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Put your creative stamp on inherited items

“There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice.” — Joseph Addison (May 1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright and politician. The Spectator (1711)

“Just because.” How many times in our lives have we heard that phrase? For me personally probably thousands. This answer is often given because there is no real explanation for a question or situation. “Just because” means “this is the way it is” — and no more explanations.

What we have to learn in our lives is that answer means very little, and we each have the right and obligation to go for what we want, need, care about, etc. Or not get caught up in a situation “just because.”

In several of my columns, I have talked about furniture, finishes or a million other things and sometimes recommendations of things to do or not to do in our homes. Well, as you can imagine, I have had responses also. And I totally understand just because I might recommend something doesn’t mean for a second that anybody has to do it or like it. That’s the beauty of having our spaces look like and mean what we want them to.

So along these lines, over the years I’ve had many conversations with friends, family and clients who inherit things from parents or family that certainly don’t reflect their style but they feel compelled to keep the piece because it belonged to whomever — just because.

And please, don’t misunderstand. I’m all for the sentimental thing; however, there are differing views and different ways to pay respect. Pieces that we grew up with or admired in family members’ homes tend to look different when we’re all grown up and have developed our own style.

Most of us do not have the luxury of a spare room to store inherited items, but there are other ways to incorporate beloved family pieces into your current decor. As you know, having furniture and accessories from different eras and styles just adds interest to a space. However, inheriting your father’s recliner might require a little more effort to make it work.

Upholstered pieces can be recovered easily. You don’t have to live with the brown plaid sofas or orange velvet sofa (I actually inherited one). I have seen beautiful little Victorian settees and chaises recovered to fit into modern or contemporary spaces. The juxtaposition of a Louis sofa upholstered in a vibrant modern print is exciting, and the piece makes a great addition to an entryway, bedroom or sitting room.

Case goods such as dining tables, buffets and desks can be incorporated into any style. Victorian or traditional tables can be gussied up with modern chairs, either acrylic or fully upholstered slipper chairs. Conversely, a traditional buffet will live very happily with a glass top, acrylic or modern dining table.

Desks or dressers can be reconfigured to give them new life. Changing out the hardware for a more modern style and painting or refinishing will announce their arrival into today’s style.

So, here’s one for you — and I know I’m not the only one to get it — my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine. Yes, it’s still in my mother’s house, and every time I see it the thought process starts. The machine part is not exposed, so it looks like a table with drawers. What can I do with it?

It won’t be a sewing machine, but I’ve seen them in other homes as an entry table or even a table next to a bed. And it makes a grand spot for the sink in a bathroom. Many different ideas. I have seen these pieces in very expensive homes — just to keep a wonderful remembrance from their lives. So keep that in mind.

So the moral is that inheriting treasures from anyone can be a win-win for all concerned. Changing the color or upholstery does not diminish your feelings for your loved ones or their possessions.

You are simply putting your stamp on them and, most probably, someday someone will put their stamp on yours. That’s the sign of true sentiment. Just because.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a design consultant and creator of beautiful spaces. Questions can be sent to her at creativemuse@cox.net.

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