Do or Don’t: Flag Decor

Now that we’ve unpacked all the boxes in our our new apartment, we’re going to start decorating! We’ve lived in crumbling New York apartments for so long that we still have our old stuff—IKEA lamps, a ripped sofa, old yellow pillows. So I’m excited to get a few nicer things, hang some pretty art and make our home feel grown-up.
For artwork, one thing that packs a punch is using vintage flags as artwork. You can either frame them or just pin them up. It’s a way of looking at a flag as an object of art, like Jasper Johns, versus any sort of political statement. A giant flag over the sofa might look really cool, don’t you think?

(Photos by Mark Roper in Country Style Australia and Rachel Halvorson)

  1. That’s a huge American flag. I wish I could find a deal on a flag that size. Do you know if NW Flag or any other retailers carry them?

  2. True post one should be very respectful for a country’s flags and should always maintains it’s dignity. Like this do’s and don’t especially image presentation.

  3. There was recently been unbelievably encouraged to discover this site. It is because this is actually this specific educative write-up.


  4. I have always loved the idea of using flags as decoration. I recently painted an old photo frame we had at home and filled it with a photo of a union jack. Very pleased wth the result! Here’s a photo of it along with some other diy signs:

  5. Yes, flags can be great decor. I’d want to make sure I displayed it (esp a US flag) respectfully, though. I don’t know I like it sagging like in the lower photo, though the general look I do like.

    My husband has a prized CSA reunion flag that I had professionally framed to preserve it.

  6. jm says...

    Yes, do it! Framed would be so pretty!

  7. A framed flag might be okay, but a flag on it’s own seems a little college dorm to me. Can’t wait to see — I bet I’ll eat my words. :)

  8. Some of you sound nutty… It’s an American flag. She is an American. The flag, to most people, represents freedom and apple pie and that sort of thing. It’s not like she’s talking about hanging some sordid propaganda. Am I missing something?

  9. I think it requires a certain kind of decor, but looks great in these photos. I didn’t think this would be so divisive though–I think of an American flag representing, well, America (not a political party).

  10. Well, it just seems like an invitation to bring up politics any time you have a guest over. Which could be OK in some instances, and exhausting in other instances. It’s up to you, but I wouldn’t. (The old vintagey flag does look nice, though.)

  11. Flags are nice. Maps and blue prints are nicer. Wouldn’t it be neat to have on a canvas a large size schematic drawing of y’all’s marriage proposal sailboat? Walls are for neat stuff like that.

  12. Oh I LOVE a good flag, especially a nice vintage one that’s a bit tattered.

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  14. Nope. I’m catalan and I used to have estelada flag (independent Catalunya flag) above my bed, but now I prefer to just show it when in special occasions. Flags are not for everyday.

  15. mw says...


  16. mw says...


  17. When we lived in Old Town, Alexandria, we found a vintage flag (it has 48 stars) in an antique store. It had been used on a boat so it’s really yellowed and tattered, and my husband fell in love with it (he’s a former Marine and now a diplomat). I think when done well, a flag can be both artistic AND symbolic, in a good way! :)

  18. Do! But only if they are vintage and/or slightly tattered!

  19. I know it was not your intention but I think its a pinch disrespectful to use the flag as a decorative accent. A retired flag in a nice frame is one thing but thrown over a couch…

  20. I love flags as decorations and I’ve used them for a few years. I found an old American flag at my grandparent’s which is made out of cotton – not nylon like we put outside now, and I love the vintage flag. I also found an old Swedish flag of the same quality with a worn corner from being hung outside and I use that as decoration as well!

  21. Gotta say, I’m not a fan:(

  22. Don’t! Sorry, I just don’t love it.

  23. I’d proceed cautiously, only if you are extremely patriotic. I feel that very symbolic art like flags, religious iconography, etc should really only be used if they have true personal significance. In reference to the other poster ie the Americans and their love of the flag, I was just at a hostel in Texas and loved the group of Aussies wearing shirts with Aussie flags, Americans arent the only ones :P

  24. We have a flag hanging almost as a curtain at our place, and I love it. My boyfriend was worried it would look too frat house but I actually showed him that 2nd picture you have up top from my Pinterest and he relented and loves it too!
    Also, if you’re looking for new grown up furniture, he’s a Vermont furniture maker with reasonable priced, beautiful handmade furniture.

