How to Decorate With Antiques, Part 3: The Best Ways to Live With Your Antiques

As with any worthwhile endeavor completing a bit of homework prepares you for the task at hand. In this instance the task is displaying your growing collection of antique furniture, art and/or accessories in your home. Defining your personal relationship with antiques and clearly understanding the type of antiques to which you are drawn are the points of homework that provide the springboard for displaying your collection. Here are the two best ways to live with your antiques:

1. Make Them Part of Everyday Life. This is my favorite devise and one which slips pieces from other time periods into the daily fabric of our lives. Antique chairs, settee, chests, cabinets, armoires, tables, carpets… etc. all make marvelous additions to today’s home. The inclusion of a beautifully aged wood piece adds greatly to any room so use that table, chest or cabinet. Fill it with kid’s clothes, electrical equipment or folded bath towels. The point is to use these pieces and watch your appreciation for their beauty, craftsmanship and layers of aging grow. Along with their beauty and practicality these are piece that were made for such use and, in my opinion, blossom into their real beauty when used and enjoyed daily. With daily use comes the need for a well-conceived and executed plan for care and upkeep (waxing, polishing, tightening joints… etc.) but this is also the case with new pieces (they don’t care for themselves) so there is no additional work required. Just a more focused and careful plan to prolong the lives off these pieces along with their usefulness.

2. Put Them on Display. When collections of ‘smalls’ (diminutive pieces, typically those easily held in one’s hands) are ready to be displayed I prefer these be grouped to their best advantage. This might take the form of a cabinet or shelf set aside particularly for one collection or it can be confined to one room in the house. You may decide that your kitchen is the appropriate place to display your collection of English Pewter. The growing collection of Export Ware could be a striking addition to the library and the numerous antique military toys you’ve been gathering for years could be organized into a grouping of shadow boxes that fill that long hallway or back stairs. I find organizing collections in this manner focuses the attention on the collection in a way that having these pieces strewed around the house does not.

One thing to always remember is that with the exception of a very small number of museum quality pieces, antiques should be touched, used and enjoyed by all members of the family. I regularly advise clients that if they think twice about the grandkids playing in a room of the house because of the displayed antiques; it might be best to box-up the antiques and enjoy your young grandchildren.

Mary J. Gibson

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