What's become an incredibly popular item of home décor actually originated as an adornment on the exterior of barns in parts of the United States and Canada. Barn stars, as their name would imply, are generally shaped like three-, four-, or five-pointed stars, but also exist in a circular "wagon wheel" shape. Barn stars are purely decorative and serve no practical purpose.
In fact, barn stars were intended to represent the builder's mark, and were added once a structure's construction was in a state of completion. Barn stars were often made of wood, though metal is also a common material. They originated in the early 1700s with their popularity increasing after the Civil War. Aside from barns, barn stars were also commonplace on factories, and other large buildings. They are often thought to be a symbol of good luck or fortune.
Barn stars were once painted, or constructed directly onto their intended building, but as time went on, they were created separately as a work of art, and added to the structure later. If the barn star was painted, the color used had symbolic significance. Black meant protection. White symbolized purity, and the flow of energy. Red signified emotions, passion, creativity, and charisma. Blue meant protection, calmness, and peace. Green indicated growth, fertility, and success. Yellow inspired health, love, and a connection to God. Brown symbolized friendship, and strength. And, violet signified sacred things.
Similar to barn stars, are hex signs, which unlike their plainer, monochromatic counterparts, are brightly painted in intricate patterns. People often confuse hex signs and barn stars, and the practice is so commonplace that the names have become interchangeable. Star-shaped earthquake bolts and anchor plates found on the exterior of masonry homes vulnerable to natural disaster, are also often confused with barn stars. And Moravian stars, which were created in Germany as a symbol of Christmas, are also not authentic barn stars.
Barn stars have been popular for centuries, and their appeal seems to be timeless.