  25. I have a Canadian flag in my bedroom, super patriotic! Haha

  26. Hate it, sorry. From a British person, the flag in American homes to me says racist/republican – or slavish trend follower. The union jack in American homes says pretentious (in British homes either unimaginative or racist type again]. Both countries have done some pretty horrible things while wavng those flags.

    • Just wanted to let you know, racist and republican are not the same thing. It’s a very ignorant assumption.

    • Patrick says...


  27. I feel the same way about flags for decoration as I do about civilians wearing camo…they are not trends, not design elements, they are symbols of honorable things. Do you have a personal connection to the Revolutionary War?? Besides being a citizen, what is your connection to the flag?

  28. To be fair, Joanna never asked what people think of AMERICAN flags as decor, even if one of the photos shows an American flag.

    But as another poster mentioned, there are very clear guidelines about how to display the American flag. I wouldn’t use it as a design element.

    And no, Americans are no more attached to their flag than are people of many other countries (not the least of which are both Canada and Mexico.)

  29. I think, like everything else it’s all in the presentation- a $20 flag from walmart thumbtacked to the wall looks 100% college fratboy (trust me on this), while a loved-on handmade flag in a beautiful frame (as featured) is a lovely, unexpected idea.

  30. I find flags as a decoration idea so outdated. And a bit trite. Hanging a flag in your living room feels like walking into a government office. Makes me feel uncomfortable in every way.

  31. Do. I have a small union jack (that I brought with me when I moved back to the States from the UK) framed on my bookshelves.

  32. As a non-American the comments here are truly cringeworthy. So you hate American if you don’t want to display a flag and if you do it means you’re some kind of uber-right wing nut? Good grief!

    I do like the way the flags are displayed in the pictures there but generally I think they look incredibly tacky – like a frat house bascially. They seem lazy, like you had no other idea what to put there so you just tack something up. Kind of like when I used to tack up posters of Klimt in university!

    I’d say it’s a no. Sorry :/

    • Do a framed old-timey map or something. That would be similar but still classy. Just my 0.02 :)

  33. I would not, but do as you wish.

    Guidelines on American flags are very clear. They aren’t a design element.

  34. Don’t.

    I was raised that flags are to be treated with respect. There’s a protocol about how and when you raise and lower them. I cringe when seeing people wrapping themselves up in the flag for a photo shoot or hanging them casually on their living room walls.

  35. Do. Love the rustic, graphic, almost nautical punch they give. And they’re not a huge investment if you change your mind. I love this Red Cross flag in Emily Henderson’s living room: I personally don’t think a little Americana decor makes a political statement, but it probably does depend on the styling.
    Let us know what you decide! XO

  36. . says...

    I feel funny about this. I think if you have a flag that’s, like, a family heirloom or something, that might be okay. Or if you are doing it because you truly have very strong patriotic feelings or something.

    But I think doing it strictly as a “design choice” or to be trendy or “fresh” de-values the flag and seems a little inappropriate. I also agree that people from other countries often see the flag as a symbol of American imperialism abroad, which may or may not be something to take into consideration when choosing to display one in your own home.

  37. not so much in my opinion. it screams “trendy” like the whole antler thing that hopefully is on its way out now…

    • . says...

      The antler thing is killing me. Also, ampersands.

      I give exceptions for hunters and graphic designers, respectively.

  38. I think a flag—American or nautical or otherwise—is a lovely piece! Excited to see what you do with your new space :)

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  40. C says...

    i know flag hanging is very different in america, but as a british woman, i associate flag hanging with a particular type of white football hooligan dressing in a st george’s cross flag or hanging it from his car. my other half is irish catholic from northern ireland, where flag hanging is a highly contentious and symbolic act that has often led to protest and violence. needless to say, we have no flags hanging in our home. enjoy moving in!

  41. I like the bench underneath the flag in the second photo…!

  42. I like it, but I think it is soo hilarious when people decorate their apartment with art/decor in the theme of the city they are located in….ie an apartment in NYC decorated with a bunch of NYC things. Wonder why so many people enjoy that?

