New Style for Old Furniture

Redecorate with what you already have. Use your furniture in a new space.
Majella Chube Hamilton

Many decorating dilemmas revolve around the urge to rid ourselves of the furniture that we've lived with for years. Especially when moving to a new home, even sentimental or inherited pieces find their way to the giveaway pile. For some reason, we think having all new furnishings means an improved look for our interiors.

You'd be surprised how many seasoned, well-weathered items for the home can be incorporated into a completely new setting to create an updated and refreshing style.

Comfortable Space for Living 
Those early years of marriage sometimes involve moving from cramped digs to spreading out in your first house. Decisions abound on what to do with mom's favorite lamp or grandmother's armoire--items definitely needed and utilized during those first years.

Amy and Morgan Murphy brought the inherited pieces, along with everything else, to their new home and made a successful transition.

Increased space in their newly purchased Tudor-style house in Homewood, Alabama, gave them opportunities for innovative decorating, along with the challenges of integrating their existing furniture and accessories. In addition to some repairs and structural work, Morgan and Amy set out to restore the living room to its 1920s vintage design.

"I consider it our version of Southern Gothic style," Morgan says. "The house is more than 70 years old, and its architectural style is a hallmark of the historic neighborhood we now live in. But at the time we purchased it, there was severe water damage, which meant quite a bit of work. So we knew we had to invest in those areas first."

Take, for instance, the mantel. "It had seven layers of lead paint and wouldn't strip properly without sandblasting," Morgan says. "So we had it faux finished to match the stone on the exterior of the house." In addition, the walls were restored in areas that needed it by applying a thick plaster technique and tinted taupe mortar.

After the necessary improvements had been made, the dramatic cathedral ceiling, magnificent stone mantel, oak hardwood floors, warm colors, and contrasting textures in the living room convey a welcoming feel.

Morgan and Amy's home became a perfect backdrop for the many passed-down furniture and accessory items they had been given. "We are sentimental people," Amy says. "Everything in our home has a story. For us, it was a matter of reconfiguring where each piece would be placed in the new space."

Aside from inherited furnishings, several items were wedding gifts. Still others were purchased at local antiques shops or through Internet shopping. But no matter where they acquired a piece, it is perfectly at home.

 

Work Wth What You Have
You've seen a living room with handed-down furniture, now another family demonstrates a moved-around approach with their dining room furniture.  

As a builder, Danny Buchanan is an expert in constructing other people's residences. But when he and his wife, Tara, began planning the details of their dream home, he found most of the decisions on design and finishes were best left in her capable hands.

With the knowledge that their new home and, in particular, their new dining room would be larger, there were still certain characteristics the couple wanted to copy from their previous residence. Those included wide doorways, detailed custom molding work originally crafted by Danny's father, a large ornate mirror, and an entire set of dining room furniture.

Interior decorator Emily McDaniel, who helped Tara with her decisions, says, "One thing that I wanted to do was to add a painted buffet to contrast with the dark-stained pieces."

Tara chose a wall color distinctly different from the old room's red; the new space features a faux-finished gold palette, creating an instant look of age. Danny himself crafted the new dining room's crown molding and woodwork around the window and doors. Even with the same furnishings, the new look reflects a lighter, more open space.