I Just Inherited All Of My Granny’s Hideously Dated Living Room Furniture

Dear Laurel,

Ya know life is so difficult sometimes. My grandmother passed away 3 years ago at the age of 97 and then my mom just died last month. It was a sudden thing and I’m lost without her. She was my best friend.

On top of it all, my husband and I have been renovating our home for over six months. It’s winding down, but I’m exhausted and seriously have nothing left. I mean, don’t worry about me. I’m okay. My husband is a doll– works long hours. Our kids are in college now.

What’s the problem aside from just about everyone I’ve ever cared about dying on me? Well, when Gran passed, my mom inherited all of her furniture.

My dad died when I was four. Apparently, he had undiagnosed narcolepsy and yeah… he was in the car when it careened down a deep ravine. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt. My poor mom. Rough go of it…

Our family is tiny.

Mom’s brother is in prison for embezzling funds from his clients. And my sister is a nun who helps run a home for Somalian orphans– uh, in Somalia.

Yeah, I know… pretty crazy isn’t it? I don’t know why I’m sharing all of this with you. Okay, here it is. I imagine that you can already guess what I’m going to say next.

It’s Gran’s furniture. Oh, I love my granny so much; loved visiting her. She would shtoop me with the most delicious pies and cookies and all of it home-made. Those were in the days before being forbidden to eat wheat, soy, dairy, butter, sugar, eggs and peanuts! And ya know… no weight problems back in the seventies!

What is wrong with me??? Sorry for the rambling…

It’s just her furniture— That’s the problem.


It’s the horribly dated living room furniture and it’s all mine!


Sure, I could sell some of it, but I don’t want to. I don’t know what to do about it. Maybe there’s something else I can do? I really would like to keep some of the pieces but they are so gosh durned fuddy-duddy. Oh gosh—Little ditzy flowers and mahogany for days!

I imagine that others have this dilemma too?

Thanks so much Laurel!

Barb Brake-Frunt




Well, as most of you know, Barb is a fictional character, but you know… the truth is stranger…

What isn’t fictional is her dilemma. In fact, it’s one I’ve encountered in my practice numerous times.


Dated living room furniture!


To be clear, dated is not necessarily the same thing as vintage or antique.


But some vintage and antique pieces feel out-of-place in our contemporary interiors. Or, they are in rough shape or something isn’t working.

Over the years, whenever I encountered this situation, we always found a place for the items and we made it work.

And oh man, I just spent I don’t know how long looking for a photo of a settee I had remade for a client about 12 years ago. It was her grandmother’s and then her mother’s and it is Victorian and her home is super contemporary.

We put this cool velvet stripe on it and it lived very happily in a little den area in her kitchen.


So, let’s jump in and discuss Barb’s situation.


Most of the time, my clients had a few pieces we incorporated, not entire home full of old furniture they had no interest in.

But if Barb was my client, I’d probably advise her to keep some of the most special pieces that we could make work, and perhaps give the rest to charity.

Not knowing what she has, I’m going to go over some ways to update your dated living room furniture.


Going back to the notion of old vs. dated.


A tiny vignette from one of Furlow Gatewood’s living rooms shows gorgeous antiques that feel fresh and current. Image by Rodney Collins.


Let’s begin with the upholstered pieces.


My grandmother in Chicago had a settee almost exactly like this.

Yup. A classic tufted butterfly thing-a-jobby.

At least that’s how I remember it looking some fifty years later.

This one is from Chairish but is no longer available.

But I have been obsessed with that living on that site recently.


A similar settee and an after shot from the wonderful site Chairloom, not to be confused with Chairish.

In a fresh new blue linen, the piece is almost looking contemporary!

Another astonishing makeover from Chairloom.

I’m pretty sure that the cool fabric is from Timorous Beasties.

dated living room furniture

And above is the classic “Granny sofa” again from Chairloom.

And below, it’s looking like Gran went to Canyon Ranch and then got a whole new wardrobe at Barney’s. lol

Another Chairloom Granny sofa before and after.

dated living room furniture

Wow! They took what is actually a classic Lawson sofa, took off the back cushions and the skirt.