    • . says...

      That’s funny, I think just the opposite. I think it’s nice when people are proud of their home city/state, but odd when they have decor from other cities/states. Like Paris decor in their New York apartment. If you love it so much, why don’t you move there? :)

  43. I find this fascinating. It’s funny how a design represents some things to some and other things to others! I was a bit surprised when I saw you posted this especially with Syria in the news (i live in Europe) but it seems the whole hipster movement might be tied up in some of the spirit associated with the founding of the US like being self sufficient, adventurous, open-minded, hard working, self made, anything is possible-ness, not to mention good home cooking and hand made goods and beards (of course!). Well, you do like a beard! Ha! x

  44. I’m slightly amused by some of these comments. Hanging a flag in your home doesn’t mean your leaning left or right – it’s a design choice. I like both of the options styled above, I say go for it!

    • I agree that both options in the article look great. There’s something about the loose, worn fabrics that is really lovely.

      But I have to disagree with you when you say that a flag has no meaning. That’s like wearing fur and saying it’s a neutral fashion choice – I just don’t think a flag can ever be straightforward, just a matter of ‘design’. It’s not that flags mean you’re left or right leaning specifically – I suppose it’s just that, for me, flags can never be neutral – they’re symbols of nations, and those nations have huge meaning for people all over the world. They’re not just pretty design pieces – flags come with baggage, and you can ignore that baggage, I guess, if you like, but I can’t ignore it. I’d just feel like a bully if I shook my nation’s flag in people’s faces when they came to my house – especially if they were visiting from overseas!

      I guess I think a flag on display in the home can feel like an overbearing gesture, a statement of intent. And as someone else mentioned above, a UK flag has a lot of connotations – of far right nationalism, of imperialism – you can’t just deny those connotations – they exist for millions of people all over the world. They’re real! That doesn’t mean that any ordinary person displaying a union jack is a fascist, of course it doesn’t. But I guess I just think that when you hang a flag, whether you like it or not, you’re asserting something about your nation. And that does make me really uncomfortable. (Except, possibly, during national holidays or sporting events, as someone else said above – the World Cup, the Olympics – when I guess the meaning would be fairly innocuous and clear cut?)

      Interesting discussion!

    • Perfect reply

  45. I think it’s a do! I have a big 3′ x 5′ South Carolina flag in my apartment in Boston and I love the reminder of home. I do worry though that it looks a little frat house because it’s so new and shiny, instead of old and worn. Maybe a frame is the answer…

  46. I like vintage-y or worn / faded ones like in your photos! :)

  47. Wow, so much negativity on national pride! Soooo strange that loving your country is a bad thing!!

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  49. I love it! I have a huge antique linen flag (only 48 stars) hanging behind the kitchen table on an exposed brick wall. It adds a rustic, farmhouse quality to our urban abode that feels so cozy.

  50. Do! Always love a patriotic punch of color. (Most) people can relate and bring some warmth to your heart.

  51. hmmm- it’s definitely a don’t for me. It seems a bit weird to decorate your home with a flag… what’s the point?

  52. Wow, divisive is right! Thanks for these comments–really interesting to read everyone’s thoughts and opinions.

  53. You two are both American so if you like it go for it. But for people around the world, the American flag is a reminder of imperialism and it makes people uncomfortable. I can say this because my own parents are immigrants and I live overseas currently. On a lighter and funnier note, you do know what Eddie Izzard says about flags right?

    • HA! I was just going to say this. I’m surprised no one mentioned Eddie Izzard before you. I love this clip! Do you have a flag????

  54. For me, no. But whatever you want. You can see from the comments that we are living in a time when flags (of any sort) can be divisive. That’s not why I wouldn’t…it’s just not “me”. You might find yourself explaining too much & not in a good way. This is not a reason not to do something but just a comment. The only flags that I can offhand find don’t upset (most) ppl are the Union Jack (unless you’re from certain countries) & the lovely red maple leaf.

    • To many people from the UK the Union Jack is representative of extremism and racism, especially because it is used by the British National Party which is an extremely right wing organisation. I wouldn’t want to stop others from putting something up in there home but I agree, it’s really not for me.

