How to incorporate sentimental objects

Tips for merging heirlooms with your modern space

Do you have at least ONE object from a bygone era collecting dust in storage? We thought so! When spring and summer cleaning rolls around, there it is. You don’t have the heart to part with it and you appreciate its storied beauty, but you’re lost on how to make it work in your modern space. 

The pieces we source for our clients are all-new, but when we get the chance to weave in a treasured object or two, we often hear of this struggle. So, we’re sharing our top 3 tips for bringing your heritage object into a contemporary space. 

Using a vintage record player will add interest and character to your space

Simplify Your Approach

The idea of repurposing an heirloom piece can feel, well – intimidating. Remember that giving new life to an old object doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Here’s the scoop on a few of our favourite (simple) DIYS:

  • Cut a square of an old textile (like a tablecloth or tea towel) or a page from a book, and place it in a modern picture frame.
  • Spray paint a small metal or glass object (like candle holders, vases, or horse shoes) a solid bright, pastel or black tone.
  • Make alternative use of old China as candle holders or planters.
  • Start by updating the hardware and legs on an old piece of furniture, like a cabinet or trunk – sometimes, it’s enough!
  • Reupholstery can go a long way – and will always add character to your space.

When you get serious about giving it a whirl, you might even find your object needs nothing more than a good surface clean (like an old-school typewriter…swoon!). 

Redefine “Balance”

When you add an old piece or two to your space, take a less-is-more approach to achieving balance. Let your existing design style rule, and resist the urge to “balance” your space with a whole bunch of like-pieces. You’ll find the closer you get to a 50/50 heritage/modern split, the less impactful your space’s style becomes. For example:

  • If you’re working with a refurbished piece of furniture, like a cabinet or credenza, offset it with modern pieces nearby. Style it with contemporary accessories, paired with a modern piece of art or sleek mirror hung above. 
  • In contrast, if you’re adding a few smaller sentimental accessories to your space, disperse them throughout and ensure the surrounding furniture leans modern. 
  • If tackling a dining or living area, offset contemporary seating with your vintage pieces (think 3 new, 1 old, or 4 new, 2 old). 

Embrace Quirk & Character 

  • At first glance, you might feel as though your piece doesn’t quite “fit” with your modern space. Give yourself a little time to appreciate the statement it makes. Try styling it in one spot for a week, move it to another the following, and so on until it’s just right. 
  • If you’re starting your space anew, get inspired to make a sentimental piece your focal point! When designing this Patterson Living Room, our lovely client requested that we incorporate a treasured piece of artwork his Mother painted. The space maintains a bright, cozy and modern feel with pops of copper, green and orange pulled from the painting and incorporated throughout the room. Let’s start the conversation about your project. 

Whether it’s a chair, trunk or small trinket, let’s make this the last year you accept defeat and stow it away! Deal?  If you have curiosities about these tips, our services and how we’re different, let’s connect

For more design insight, project reveals and inspiration, be sure to join our ever-growing DWK community on Instagram and Pinterest, and sign up for our monthly inbox drop-ins. We can’t wait to see you there, friend! 


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