Many of us have a treasured family heirloom tucked out of sight in our home — we love the idea of the piece but are lukewarm on the style. It’s understandable why we hang on to these inherited pieces; they often represent a person, a place or a time in life that makes us happy or sentimental so getting rid of it seems out of the question…but so does displaying it in a modern-day home! Revitalizing an heirloom is the perfect way to honor the sentimental attachment while transforming it into a usable piece that suits one’s individual style.
While some of us (lucky dogs!) have super avant-garde elders who pass down clean-lined furnishings from mid-century design masters (Herman Miller, Eero Saarinen, Hans Wagner, etc), most of us are more likely to inherit traditional “brown furniture”. But even the most fuddy-duddy piece, like this very brown, traditional Victorian sofa, can be refreshed to blend in with today’s decor. To get your creative juices flowing, we illustrate three of the many ways to revitalize a traditional heirloom.
#1 Rockabye Baby
The curved, high upholstered sides of this sofa make it a great place for snuggling and reading with kids. Lighten up the heavy Victorian style by stripping the frame to raw wood. Swap out the dark fabric for an airy, stain-resistant print like “Wailea” in Waterfall color way from S. Harris. Not only is this a super unique addition to any nursery or playroom, it also brings a layer of multigenerational storytelling into your child’s life. And what kid wouldn’t love knowing the story of a piece of furniture in his/her room!
#2 Modern Luxe
The easiest way to modernize an ornate piece like this sofa is to go white — crisp white Belgian linen makes even the heaviest piece feel fresh. For a more bespoke approach, we’d modernize this sofa with a white hair-on cowhide to give it a more textural and luxurious look. To soften the carved dark mahogany frame, we love the idea of refinishing the wood with a grey cerused finish. This combo is the perfect modern twist on luxury.
#3 Bold Botanical
For the design risk-takers, we say the bolder the better! Embrace the Rococo influence on this Victorian piece and design a real scene-stealer. We love the idea of a large scale botanical pattern, like “Jardin Exo’chic” velvet from Designers Guild. It’s outrageously beautiful and an homage to the botanical carvings on the frame. For a more glamorous look we’d go with a high gloss black lacquered frame. And voilà…maximalism at its best. This piece would blend beautifully in a clean white living room or make a big statement in an entryway or study.
Aside from sentimentality, there are other compelling reasons to revitalize an heirloom. Layering in these vintage/antique pieces gives a room rich character, provides a glimpse of family history and is the ideal way to make your stylistic mark on the piece’s journey. In most cases, furniture produced in our (grand)parents era was simply better quality than newly constructed pieces manufactured today. Previous generations purchased furniture that was constructed to last a lifetime and meant to be revitalized again and again as it was passed on to future generations.
Ready to revitalize an heirloom of your own? We’d be delighted to help you modernize it. Get the process started with a design consultation!