July 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

Style at Home

Heirlooms keep family history front and center

A beautifully appointed home is more than well-chosen furnishings. It's a tribute to who you are and what you hold dear. (MCT)

I’m a sucker for sentiment. So for me, a beautifully appointed home is more than a collection of well-chosen furnishings. It’s a tribute to who you are and what you hold dear, filled with the objects that help tell the story of your life. If you wander through my home, you’ll see treasures here and there that have been passed down through my family, each a link to the people I love. These heirlooms of old are co-mingled with wonderful new pieces I have acquired, which will become the heirlooms for future generations of Garritys.

What about your home? Have you dotted your decor with old or new heirlooms that brighten your spaces and pull at your heart strings? Here are four of my favorites to consider:

Well-crafted furniture: Those of us who love antique furniture can be eternally thankful to the craftsmen of old who fashioned these pieces so well that they have stood up to the rigors of time and still look beautiful. The takeaway is: When something is well made, using high-quality materials, it’s a keeper for generations to come.

Chances are, you have some pieces like this in your home, whether a chair you in­herited from your grandmother, an antique you’ve discovered in a shop or a vin­tage piece you picked up for a song and refurbished. Put them front and center in your decor. Sometimes people ask me if it’s OK to mix different styled furniture, like including an antique chest or chair in a room that features more contemporary decor, and the answer is an emphatic “yes!” My favorite interior spaces are an eclectic assortment of different pieces that look as they’ve evolved over time.

When you purchase new furniture for your home, whether a sofa or a dining table or hutch, stop and ask yourself if this is the kind of timeless, quality piece that you will be able to hand down in future years. While some pieces of furniture in your home will have a shorter lifespan, like a trendy table or chair, the bigger pieces should last a lifetime (or two or three). My advice is to invest in the highest quality furniture you can afford.

Intriguing artwork: Your fireplace mantel, that place of honor in your home, is the perfect spot to hang heirloom artwork. Artwork doesn’t have to have sentimental family ties — though it can — to be an heirloom. Perhaps you’ve collected a few pieces by local artists or finer works from area galleries. If so, you have a timeless treasure worth passing down. Similarly, artwork doesn’t have to be worth a lot to be an heirloom. Like the art from my parents’ home, it can simply be a love­ly or intriguing piece that’s special to you.

Sentimental pieces and collectio­ns: My husband, Dan, and I really enjoy collecting items from our childhood. In fact, we have become hogs about it.

For example, we have a lovely porcelain cookie jar that was Dan’s great grandmother’s. As fine and frail as it is, it was one of the few things to survive her early years as a pioneer, when the family lived in a dugout. I will always treasure this fragile testament to all Dan’s ancestors endured, and survived, as they helped tame the West. You’ll find it showcased in a prominent, but safe, place in my home decor.

Now it’s your turn. What sentimental pieces can you spotlight in your decor? It could be anything! Display old family photos, vintage linens or collections. I have a dessert server that is filled with little boxes I’ve collected through the years — gifts for my descendants.

Beautiful silver and china: Silver, china and crystal are the quintessential heirlooms. And, they are marvelous additions to your everyday decor. I’ve used gorgeous silver buffet covers in my lake house kitchen to help conceal the less-than-lovely burners on my stove, and become an elegant focal point in this utilitarian spot.

If you don’t have pieces of china, silver or crystal that has been in your family for generations, no worries. Acquire your own gorgeous collection and showcase it in your home’s displays. A simple silver tea service elevates the look of a side table, making it a visual heaven. Who cares if it’s brand new!

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com.