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Bring Heirlooms into your Modern Home

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Utilizing heirlooms in your home delivers on depth, personality, and style. It just takes a little experimentation to get the right balance.

This is an image of my own dining room. The piece in the corner is an antique switchboard I inherited from my mom's parents. My grandparents had it in their home and I recall playing operator for hours on end during my visits. After their passing, I asked if I could please, please, pretty please, be the one to have it. The switchboard has traveled with us to six homes - and it is wildly heavy. I'm certain a good chunk of our allowed household goods weight was claimed by this guy. (Did you know that your allowed household goods weight in the military is determined by your rank? Fun little tidbit for you.)

I love having this piece in my home. It is a great conversation starter - most people don't know what it is unless they are over 60. I've had a couple of people (over that age) tell me that they had summer jobs working on one of these. How cool!

It is interesting and sculptural. I contrast its age and wear with clean-lined chairs and modern light fixture, and compliment it with embroidered fabric and millwork. It is about balance when incorporating something like this, but when you've achieved it, you'll know by the feeling.

I grew up in a museum. An heirloom-filled house. With that, I've grown to appreciate those things and am drawn to how interesting those items are and fun to explore for kids. I don't personally want to live in a home only with those things. I need to have fresh, clean lines and items that speak to my personality. I use those as the basis for my home, but love to add antiques as accents.

In the first weeks of the year, I spent a lot of time in my childhood home. This is a small corner of this layered goodness I mentioned (it is actually in our stairwell). But this little section is unique. It is all dedicated to my dad's family history in Nevada. Complete with lassos on the wall, barn wood, and a saloon bar installed at the base where the cowboy boots are all lined up. This is commitment. But, it is also one of my favorite places in my house. Such a collection of interesting items and artwork. I can smell sagebrushey Nevada in this space. I swear.

What I love about this section is how special the stairwell became by creating this ode to Nevada. They went all-in, and that can be a really fun way to bring antiques into the home. This all-in concept works best with loads of artwork - it becomes a collection vs. a time travel. It doesn't feel themey, it feels fascinating.

What if you love the look of these generationally layered rooms, but don't have anything like this? Buy vintage! Vintage doesn't have to be spendy. I mean, it can be. It can be really spendy. But, it can also be really cheap. If you're lucky enough to live where you can go antiquing or hit up estate sales, you can find some amazing things from furniture to accents. If you're exploring and find something you think is unique and speaks to you, get it! Start curating these items. When you begin, you will likely not know where they will land in your home. Sometimes that takes time and that's okay. I was working with a client yesterday that was using an antique ashtray as a plant dish. Genius.

I love to use vintage rugs in my projects to really add a huge impact, from the ground up. Wide varieties of style, shape, size, and, texture. From playful to refined, vintage rugs can really deliver. The rug above has a more refined look, while the rug below has a bit more playful and cozy feeling with the longer pile. Great examples of the variety available.

Other fun ideas: plates as wall decor, teacups as planters, a pewter childrens' cup as a makeup brush holder, glass collection - all paired together in a vingnette, special books (strip their jackets off to reveal their linen cover!). The options are really endless. If you're wondering how to do this and would like help creating that depth in your space, just start experimenting. Or, drop me a line by scheduling a welcome call. We can definitely help.


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