it’s making dinner or sitting back to watch TV. Pale pink, yellow, green, and blue all make excellent foundation colors. Variety is usually provided by wall accents or furnishings in a stronger color, such as dark wood or metal. For a more traditional look, try applying wainscoting or cornicing to your walls.

2. Keep your textures in balance. Most styles have a definite texture preference—Mediterranean prefers textured walls, Asian likes them smooth and light, and African goes for natural, eccentric textures. In American homes, you can mix and all these to create a balanced combination. Start with a smooth wall, balance it with a cornice or beadboard, and spice up bare areas with little decorative pieces. In the kitchen, you can use a rough wood countertop against ceramic tile or embossed accent tiles against a plain wall.

3. Install wainscoting. Wainscoting is a wall treatment consisting of a wooden board covering the first few feet up a wall. It gives a very traditional look to the home, especially when combined with wallpaper or a pastel-painted wall. Accent the border with an intricate cornice or molding to add some variety. If your wall is smooth or solid-colored, you can also go for a beadboard, which is a type of wainscot made from several strips of wood. The texture makes a nice contrast and draws more attention to the décor.

4. Use simple lines and curves. Minimalist styles use excessively straight and sleek lines, while postmodern homes have an almost childish preference for curves and circles. Traditional American homes use a combination of both: straight-edged furniture, whimsical wall art, round centerpieces. Finding a balance can be hard at first, but the trick is to go for contrast. If you have a square or rectangular table, add contrast by adding a round vase or chairs with rounded backs. For a simple square room, use oval rugs and rounded furniture.

5. Decorate with wall art. Wall art is the easiest way to add color and interest to an American home. Americans are particularly interested in paintings, whether it’s a valuable classical piece or a framed watercolor print. This is where you can totally follow your whim—you don’t choose an art piece for its use or functionality, you choose it because you know it’ll look good on your wall. If paintings aren’t your thing, there are other types of wall art to choose from, such as tapestries, textiles, and wrought iron accents.

6. Add lots of storage. Clutter greatly affects a home’s comfort and functionality. You don’t want things lying around while you rest or do your chores. Make sure there’s a place for everything. Stylish drawers and cupboards help you organize your things without affecting the look of your home. If you have kids, make sure your storage is easily accessible so they can put things back on their own. Don’t scrimp on storage if your space is small—go for built-in cabinets and wall-mounted shelves to free up floor area.

7. Add country accents. Country themes are a favorite among Americans because of their cozy look and cheap, easy maintenance. They are also a great way to add warmth and color to your home without losing that traditional touch. Wood furnishings, warm lighting, and patchwork décor all help create a country theme. You can also create a log cabin look by applying a log-textured veneer to your walls and building a large fireplace. Use the fireplace as the room’s focal point; draw attention to it by placing a large rug in front.

8. Window treatments. Your windows do more than let the air in; they can serve as an excellent source of lighting and decorative accent. Dress them up with a variety of window treatments, such as blinds, drapes, curtains, or sheer screens. If you have a large window with a nice view, try installing vertical blinds instead of the usual curtain. This will allow you to open it as wide or narrow as you want, depending on the weather and lighting condition.