Gave it a new upholstery job and it’s looking like a completely different piece of furniture.


Taking off the skirt to expose the legs is something I’ve done numerous times.


If the legs are good, it’s a great way to update a sofa or chair and lighten things up.


Another way to update a sofa or chair if you’d like to keep the skirt is do either a very tall skirt or a water fall-style skirt.

The short skirt above makes the chair look dated. Will the short skirts come back in style?

I don’t know. They’ve been out of style for at least the last 25 years. I don’t think that they’re coming back.

Above is the Serena and Lily Jameson sofa with a waterfall skirt.


For those of you who own the Laurel Home Paint Collection bundle, you may recognize the chair on the right. It appears in about 3 or 4 boards because I adore it to bits. And yes, this is the same chair as the one on the left. The lesson here and it’s a good one is that if there’s something you don’t like about a piece, in terms of upholstery, it can often be changed.

For this piece, they moved the legs over to the traditional position and changed the back cushions.

It now has a less mid-century look.

Here is a beautifully upholstered Chippendale style sofa with fretwork legs from Chairish.

(sorry, it’s no longer available)

You can also have a tailored slip cover made for sofas like these which also removes some of the formality.


Here are some other old-fashioned sofas that feel positively modern/contemporary.


Julia Engel – Gal Meets Glam


That sure is one long drink of cool, don’t you think?


Why keeps this from looking dated?


I think that a lot of it or maybe all of it has to do with context.

It’s the other pieces surrounding it. The white walls, the sleek Parson’s coffee table…

Sleek and chic.

Above a French settee reupholstered in white cotton and below it’s in a fabulous urbane room setting.  What’s interesting here, is that all of this furniture is from a company called Rent Patina that rents these pieces out. It could be for a special event, but they also rent out for photo shoots, films, etc.



Scouted Home

How gorgeous is this antique settee upholstered in two fabrics.

These blue batik fabrics are very hot right now. Is it a trend?

Yes, it is. Is it a bad trend? No, and if it’s just pillows or something like this and you love it, then why not?

A pretty French vignette from Rue Magazine – photo by Jen Altman

Coincidentally, I found some similar lamps on Chairish.

*More about that at the bottom of the post.


Fabulous sofa upholstered in a natural linen by Nancy Fishelson


Beautiful vintage flame mahogany breakfront from English Classics.

They are selling on Etsy. They made a custom painted breakfront for a client of mine several years ago. (below)

I wrote a brief post about it.

Here’s a smaller version by Holly Mathis and beautifully photographed by Becki Griffin.

I love how painting formal pieces like this knocks back the formality.

And please notice the lovely linen slipcover on the wing chair. These are great ways to update old-fashioned pieces of furniture.


Of course, I realize that some pieces should not be painted.


But I dunno. If you want to see paint and it’s not a priceless antique, does it really matter? Isn’t life too short to get hung up on stuff like that? If you feel that life isn’t too short to get hung up on stuff like that, that’s okay too. You are allowed to NOT paint your furniture! :]


And one last beautiful image by Holly Mathis and again photographed by Becki Griffin who’s also a designer. These girls are so talented!

Oh, how I love this room. It has beautiful bones. And yes high ceilings. (I know that some of you are groaning because you want to see more eight-footers.)

But one of the reasons I am posting this, is because see that sofa with a slip cover on it? Could this be Gran’s fuddy duddy hideously dated piece underneath? It probably is not, but it could be.

For more about slipcovers, please look at this post that goes into more detail.

But, the entire space is so light and airy, not pretentious, but also quite stylish.

Whew! That was a lot and I didn’t even post half of my photos!  Well, there’s always another time.


*Some of you know this already, if you are interested,

there are two groupings of gorgeous stuff I found on sale this week.


I combed the marketplace to separate the home furnishings wheat from the chaff.


The first grouping is new stuff– on sale and the second one is all one-of-a-kind and either vintage or antique– also on sale. You can see it all by clicking here or if you go up to the menu it’s under HOT SALES.


The plan is to update this page regularly, usually on Friday or Saturday.



Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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