Inherited Furniture That Must Stay – How To Work With It


Dear Laurel,

New to your blog! So happy to have stumbled onto it after seeing posts on Pinterest. Have to say, I’m semi-addicted to Pinterest due in large part to my husband’s TV baseball addiction!

Anyway, thank you for the great advice and the laughs; not sure which I appreciate more! I think I “get” everything you post because it’s very similar to everything I love.


Have you ever done a post that explains how to update a room that must include inherited furniture; inherited antique furniture?


And, NO, I will not paint it! 🙂

Thank you! I’m 

happily making my way through your previous posts!

Best Regards,

Patricia D.




Hi Patricia,


First of all, people often tell me how they “stumbled” onto my blog. And noooo… Actually, you fell into my trap! hehe…


But, I’m hoping that it’s a nice place to fall into! :]


I talk at length about this in my blogging guide that explains how I went from being a complete computer technophobe to making my living blogging via my 13″ Macbook Pro. It’s proof that anything is possible!

But more importantly, a warm welcome to the blog, Patricia!!!

I love this question. And, I love it because being the recipient of inherited furniture is something that happens to a lot of us.


However, there are several possibilities when this happens:


  • The furniture is garbage; you hate it and can’t wait to get rid of it.
  • It’s not garbage, but you still hate it and can’t wait to SELL it.
  • The furniture’s not garbage, but not your taste or your husband’s taste, but if you SELL it, your sister who lives in a one-bedroom apartment and has no space, will disown you.
  • You have no idea if it’s garbage or not; but, you love it because your Nana and you spent hours on that settee reading stories together and it’s a treasured possession.
  • You can’t afford anything else and free furniture is better than nothing.


I’m sure I left out some possible scenarios.


So, being curious and knowing that this is a pretty popular topic of inherited furniture, I asked Patricia to send some photos.


She did. And, they were accompanied with the following note.


Hi again Laurel,

Sending you a few pictures so you can see my issues.


Please don’t hate me.


Why on earth would I hate you?


I realize that there are lots of mistakes!

The first group of  pictures are of the dining room and inherited furniture in question.


dining room inherited furniture

We think the set is at least 100 yrs old.  It does work for our family since most Sundays/holidays are my three daughters, son-in-laws and four grandchildren.


inherited furniture - vintage sideboard dining room

I do love good wood and beautiful grain and the history behind well-made things.


inherited furniture - small vintage server


small vintage server that is behind one of the loveseats


inherited furniture - detail dining table

Detail of the dining table

Please also know, I hate the rug and the pediment top of the china cabinet. Maybe that’s why I placed all of that stuff on top.


china cabinet inherited furniture


In addition, I removed a brass chandelier, but not sure the new one works with the furniture.

Forgive me my attempt to paint a mural. What was I thinking!?


WHAT??? Are you freaking kidding me??? You painted that??? It’s GORGEOUS!!!


Again, don’t hate me!




At least that is an easy fix.  Also, everything is very “cream”.

For reference, the following is the living room that connects to the dining room.

Next project is new sofas. I’ve tried. I’ve prayed. Believe me. I even gave each grand kid a sharpee pen in their Christmas stockings in the hopes that they will decide to play tic tac toe on these sofas.


inherited furniture - traditional living room


However, these Ethan Allen things WILL. NOT. DIE!!! Ugh, 30 yrs old . I hate the camel backs!

But, I do love the bittersweet rug. Unfortunately, I think that it’s maybe too small?

Okay, here we go again; I just bought the barley twist leg table for the entry hall, but alas it is too wide, so here it sits (no hate please).


I will make no other purchases until I take time to think things through. Pinkie swear, Laurel.


I am also sending pics of my new bathroom to show you I am not a complete moron.

I love the white cabinet that used to be a worthless closet full of s–t.  Thankfully my son-in-law is a contractor/ builder and made me the cabinet and the vanity (I am sure he now hates me!)

Sorry for the length, I so enjoy your blog!




Wow! Patricia. So, so much here and thank you!


First of all your home is VERY lovely, inherited furniture and all! And that is why I’m posting it.


But, the other thing, in reading your words, I am seeing myself. It’s a lifelong struggle feeling like I’m not worthy. Yes, it’s true. It’s the “it sure sucks to be me and so sorry for taking up some of your oxygen” feelings.

Oh, honey, honey. I get it!

Do you know when I was in the throws of HARD labor with my first son (yes, THAT one) for three plus hours… and thought my body was being ripped in half by a rogue man-eating shark who jumped out of the East River and landed smack in the middle of Lenox Hill Hospital?

Do you know what I did over and over?


I lay there writhing in pain and APOLOGIZING!!!


“I’m sorry. Sorry to interrupt your day. Oh, sorry you have to witness me like this. Sorry, I just barfed all over you. (well, that one is legit) And, sorry, don’t other women need your help? I mean, I’ll be okay. It’s probably just more false labor…

YES!!! It’s ludicrous.

