The DIY Designer: Decorating with hand-me-down family pieces

Authored By rainonatinroofblog

We don’t get rid of much in my family. We aren’t hoarders, but we can’t very easily toss aside a kitchen table that our grandfather used to sit at every time we saw him. Regardless of whether anyone needs it or not after he is gone, we can’t just get rid of it. It’s just not in us.

I might be the worst one in the family when it comes to “letting go” of family furniture and knickknacks. The problem, though, is that not all those inherited pieces fit with my décor style. I used to just live with that little fact. But I’ve realized that my grandmother would prefer me to paint her china cabinet to fit in with my own style, rather than holding on to it just because. Here are a few “guidelines,” so to speak, that I’ve come up with for decorating with hand-me-down family pieces.

Yes, you can paint it.

That buffet was my great-aunt’s. When I got the buffet, it wore its original stain. Eventually, it went to a periwinkle hue. Then red. And now, it’s stained once more, but not the same shade as before. The same is true of the matching dining room table that goes with the buffet. It was stained to begin with, now white, but will soon be stripped and stained again. The buffet fits in with my own décor, but I still think of my aunt when I look at it. You can read more about the buffet’s latest transformation here.

You can also repurpose it if you want to.

This desk is actually a kitchen table-the same one I sat at as a child and the same one my grandfather waited for me at every morning one summer. I took the side leaves off it (but kept them in case I want to put them back on again) and added a hutch on top to make it my workstation. You can read more about the desk here.

Mix and match if needed.

I got a bedroom set that was my great-uncle’s after he died. We really needed the dresser and chest of drawers for our master bedroom, but the bed was too small for us. We split the set up and put the bed in the guest bedroom and the chest and dresser in our bedroom.

It’s also fine to embrace pieces just the way they are. 

There might be some things you won’t be able to change-things where you can’t bear to see them any other way than the way you saw them growing up. This lamp is one of those things. My grandfather made it, and many may consider it out of style. That doesn’t matter to me. I love it just the way it is, and it works perfectly in our living room. Its finish was in bad condition, but I found a way to fix that rather easily.

Don’t tuck the little things away.

I carried my grandmother’s guitar around in its case from three different houses before it finally dawned on me to get the thing out and decorate with it for all to see. Don’t leave the small heirlooms tucked away. Get them out and enjoy them-they might even make you smile a little more often.

How do you decorate with hand-me-down family pieces? Get more ideas for using family hand-me-downs in your décor here and other decorating ideas here. 

Jenna LaFevor rants on at Rain on a Tin Roof about DIY projects, junk décor, thrifty finds, crafty creations and other decorating dilemmas. She went to UTC, where she got a teaching degree that now collects dust. When she isn’t trying to keep her kid from climbing out of the circus ring or making sure her husband’s shirts are taken to the dry cleaners so she gets out of ironing, she can be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. But if you’re buying, she’ll have a cosmopolitan. You can email her at [email protected] or you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @raintinroofblog or at her blog. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.