    • I’m British and I have to say I disagree – I don’t think that’s fair or true. The George Cross is sometimes used by racist idiots unfortunately, which is a shame but I don’t think the Union Jack has any such connotations

    • I’m British and I have to say I disagree – I don’t think that’s fair or true. The George Cross is sometimes used by racist idiots unfortunately, which is a shame but I don’t think the Union Jack has any such connotations

  55. Ha! Why do people care so much. Do it, if you like it!

  56. The flag in the first picture is a Union Jack. Not sure if you meant to include it in a piece about American flags?

  57. It’s a don’t for me…it seems like having a flag either hung up or framed would distract from everything else in the room.

  58. I’d do it! I don’t think it is necessarily “conservative” to hang a flag– I mean, are liberals supposed to be too cool for national pride?! Anyway, if I were to hang a flag I would go for something with particular meaning, rather than your generic stars and stripes.

  59. My husband’s grandmother gifted us a turn-of-the-century American Flag for our wedding. We LOVE it. We picked it out from the San Francisco Antiques fair and love sharing the story with our guests. A real conversation starter. Because it is old, the colors are a bit more muted and it has worked in all of our apartments. Something we’ll have forever!

  60. I’m not into flags. The bold colors don’t work for me.. And they’re so large..

  61. I think it’s weird. I wouldn’t ever hang an American flag in my home. I have a dear friend whose living room is a red, white and blue theme and it makes me cringe. I think there are so many other beautiful, bright colors and patterns that it would be a pity to use wall space on the flag. Maybe a Mexican woven tapestry?

  62. My husband and I have a vintage american flag hanging in our hallway. Since we don’t have a lot of large art, it’s nice to have such a bold piece in our home. It makes our place look cozy. don’t have to be conservative to hang an American flag. My husband and I are moderate politically, but we still love the flag and the US! I do think that it definitely matters what material the flag is made of though…the shiny ones look tacky.

  63. Don’t! Seriously. From Europe, it seems really conservative to have a flag hanging at home.

  64. I think they generally look nice. I’ve been toying around with hanging one vertically on a bare wall on my front porch. Clearly anything can look good if done right, and I believe you’d do it right! Lets hope I can too ;)

  65. What in the world? People are weird. Why did this bring up such strong opinions? I think a flag could be cool. Could you get one from where your grandmother is from? (you have relatives in England, yes?) It’d be neat to have a big map or flag of where your family is from. It’d have a lot more meaning and perhaps wear through whatever flag trend may or may not be coming from Portland. ;) I also think something like this ( would be cool since you are a writer and a reader, etc.

  66. I love the way a nice American Flag looks. Of course it has to be done a certain way to avoid being, for lack of a better word, cheesy. But I’ve never seen you do anything that was cheesy so you’ll be fine! I can’t wait to see what you do with the place. I hope we can get a tour when it’s done!!?

  67. I say sure, but it’s certainly not my thing. I’m Canadian and I see clothing stores all over BC with Americana-type garb and it makes me laugh a little. Seems silly!

  68. I have a giant Greek flag hanging in our dining room (my boyfriend is Greek). I love the punch of bright white and blue!

  69. i’ve always found it quite weird that americans have their flag everywhere, i think it’s the only country (that know of at least) that hangs flags in the yard and where people dress with flag colors (or even flags themselves) and you even hang them on the wall. i’m not american, i’m portuguese (though i have an american aunt) and it would never cross my mind (or anyone in the country, i think) to hang a flag in the house (or anywhere, for that matter. we do it eventually when there’s big matches in the euro or world championship, and that’s about it. i think you should love your country, and i love mine, but i find this flag thing very unsettling, really.

    • I think one reason is that it’s one of our only unifying national symbols.

    • Guess you’ve never been to Mexico.

