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Published: 10/12/2011

Style and team spirit can coexist in a family room

BY MELISSA RAYWORTH
BLADE NEWS SERVICES
Betsy Burnham suggests decorating your TV room with just one of your team's colors to give a nod to the team without going overboard, in this case blue for Yale. Betsy Burnham suggests decorating your TV room with just one of your team's colors to give a nod to the team without going overboard, in this case blue for Yale.
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Americans love their sports teams, and no time of year is more sports-focused than October: Major league baseball playoffs have begun and football is in full swing. Hockey season is beginning and basketball is only weeks away.

In homes across the country, that often translates to watching sports on TV in a family room or living room, sometimes decorated to celebrate a favorite team.

Hardcore fans can go all out: In just a few moments of online shopping, you can find anything from Ohio State Buckeyes draperies and Dallas Mavericks lamps to an $800 Pittsburgh Steelers sofa.

Fun, yes — but potentially tacky. Is it possible to decorate with a sports team in mind and still keep a room looking stylish?

Of course, says interior designer Betsy Burnham of Burnham Design, in Los Angeles. "But you want to stay on the right side of crazy."

She and two other interior designers — Robert Novogratz, co-star of the HGTV series Home by Novogratz, and Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of decordemon.com — offer advice on doing sports-themed decorating right.

Go vintage

All three designers suggest emphasizing vintage items.

"Think classic," Ms. Burnham says. "Vintage felt pennants. Tweeds, corduroy. It’s that preppy, old-school style, not new shiny stuff. It’s the stuff from your team’s history."

Mr. Novogratz agrees. Go for deliberate kitsch, he says, like an old football helmet lamp made in the ’60s or ’70s. It will bring a different feel to a room than a team-themed lamp made today.

Also consider the memorabilia, toys, or cards available today, and then hunt for vintage versions online.

Mr. Novogratz has assembled collections of vintage bobble-head dolls, and decades-old baseball cards or NBA cards for clients, then displayed or framed the items as art.

Shoppers may assume that sports cards from decades ago must be expensive, he says. Some are, but it’s often possible to find old cards for just a few dollars.

Choose colors carefully

When a client wants to decorate a room where they will watch a beloved sports team, Mr. Flynn doesn’t use the team’s colors.

Instead, he goes with a palette that complements those colors. During the sports season, the homeowner can bring in accent pieces — from pillows and throw blankets to serving dishes and glassware — in team colors without clashing with the room. And that way, the team colors don’t dominate the space year-round.

Mr. Burnham takes a different approach: Decorate your TV room with just one of the team’s colors to "give a nod" to the team without going overboard.

And to keep from over-saturating the room with color, Mr. Novogratz suggests decorating the walls with black-and-white photographs of classic moments in team history. There is an elegance and restraint to black-and-white images, he says, that is different from color photos.

Find sporty details

For a subtle sports-themed touch, Mr. Flynn likes to use upholstery with the thick stitching you find on a football or the zigzag stitching on the seams of a baseball.

Another great detail: Flynn suggests using iron-on varsity letters (available at craft stores or online) to decorate pillows or blankets. That lends a hint of athletic style without being heavy-handed.

Less is more

Sports fans often are given team-related gifts for birthdays and holidays. These decorative items can add up, making a family room look more like a stadium gift shop.

But, Ms. Burnham notes, you don’t have to put out every piece of memorabilia you have. She suggests displaying only a few favorites, rotating your collection a few times a year. Or put an entire group of items together in a single cabinet with glass doors.

Subtle touches like these can show team spirit without sacrificing style.



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