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What are some of your favorite summer memories? Mine was my first – and last – attempt to be a beauty queen. One Fourth of July, our tiny country club in Atchison, Kan., held a beauty pageant for little girls. Even then I was into props, so I borrowed the neighbor’s poodle, slipped on my plastic high heels and sashayed around the pool for the judges. I lost. To a pretty little girl with long blonde hair. Not surprising, since one of my favorite summer games was to play cowgirl and roam the neighborhood – our ranch.

There is so much nostalgia layered into summer, isn’t there? Independence Day fireworks, watermelon and fireflies. This summer, salute those sunny, lazy days of your youth and celebrate a bit of Americana by using red, white and blue in your decor. Here’s how.

Accent with a pop of red, white and blue

When we think about decorating with America’s colors, we often imagine a stars-and-stripes filled country look, right? Here’s my challenge to you: Tip that stereotype-filled apple cart over and experiment with all the glorious ways you can present red, white and blue together in your decor. Try a blue rug and a red and white striped sofa, which applaud these glorious colors, but make them fresh and new.

The secret for stretching our beloved color palette out of its well-worn groove is to also toss in a bouquet of unexpected colors, perhaps a paisley pillow in coral, citron and turquoise.

Big clocks are huge this summer. And my heart hammers hard for a lovely red-rimmed timepiece. Using artwork like this, that features just a tiny band of red, is an ideal way to poke in subtle touches of our patriotic color scheme.

Create a fabulous table display of red, white and blue. Create a display that’s vibrant with energy by using a wide mix of objects in the tableau. Try a mix that pulls in divergent shapes, sizes and patterns, which are knit together by repeating our color scheme.

Does your home have a color palette that doesn’t currently include red, white and blue? No worries! Dot in this color triad using a few accents. You wouldn’t think this primary color pair would work so well with, say an emerald and pumpkin scheme, but it does.

Set the table for summer

I think summer tables should be fun and casual, simple to execute. And pulling in red, white and blue through your dishes, table linens and serving pieces is an easy way to give your table an instant summer feel. When you are planning a summer picnic or backyard barbecue, our color combo is as natural as corn on the cob and apple pie. To me, they say “summer.”

Pick out some serving pieces that look fun and fresh in red, white or blue. Then, fill those glasses with lemonade or ice tea.

Your table linens and glasses can help carry out your patriotic color palette. I’m crazy about red and white gingham topped cups, inspired by Grandma’s Mason jars, which were always filled with delicious pickles and jams, lovingly made from summer veggies and fruits.

I love using those patriotic-themed dishes paired with wicker chargers, or fun summer placemats and napkins. They are just so happy!

Want a more romantic feel to your red, white and blue display? Mix our proud trio with its softer shades of pink and pale blue.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com.