Plunder your attic: Taking advantage of hand-me-down decor

As we transfer via a world of disposable issues, it’s straightforward to neglect that earlier generations stored almost every thing.

Furnishings was made to final. Items of crystal or china had been investments handed down from guardian to youngster to grandchild. Even mundane gadgets may stay in use for many years: The identical Corningware bowl and Common Electrical mixer may churn out birthday cake batter for a era and extra.

A lot of this stuff nonetheless exist, nestled below layers of yellowing newspaper in cardboard bins or shrouded by dust-laden sheets. America’s attics, basements and garages are full of hand-me-down house decor and family items ready to be unearthed.

And this can be the right second for that to occur, with costs rising and provide chains at a crawl.

Utilizing hand-me-downs is sensible for anybody hoping to redecorate this spring. It’s good for the surroundings. It could actually even be mood-boosting if the gadgets have sentimental worth, or if you happen to uncover that your great-grandmother’s fashion was truly fairly fabulous.

“There’s pleasure in placing a chunk collectively and realizing you’re restoring a chunk of historical past,” says Shawn Hollenbach, a New York Metropolis comic who not too long ago rehabbed an vintage sofa that had been amongst his late mom’s prized possessions.

It was a difficult DIY mission. The material was badly worn, and Hollenbach hadn’t reupholstered something earlier than. However he now proudly exhibits it to houseguests and tells the story of this cozy piece of furnishings.

“It simply provides you a way of satisfaction,” he says.

There may be stress too, although. Something tied to household historical past can carry emotional baggage, and there’s the typically literal weight of heavy furnishings that nobody in a household actually needs.

Somewhat than retailer issues for yet one more yr – or decade – inside designer Melissa Cooley of the Washington, D.C., agency Case Design is evident: Take these treasured gadgets out of their bins. Mud off the furnishings nobody has used for the reason that Eisenhower administration. Take a contemporary look.

“You don’t do them honor by holding them within the attic,” she says.

With that in thoughts, we’ve requested inside designers and householders how they’ve made probably the most of hand-me-down furnishings and family items.


Glassware and dishes typically stay boxed as a result of individuals concern breaking one thing {that a} earlier era fastidiously saved.

Inside designer Nadia Subaran, co-founder of the Maryland-based agency Aidan Design, labored with a consumer who had a household assortment of glassware and classic plates made from inexperienced glass that nobody was getting an opportunity to take pleasure in.

“Once we had been speaking concerning the kitchen design, she stated, ‘I actually need to get these items out of bins, out of the attic. Not simply displayed however used,’” Subaran says. “So we did a complete sink wall with no wall cupboards, simply open shelving, so that each one of these issues may very well be entrance and middle.”

Right now, that house owner sees the gadgets every time she enters her kitchen, and finds magnificence of their hanging inexperienced shade.

Subaran encourages individuals to place treasures on show, as she did herself after inheriting a classic sari from India, handmade of orange silk with shimmering gold thread. “I’ve little or no event to put on saris,” she says, “however they’re lovely.” Additionally: Her husband loves the colour orange.

So fairly than depart it in a field, “we actually hung it on a rod after which had a plexiglass cowl made that doesn’t permit UV rays to come back in and harm it,” she says. “I stroll in my entrance door and it’s the very first thing that I see.”


Aileen Weintraub is a veteran of grappling with hand-me-down furnishings. Her not too long ago revealed memoir, “Knocked Down,” particulars the months she spent on bedrest in a home full of gadgets her husband’s household owned for generations. There’s additionally a barn stuffed with hand-me-downs from her family.

“I used to be trapped on this previous farmhouse with everyone else’s furnishings,” she says. “Even the dishes had been from the Forties.“

As they debated what to maintain, promote or give away, she persuaded her husband to strive shifting some gadgets to new places or use them in new methods.

A settee was moved to raised entry the view out of a window. A marble-topped desk didn’t look proper wherever however was too treasured to provide away, so that they tried it exterior on a coated porch. It hadn’t been designed as outside furnishings, however, Weintraub says, “it’s turn into probably the most lovely spot to take a seat and watch the sundown each night.”

Hollenbach had the identical expertise with the sofa he inherited, shifting it from place to position and ultimately selecting a spot within the visitor room.


Cooley labored with a consumer who didn’t like a heavy, cherry-wood cupboard from her husband’s household, however wanted to discover a means to make use of it.

“She has a really luxe, trendy fashion,” Cooley says, and this cupboard was the alternative of that.

In instances like that, the designer recommends isolating what you like about your favourite fashion and bringing a few of that vibe to the furnishings you’ve inherited. She had the cherry end stripped from the cupboard and painted it a shiny black. Outdated {hardware} was swapped out for contemporary brass items.

“Discover the weather you want, that you simply admire probably the most,” Cooley says, “then let’s begin embellishing the product we need to improve.”

Leaning into the distinction between previous and new can produce lovely outcomes, Subaran says. If a conventional piece of furnishings doesn’t slot in your trendy lounge, strive placing it in a lobby the place it stands out as one thing particular.

“You possibly can pair it with a extra trendy mirror or lamp,” she says, “to sort of assist it join along with your different areas.”

Cooley remembers a consumer who had a historic door that had been within the household for generations.

“They’re African-American shoppers and this goes again to their ancestors,“ she says. The small, lovely hardwood door had ”some historical past as to the place it got here from, what plantation it was on. It goes again that far.”

However the door had not been utilized in years and didn’t actually match wherever of their house. Cooley’s resolution: The brand new design for the couple’s bed room would contain constructing a small linen closet.

“We had been capable of finding {hardware} that appears aged, and we truly constructed their linen closet simply so it might probably match that door,” Cooley says. “It’s an ode to her household. And when she wakes up, she will get to see it daily.”


EDITOR’S NOTE – Melissa Rayworth writes life tales for The Related Press. Comply with her on Twitter at @mrayworth.


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