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American-style decorating catching on

BERLIN--Americans are fond of the grand look and that attitude applies to their homes and apartments too.

“Compared to Europeans, Americans don't hold back when it comes to home decoration,” says Sylvia Leydecker, vice president of Germany's Association of Interior Designers. They cannot get enough of fancy curtains, cushions, table lamps and chandeliers.

When it comes to fabrics and wallpaper the rule is they must have a pattern.

“Americans are very enthusiastic decorators,” confirms Sabine Ryan, who writes a blog for the American Heritage home decoration store in Germany. Ryan says big regional differences define how Americans decorate but the New England farmhouse and Texan ranch styles are dominant.

Proximity to the Atlantic gives the New England style its character.

“Maritime design elements are very popular in the region like sea shells, lighthouses or star fish printed on curtains and cushions.

“Anything that you would associate with a seaside holiday like white furniture, blue stripped fabrics and mini sailboats are elements of the style,” says Ryan. Very typical are white beadboard-lined walls.

An old wagon wheel decorating a house exterior is a typical element of the American farmhouse style. It's also common to find disused farm machines — overgrown with plants and flowers — placed in a garden.

Responding to this, the farm machinery maker John Deere has brought a collection of home decorations in the farmhouse look. Tractor-shape cushions and tractor-pattern curtains are two of their products. Colors tend to be in earthy tones.

Texas is the home of the cowboy.

“Ranch-style homes are dominated by materials such as wood, old iron and leather. Saddles, furs and horse shoes are used to decorate doors and walls,” says Ryan. The door to the kitchen is often a swinging western saloon door.

Chimney breasts are clad in stone decorated with accessories in Mexican or Indian style.

Another American look is the super modern New York penthouse style with its raw brick walls, antique wooden flooring and rusted steel shelves combined with designer pieces by Raymond Loewy or Charles and Ray Eames.

“They are two cult figures who revolutionized design with their innovative sense of style. It still exerts an influence today,” explains interior designer Leydecker. A highlight of this functional form of design is the Eames Lounge Chair.

“The U.S. represents technological advancement and the power of innovation,” says Leydecker. “A counterbalance to that is admiration for traditional craftsmanship.”

Along with modern furniture, the Shaker style of the nineteenth century also represents American design. The Shakers are a religious Protestant sect who helped shape American culture through their furniture such as the Salem rocking chair made from cherry wood.

Ursula Geismann, a trend analyst at the German Association of Furniture Makers, says there's one more aspect to American styling: admiration for big things. “Americans love it when things are big, whereas XXL furniture would not sell well here in Germany,” she says.

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