9 Heirloom Pieces You Can Afford Now
There’s a reason we all love a good European interior, whether it’s French, British, or Scandinavian: The continent has mastered the art of passing on family heirlooms. As a result, today’s generation of Euro decorators can effortlessly layer their homes with a mix of 18th-century antiques, midcentury designs, and trendy accents—not to mention their impeccable art collections. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, we live in a world of fast fashion and ready-to-assemble décor. As we readily trade hand-me-downs for the latest trendy pieces, are we missing out on the important craftsmanship and history that our European cousins have so carefully preserved?
Some experts are suggesting a return to more eclectic spaces and seamless combinations of modernism and tradition in 2016—something Europeans have excelled at for decades. Interior designer Brian McCarthy recently predicted more “layered, cultured, and eclectic combinations of architecture and design” as a top trend this year, so now’s the perfect time to redecorate accordingly. Get a head start on the trend by scoping out the timeless heirlooms you can buy now and one day pass on to your own children.
Even in the most modern spaces, an antiqued mirror can add a layer of history and timelessness. Elaborate frames on both mirrors and paintings can stand in lieu of ornate moldings in more architecturally contemporary spaces.
The heirloom piece: n antiqued mirror. Look for an ornate frame, and a weathered finish in a lighter matte tone for a more casual modern vibe.
An antique pedestal table pairs well with midcentury modern chairs, adding an unexpected moment in an otherwise minimal space. When trying to achieve an elevated eclectic mix, it’s important to consider a variety of shapes and materials while keeping a coherent color palette.
The heirloom piece: An antique side table. Choose a pedestal or Louis XVI–style in a black lacquer and marble top. The stark contrast in color with offset the curvaceous frame.
Who would have thought that a gilded crystal chandelier would look so good against a pair of ultra-minimal exposed-bulb pendants? This kitchen is the perfect example of mixing tradition and trend. Though the kitchen is minimal and clean, the oil paintings and flea-market chandelier make the space feel ageless, and the grass-green counter stools feel elevated as opposed to fleeting.
The heirloom piece: A flea-market chandelier. Don’t be afraid to go ultra classic with this one—but remove the lampshades for a more minimal feel.
Creating a classic space doesn’t necessarily have to involve antiques from many centuries past. Even pieces from half a decade ago are worth collecting. Whether your midcentury tendencies are more Mad Men Manhattan or Slim Aarons Palm Springs, create a quirky time-capsule moment.
The heirloom piece: A midcentury lamp. From classic cork table lamps to architectural floor lamps, the 1950s were great years for lighting. Pick your poison—and pull the trigger on a piece from decades past.
Collecting heirlooms doesn’t have to mean buying antiques. In fact, collecting paintings from up-and-coming artists can be a great investment for the future. Think twice about getting a generic print next time you need to fill a blank wall.
The heirloom piece: A painting from an emerging artist you love. Not only are you supporting this person’s career, but the piece could seriously increase in value in the coming years. Pick something you can see yourself loving for decades to come.
As with lamps, the 20th century was a great time for modern design—from art deco to midcentury and beyond. The Wassily Chair is just one of many designs that shaped the design landscape over the past few generations.
The heirloom piece: A 20th-century chair. Whether you’re purchasing a new piece or a vintage version, look for a seal of authenticity from the original manufacturer to retain maximum value over the years.
Another avenue to explore is industrial farmhouse pieces that can infuse your space with an organic feel. The vibe stems more from American history than European, which can work well in more laid-back settings like country or beach homes.
The heirloom piece: An industrial workbench that can be used as a console.
Try pairing a very contemporary sculptural table with an antique chair to give your home an unexpectedly everlasting feel. This is a case of “less is more”—while you may be investing greater amounts in the two pieces, you won’t need to accessorize with multiple pieces to make it feel elevated. Fresh flowers and a quality coffee-table book will suffice.
The heirloom piece: A European antique chair from the 18th or 19th century. Look for Swedish barrel-back options for something a little more understated than the popular Louis XVI models.
When shopping for art, mix your more contemporary pieces from emerging artists with vintage prints and oil paintings. The mix of periods will give your collection a sense of authenticity and thought.
The heirloom piece: An oil portrait. These can be found in virtually any flea market and always pair well with abstract art.