Of course, there are times, when it’s appropriate to apologize, and times when people are going to be disappointed with us. However, I’ve calmed down with the apologizing for breathing thing.


Ironically, it’s usually the people who SHOULD be apologizing and worrying about their behavior who are not doing so. Right?


But, my darling woman… I read at least four times where you shamed yourself and worried that others, including me are hating you for some reason.

For what?

Being an adorable, warm, funny, caring wife, mother, grandmother, friend and now blog reader?

And, probably 100 other wonderful qualities that I can’t see from here.

’nuff said. Please be kind to yourself. But, I also understand.


So, let’s get back to this inherited furniture.


Oh, Wawy have a bee in her wittle bonnet… She spent hours researching this furniture. I am looking at it and thinking that it is not antique. It looks more recent than that, but yes, definitely vintage.

Based on my research and the fact that Patricia’s sister (we found out later) knows that their grandmother had this furniture in the 1930s, I am thinking that the dining room set is from that period and may very well have been manufactured by Bernhardt.

I found some similar Bernhardt pieces from that era.

Here they are below.

Janneys Collection vintage 1920s Bernhardt sideboardJanneys Collection vintage 1920s Bernhardt sideboard


Vintage 1950s Bernhardt Flame mahogany sideboard etsy

Vintage 1950s Bernhardt Flame mahogany sideboard etsy


Bernhardt vintage sideboard found on Chairish

vintage bernhardt dining room set

vintage Bernhardt dining room set (sorry, can’t find the source)

Same leg on the sideboard and the same picture frame moulding, except for the shape.


Etsy vintage Bernhardt china cabinet - pediment top

Etsy vintage (but they say before 2000) Bernhardt china cabinet – pediment top

Some Observations


  • First of all, we have matching sideboard, server, dining table and chairs. All have the same leg style.
  • In addition, the styling on Patricia’s pieces, while vaguely traditional, is a mishmash. It doesn’t know if it’s French, English, or something else.
  • I say that it’s something else.



So, here are my recs for the dining room that I think will help the inherited furniture look pretty durned spiffy.


One thing y’all might do is reference Wednesday’s post because there are some similarities.

First thing I’d do is get rid of that rug that Patricia doesn’t like and replace it with a seagrass rug. In addition, we’ll talk more about the living room later, but I’d keep the rug that you love in there and layer it with a much larger seagrass rug like we were just talking about!

The seagrass is immensely practical. I’ve done at least a dozen in dining rooms and all of my clients loved their seagrass rugs!


Next, I’d love to see two host chairs with arms that are mostly upholstered. This is going to take away some of that woody look.


Okay. Confession time. (that seems to be the subtext here! haha) I had fun today with my fabulous friend and colleague, interior designer Deborah Von Donop. She took me to this fabulous garden tour in Greenwich, CT. Oh man! It was like a mini vacation!  Yes, I plan on sharing that with you, too!

Deborah Von Donop Greenwich Garden Tour June 2019Here’s Deborah Von Donop snapping her own pics.

But, of course, I am not finished with my post and it is waaaaay past midnight. So, there are going to be a few holes like the host chairs. I spent 30 minutes looking for just the right ones and haven’t found them, yet. But, I will!

slip covered chippendale dining chair


In the meantime, I’d love to see some tailored slipcovers with skirts over the side chairs which will give them a lot more style and also soften the wood. The current fabric looks tired and dated, in any case. Please check out more slipcovers here, here and here.

You have a few choices. You could go with off-white heavy cotton duck slipcovers.


OR, you could go for something more colorful with pattern.

However, I love the off-white fabric with the dark wood.


inherited furniture- vintage dining room set


And yes, we need a different chandelier. This one isn’t terrible, but it looks a little cheap and it’s also a little too big. There are probably some good choices in the link. I’m thinking something with some gold tones.


However, the mirror over the sideboard is too small, I think.

Having a too small mirror gives that area a little bit of a precious, dated feeling, IMO. The one above, from Carver’s Guild is bigger, at least in height. And I think that the frame is so pretty. Oh, I spent an hour looking at mirrors! They could also do a larger horizontal mirror, but then that might cover up too much of the mural.


In addition, I would put some more stylish lamps on the sideboard.

The current ones aren’t doing anything to elevate the room. They aren’t terrible, but the idea is to balance out all of the wood and they aren’t helping.

I would do either blue and white Chinoiserie lamps or cream porcelain to go with your lovely collection of creamware. Love that. You do not need to do classic “buffet” lamps on a buffet.


One of my favorite blue and white Chinoiserie lamps from Bungalow 5


And finally, for both rooms, I recommend changing the drapes. I will address this in the next post.


I can see that these are polyester sheers and they’re giving the room a tired dated feeling. Of course, they need to be a lot longer and the rod placed higher. I would probably use a simpler rod, as well.

To be continued. Of course, please feel free to chime in your ideas, as well.

And yes, a couple of those pieces need to go somewhere else.



PS: Please check out the hot sales. Lots of Triple Dipping MEGA SALES this week!


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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