A Place for Heirlooms
by Bob Brooke
to the Oxford University Press Dictionary, an heirloom is an object that
has belonged to a family for several generations. Thus, all heirlooms
are naturally considered antiques. Today’s 30s-somethings seem to
consider these not something to treasure, but instead, they rather
furnish their homes with items from IKEA and Wayfair.com. What they
don’t realize is that heirlooms, no matter how trivial, are their
connection to the past—to their family’s past.
For some people, a box or two of old photographs are all they have left
of their family’s history. It’s not until they get older—usually when
they retire—that they realize that they don’t know anything about their
history. It’s only then that they scramble to recover whatever they can
to learn about their ancestors.
Heirlooms, whether valuable antiques or more modest items, add warmth,
nostalgia, and personalization to a home’s decor. They’re what
distinguish your home from every other home on the street. In today’s
McMansion communities, it’s usually what’s inside each home that says
anything about the occupants. Landscaping and other restrictions imposed
by the community association prevent homeowners from drastically
changing the exterior of their properties.
Martha Stewart more or less became a design spokesperson for modern
families. She’s done just about as much for home decor as Charles
Eastlake did back the 1870s and 1880s. Stewart has always recommended
using heirlooms and antiques in her decorating schemes and often sets
collecting trends using them. Most design magazines use heirlooms as
accents or as a focal point because they realize the importance of
antiques in making an interior warm and inviting as well as adding
personality to the rooms.
Start your decorating scheme with your family heirlooms and other
memorable objects. These don’t have to be generations old but may just
have belonged to your parents or grandparents. A 1950s “period” pie
crust table may mean more to you than an antique parlor table from 1850.
The difference is that the former belonged to someone close to
you—someone you loved and cherished.
Many modern interiors, with less woodwork
and starker lines, cry out for the warmth and personality of antiques.
Heirlooms can be the focal point, enhancing an open stairwell, a lofted
ceiling, or an arched window. The beauty of heirlooms is that any home
can accommodate them.
Finding a Place for Heirlooms
is the keyword in today's decorating world. You can bring the past and
present together in an "eclectic" setting. To intertwine the old with
the new gives a room a feeling of depth and character. It’s boring to
decorate with just only one style, wood, or color. Variety is the spice
of life and antiques can add that spice to your decorating scheme.
Interior designers used to want everything in a room to match. Some who
work for furniture retailers still practice this concept. After all,
their main job is to make sure the customer buys everything they need to
decorate a room from that retailer. And people who don’t feel confident
about decorating accept their choices and room arrangements. In some
cases, the customer doesn’t add anything personal to the mix because it
could take away from the overall new look.
think that younger homeowners are also looking for value, so they’d be
drawn to older pieces because of their craftsmanship and warmth. But
according to recent retail statistics, this isn’t the case. Many don’t
realize that antiques can be a bargain in the long run. But they see
antiques as representing what their parents had and want to strike out
on their own.
So how do you incorporate heirlooms into your home? The trick is to
group like items together, such as a grouping of candlesticks or old
photographs. Color livens up a room. Use it as an accent.
You may also want to decorate individual rooms in your home around a
theme. One could be based on souvenirs gathered from your family’s
travels. Today’s den is just the place for a collection of souvenirs.
You can use other rooms to display items used in the same rooms in your
parents’ or grandparents’ houses. Dining rooms are a good place to show
off heirloom china, for example.
Display should inspire your creativity. Enjoy showing off that special
heirloom. Give it prominence in your display. You can be formal with a
symmetrical display or informal with an asymmetrical display. In a
symmetrical display, all the items are of equal balance. An example
would be a lamp on each side of a fireplace mantel with an antique clock
in the center. However, more people like asymmetrical displays because
they involve a grouping of odd-numbered items, such as three, five,
from the past. If you want to achieve a certain historic look, visit
historic houses and museums to get an idea of what types of objects and
furniture you should include. And if there’s an annual open-house tour
in your or a nearby community, take the tour and pay attention to how
other people use heirlooms in their homes.
And finally, study old photos, especially ones from your family. They’ll
give you a historic record of real antique settings so that you can
display your items in an aesthetic manner similar to your grandparents’.
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