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Bringing New Life to Old Things

Seeing the beauty in antique pieces By Rachel Kelly

New Life Old Things

Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s done. If anything, it means that it’s stood the test of time. As styles have gone in and out, there are some pieces that stand out as being classic. It could be the lines of the piece that never go out of style, or its lasting practical use. Perhaps it’s that the object seems to carry with it a memory, a story. Maybe that table used to center in your grandmother's kitchen, bearing the responsibility of feeding 20 farmhands for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe that jewelry box once held your mother’s wedding ring. Perhaps that hat stand was bought for your great grandfather by his worst enemy. Maybe those boots were made for walking, and there’s still plenty of journey left in them. Whatever the reason, whatever the story, here are six ways to give a new look to your favorite old pieces.

Change Your Perspective. Sometimes the best way to bring life to old things is to change what holds it. Whether this means giving those vintage pictures a new frame, placing an antique piece on a floating shelf, or placing it in an unconventional location. A great example would be plates hung on the wall or door handles used as hooks. There are lots of ways to keep unused pieces that are no longer needed for everyday use.

Change Its Purpose. The jug that used to carry water from the outdoor well just might make a great umbrella stand. The container that used to carry snuff might be great for pills. The door that used to hang in your family’s 100-year-old shed might be great as a backdrop for hooks that you can hang your bags from. The large picture frame might look great as a headboard, or the ladder might double as a blanket holder.

A Splash of Color. Don’t be afraid to go bold with your old pieces. An old milking stool or basket can provide that much-needed pop of color in an otherwise earth tone (or white) home. Bright colors such as sun yellow, teal, fire engine red, aqua … whatever you like best. Everybody needs something that when they look at it, they can’t help but smile. Sometimes a little color is all you need.

Give It a Wash. This is not meant to be a literal wash, although a clean slate is always best to work with. With old things comes a lot of wood color, which can mean a lot of different shades of wood in one place. Dipping a damp rag in white paint, and then rubbing the white along the surface of your old antique can preserve a classic look while allowing it to be more neutral.

Strip It Down. Some pieces really do need to retain their wood color to preserve their authenticity. However, as previously noted, a whole bunch of wood colors in one space may not be preferable. Stripping your old pieces down to their bare wood, and then re-staining them in matching stain brings much needed congruence to a place filled with old pieces from different eras. If it’s got to be wood color, it might as well match.

Re-fit and Polish. There are some things that are simply not made the way they used to be. Like those big wing-backed wooden upholstered sofa chairs, or hundred-year-old chandeliers. There are some things that are right just the way they are, however, they may not be quite perfect as they are. In such a case, the best thing to do is to reupholster or shine to perfection. Some things just have good bones but need a little shine to highlight their original glory.

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