Solutions: Family heirlooms keep memories close at hand

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Not all family heirlooms are created equal. Just like many secondhand finds, some are more suitable for their new surroundings than others.

The appeal of these pieces can be determined in a variety of ways, like the treasures with sentimental value or the items that catch your eye.

Some may need to be completely restored while others might be good to go.

Later in the year, we are planning to inherit some of my mother’s furniture and accessories from her Michigan apartment when she returns to Florida. Even though the pieces were recent purchases that I helped her pick, they will take on a whole new persona in our home.

Most of the anchor pieces are white, like the leather sectional and the modern daybed. My daughter already has dibs on the faux leather bed that would take up a big chunk of her room and my late stepfather’s favorite chair that should free up some space if we move her beanbag chair downstairs.

Now that we’ve started to do some measuring, I can begin to picture the transition that would require us to rework our lower level, which wouldn’t be bad given its current condition that consists of mostly leftovers from other parts of the home.

I can see the freshly decorated space becoming a luxurious lounge area.

In fact, the new configuration might even encourage me to spend more time downstairs and it will hopefully motivate me to do some organizing beforehand.

Although I may need to be creative with the layout, that’s to be expected when trying to incorporate inherited furniture.

For instance, a small dining table and chairs should fit nicely within the curve of our circular staircase, but that means I’ll have to find a new spot for the set that sits there now.

Hopefully, the process will force me to take a closer look at all the keepers that have been around for years. Though I know some won’t make the cut, that’s okay with me.

While nothing needs to be painted or repaired, I may repurpose a few items to make them a better fit in their new environment.

Some tweaks I have in mind include a bench that might serve as a coffee table and a dresser I plan to use in my closet for extra storage.

Functional accents will also be put to good use, like the glass canisters on the kitchen counter and any clocks or lamps that are left behind.

One of the benefits of this transition is that it should take me outside of my white wall comfort zone and nudge me in a different direction like a warm neutral to contrast with the white furniture.

Though it will be sad to see my mother leave and to dismantle her place that we enjoyed decorating together, the pieces we inherit will remind us of the laughs we shared during her time spent here.

That’s the true beauty behind family heirlooms; they keep us connected to our loved ones.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at