Antiquing and using family heirlooms in your home decor can take time to embrace and appreciate. There's a story to learn, an introduction to be made and a testing the waters period of how the pieces add to the aesthetic depth of your home.
Unique Picture Display Ideas
Gallery walls intimidate me (with regard to personal/family photos). I really need to get over it! Until then, I utilize other methods to display personal photos. For example, in my old house, I hung some textured rope between two hooks and arranged our old family photos by pinning them with my grandmother's old clothes pins. This allowed me to change the display easily and it was a feature that friends/family could "touch." It made me happy.
With our new home, I wanted to integrate the various antiques we've collected (and the many bottles my avid SCUBA diver husband has brought home) with family photos. I didn't have a plan. Gasp! The designer didn't have a plan! Nope. I sat down, got to know the antiques and thought about their relation to the weight of generations past. Their lives, their stories. As I started to "shelfie" my shelves, the ah-ha moment occurred.
We found this perfect scale at an antique shop in Lancaster, PA (link below). The combination of brass and iron make me swoon. I had no idea where I'd be placing this scale in our then future home, but I knew I wanted it to have a place where it could be a talking point. It made its rounds from dining table center piece, to entry console and finally found its home on the widest shelf of our bookcase.
The feelings I had about the weight of times past translated literally in this case. I placed some of my favorite family photos on that beautiful brass tray and smiled. It gave me the same feeling as when I pinned pictures on the rope with mom-mom's clothes pins. There's an ease to this display. It lives and changes as I feel the urge to. I can touch the pictures, flip them over and read their dates and notes from my family.
How cool are these antique bottles? My husband found these, and the others you'll see as you read on, while diving in upstate New York. He brought home A LOT of bottles. The designer in me doesn't just go "poof, be gone" so I had to think about how to use the bottles while still staying true to our aesthetic.
I separated the clear bottles from the colorful ones and clustered them on this shelf. It looked great, but lacked some depth. The photo you see is of my grandmother and grandfather in a park, in love. What's better than love? Nothing. I carefully rolled the photo and slipped it into the bottle. It took a few days for the roll to relax and fall into place, much like love, and when it did, all kinds of feels filled my heart.
Using Antique Bottles as Decor
The majority of the bottles my husband brings home from SCUBA diving trips are large and colorful. If you follow along on this design journey with me, you know I'm a neutral and textural kinda gal. So I took inventory of the sizes and colors and started playing with where to display them.
On another antiquing adventure months prior, we took home a large wooden toolbox. I placed a large console table behind our sofa to separate our great room into a living space and dining space but I felt it needed some character on the ground, between the legs. The toolbox fit perfectly and guess what? So did those larger, more colorful, antique bottles.
How We Accessorized with Family Antiques
Remember when I said I didn't have a plan? That is often the case with accessorizing in my creative journey unless I am using a specific piece as the design inspiration for a room. The process that works best for me is to ground a space first (i.e. sofa, tables, chairs, bookcase(s), rug, window treatments) and integrate those textural accessory layers after.
Bookshelves scream for layers of big and small, objects and artwork (and of course, books). We placed a leaning book shelf on the smallest wall in our great room and gathered all of our special collectibles to start playing. My grandfather picked up a hand-made, amber colored liquor bottle with stamped steel details along his journeys. While it could have been simple to place it among actual bottles of liquor, wine, etc., my mind went to making it a bookend. Something about the old books, their stories and reading them in a moody library with a glass of whiskey from an antique liquor bottle just made sense to me!
My grandfather also had a stellar collection of antique tools. Most, I had no idea what they were used for, so I looked them up. It brought me closer to him, imagining where he obtained them, if he used them.
I fell in love with this vintage hand drill. The wood, the iron, all textures that speak to my soul. A good vignette should have various heights, objects and textures. Books are great because they come in many sizes and are stackable to give you the desired height.
I know you're eyeing that brass horse clock! Another beautiful antique of my great grandfather's. My mom polished him up for me and he greets our guests as they enter our home.
My husband's father also loves to antique. He's got quite the collection and when I saw this bird cage, my heart skipped a beat. The warm wood tones and imagining if little birdies called this home spoke to me. Luckily I'm a great daughter-in-law and he gave it to us! Now, where to place her?
The antique birdcage has a presence (she's big). It needed to sit atop something large and have enough room to be a focal point, but also serve as a balancing feature. We have a large media console to balance our long TV wall. I added a mini gallery wall of vintage art on each side of the TV but I also needed something to sit on the console for layered height. The birdcage did just that and we filled her with candles (we don't light them because they are real and it would be a fire hazard, but you could always add battery operated candles if you chose to do something similar).
Where We Antique: Our Go-To Venues in NJ/PA
We love taking advantage of a beautiful day and traveling to either Lambertville, NJ or the Lancaster, PA area to do some antiquing. Here's a few of our favorite spots!
- Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market: a 50-year-old Lambertville institution that is open year round. Since 1967, the Golden Nugget has been a “gold mine” for finding antiques, collectibles, art and more.
- Old Mill Antique Store: located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, they offer primitives, tools, glassware, art, linens, vintage collectibles, toys, architectural salvage, furniture, and outdoor yard and garden items.
- Strasburg Antique Market: a beautifully restored 1898 tobacco warehouse boasts three floors brimming with antique finds.