    • I lived in Denmark for a few years, and was always super, super surprised by the number of flags flown there. Also, Danes decorate birthday cakes with Danish flags and fly them on celebrations and wave them in the streets. I loved it, but somehow aren’t as attached to the American flag. For my style, the flag in the home is a little too “shabby chic” but I agree that it can work in some cases. I imagine it being better suited to a country home than a NYC apartment though…

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Joana, my thoughts exactly. But hey, I’m European too. It seems as such a gigantic statement. You don’t state all you other feelings in huge wall hangings, so why do it with patriotism? I don’t find it much of an art (any flag to be precise, not just the US).

    • yes, any flag, of course. i went to denmark too and never noticed that!

  70. It’s always seemed a bit nationalistic/jingoistic to me…

  71. The pictures look fresh and pretty, but I cant help but have flashbacks to my friends house in tulsa. Every room was filled with stars, stripes, flags and patriotic sayings. Every meal with her parents seemed to include a lecture about politics (also informing me why my country’s politics were wrong). haha I guess there are just too many bad memories.

  72. It’s funny, I’m not that into it for precisely the opposite reason as other commenters–it’s really in and hip here in Portland (which might explain why it hasn’t his other parts of the country quite yet), but at this point it feels overdone. Every hipster or cool bar has a big American flag displayed. Yawn, on to the next trend.

    • Same here with Chicago hipsters. Wait…Portland is the trend setter of America? I thought the 90’s were alive in Portland haha :)

  73. I think it will look great framed above the couch, above the dinning room table or in entry hall if you have one. I agree very Ralph Lauren and I love it!

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  75. I say its a do. My husband had an american flag flown over the capitol building in honor of the birth of my son. However, I read somewhere that you arent suppose to hang/frame american flags somewhere and if you do there are certain things you should do but who knows.

    • and I am not conservative.

  76. I think it screams dorm room/frat guy. Aren’t you planning on moving again in the spring or summer? Why not wait to decorate then when you can really plan for a space and get pieces that fit perfectly? It would be awful to realize you have a lucked out and got a large living room but all of your new furniture is too small for it. My husband and I definitely made that mistake. Also, grown up apartment with kids toys and clothes and peanut butter fingers is going to be mighty hard in a place as small as yours.

  77. This is a joke, right? Your sense of style is always so spot on — but an American flag hanging up in your living room? No.

    • RUDE! Do it Joanna! I love the idea.

      PS: I AM a conservative… so I don’t get the whole “Conservatives don’t dig flags as decor” thing. We’re VERY patriotic! ;)

    • Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as rude and can see how “This is a joke, right?” can certainly sound impolite. I was just surprised because I normally love Joanna’s style and wouldn’t think she would consider hanging an American flag as a good design idea. Also, the previous commenters were referring to conservatives being more into the idea of hanging an American flag (as you are), not the other way around…

  78. When I was young I won an American Flag that was flown for one day over the Capital building. It’s a very nice, large, canvas flag and we now have it hanging in our entry hallway.

    PS – And I’m not a conservative republican. Not really sure why supporting/loving your country would make you a republican…

  79. I think an American flag does make a wonderful statement piece. I believe Remodelista has some great display ideas.
    Congrats on your new place and wish you lots of fun decorating and making it your own!

  80. I say its your house to what you want. But personally no.

  81. There is a barn near my house with a giant American flag painted onto the side of it; you can see it really well during the fall when the leaves are down. I think it’s gorgeous.

    • Ooooh, I actually really love that!

  82. I don’t know. When I studied abroad, having American flags in our flat was considered taboo (this was overseas though). The owners of the apt building asked the boys to take it down, so they could show the flat when they put it on the market. Grown up apartments also include works of art.

  83. To me it sounds American and beautiful. I would hang one somewhere in my living room. But maybe not a giant one.

  84. ugh. American flag decor? Spells conservative republican to me.

    • I think that American flag decor does work well with a certain style of furnishings and accessories and can look really cool and fresh. However, I’m not a huge fan of using flags for decoration in general.

      Check out the BAD Blog…

    • Haha oh dear! That makes it sounds like liberals ought to be ashamed of the flag?!

    • That’s an ignorant comment. It represents our nation, not political partisanship. I don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s true. Don’t be like that.

  85. We moved this summer to a farmhouse and I hung my hubby’s old boy scout flag in our dining room behind our long farmhouse table. It does pack quite a punch and I love it!