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!


113 Responses

  1. A sea of brown indeed! My sense is that there is much to be said for painting vintage furniture such as this. Again, avoiding painting it all the same, but painting the chairs would so highlight the table; painting the china cabinet (pediment and all!) would turn it into something soft and lovely. I have a magnificent antique buffet that was a Craigslist disaster and painting it a beautiful robin’s egg blue makes it a beautiful focal point in my large open dining room. Don’t say you won’t paint just because it’s lovely wood. Some of the pieces I’ve painted, when finished, look like they should have been that color in the first place. I’m talking chalk paint here, not shiny enamel or spray paint. Do an old piece you don’t care about and watch the transformation. I have a good bit of my traditional-leaning home filled with “heritage” pieces that were lovely in the day, but lifeless in this one. Paint makes me love them.

  2. Or maybe a better question is when do you recommend that folks paint their heirlooms? And do you have any suggestions for making choices in how to tastefully do so? Asking for a friend… 🙂

    1. Hi Allison,

      I’m sorry, but this is getting off the topic into specific advice and I wish I could do that. But, it’s not possible. Hope that you’ll understand.

  3. Hi Laurel – thank you for all of your wonderful posts! I love learning from you.

    Quick question… I am in my early 40s and see so much potential for sprucing things up with a little paint or lacquer. If there isn’t much monetary value in the pieces, would you ever consider recommending that the client paint heirlooms such as these? I know she says she doesn’t want to paint in her original letter to you, but I get the impression it is because she does not want to de-value her antiques. Thoughts?

  4. I hope some of the suggestions inspire you. I already left a comment above, but i have more….was just thinking that a beautiful stone top on the sideboard would break up the wood tone and make it easier to serve without worrying about the wood.

  5. Yes, Maura’s insta will give you ideas about how to layer more and how to fall in love with the furniture. Starting with the china cabinet, you could line the interior with a temporary wall paper and a pop of color. And remove some of the china so it looks a little more displayed, but still functional. You are a talented artist, aka the mural looks great. Find a large mirror that opens up the space and add more to your mural (since you’ll be covering much of it). Perhaps it can winds its way across the window wall and meet up with the china cabinet. And maybe the cabinet can go somewhere else! A lower piece there would open the room.

    When my daughter and I inadvertently text “sorry”…the response is “sorry, not sorry”. To remind us that were just trying to be gracious and considerate, but we don’t need to apologise, for example when you’ve got to hang up and take a business call. Hey, life has its priorities!

  6. Thanks for that excellent tip Laurel. Next time, I will contact our local furniture store (yup, just the one, otherwise it’s a trip to Halifax) and see if they’re game. I just noticed that you’d listed the rug in the hot sales post. Sadly, OKL, World Market, McGee, etc., do not deliver to Canada. One has to get quite creative here, meaning, flea market finds.

    1. Hi Paula,

      It’s my understanding that you have to have them deliver to a company that will deliver to you. Of course, it costs more money to do it this way. I’m sorry I don’t have any further information about this option.

  7. I am a HUGE fan of Pottery Barn’s heather chenille jute rug, so much so that in my previous (large) house I had three of them, one under the dining room table. I love, love, loved them. I sold them when we downsized and I have always regretted it. They are soft underfoot, backed with sturdy fabric, and wear extremely well. Cannot say enough good about them. I would have bought them again in my new (old) house but PB doesn’t deliver that size item to my rural Nova Scotia address.

    1. Thank you so much Paula! I just added them to two of my hot sales widgets (as they are on sale right now!) and linked to them in your comment as well! I very much appreciate this kind of endorsement as it helps me advise others on fabulous products, available at reasonable prices.

      BTW, it might be possible to get the larger rug if you can find a receiver who PB will deliver to who will then bring to your home. Maybe even a carpet store, but of course, call them up first. I used to do this all of the time when I had rugs fabricated. I would have them delivered to a store I worked with and they would inspect the rug to make sure it was okay. And then, they bring it over and spread it over the pad. And, it was always perfect and took them no time. They’re pros!

      Because if you need the 10 x 14, it’s going to be heavy and difficult to lay down, in any case. Yes, you can expect to pay maybe $300 +/- for this service, (maybe less because I’m in NY where everything is expensive) but it’s worth it and your back will thank you too! Of course, if your receiver is fairly far, it might cost more.

      This is the sort of information one doesn’t learn in design school. sigh…


    A permanent, scotch-guarded cloth on the table will bring in color and break up the sea of brown. You can thus try out different color schemes without making a permanent, expensive commitment to paint or rug. Be sure to style the table with vases, books, or whatever you like to look at. Miles Redd did this to his mother’s dining room and she now uses it as a study when she isn’t entertaining. The lamp cords drop down through a seam in the fabric and a narrow opening between the table extension slats (I asked!) to a plug that snakes up under the sisal carpet.

    And, p.s., you need some table lamps in the living room too, on bigger end tables or behind the great, classic sofas.

    1. Hi Margot,

      Thank for all of that. And, I don’t expect you to read every word or every post, but I’ve shown that wonderful dining room of Miles at least twice and discussed the issue with the cords here.

      However, I didn’t know the specifics of how he accomplished all of that. So, thank you for sharing that. I am wondering about the plug that snakes up under the sisal carpet, however. If you see this and can elaborate, that would be great! I do know that the lamps need an outlet to plug into unless there’s some feat of engineering I’m not aware of. Sometimes, people put holes in carpets to accommodate these outlets.

      This if fine to do underneath a dining table where the cord is only dropping down. But sometimes people put cords underneath rugs in heavy traffic areas. This is an exceedingly dangerous thing to do as over time, the wire can become frayed. And yeah, it could very well lead to a fire.

  9. The view look of the design furniture is modern and the images are trending one and making engage. To have such a narrow designs one need to have an idea before and need to know the quality of the wood used to shape the furniture.L Bern you have added a reasonable stuff to understand the structure of the furniture.

  10. Hi Laurel
    Thank you for a great post. This is very interesting to me as I am in the same situation. At first look of Patricia’s home, I thought, are you kidding me, That’s beautiful!
    But as the designers with the keen eyes are picking apart the details, I can see that this home will be fabulous when completed.
    I have another question about rugs. What are your thoughts about sisal and wool rugs? Are they softer underfoot? Will the sisal stain, unravel? I can’t wait until Wednesday’s post.

    1. Hi Pat,

      There are numerous posts regarding these types of rugs. Please forgive me if I’m sounding unhelpful. But, sometimes, I need to turn off my brain or else it shorts out. Those are great questions. Please use the search box to search out area rugs, sisal, seagrass and they should all pop up.

  11. Great suggestions, as always, Laurel. If all the furniture absolutely must stay, then I would probably opt to move the pedimented China cabinet to another room. Can the pediment be removed? I think the piece is actually a little too heavy with the pediment. But my key question would be, “What would be the worst thing that could happen if I let go of the furniture I really don’t like.” A family member will be judgmental, angry, crazy? Really? My house, my life, my joy is more important than that. The camelback sofas could most likely go to a consignment shop. Or they could go to the family member or put ‘em out on the curb. It’s just furniture. If you hate them and feel oppressed by them, let them go. If that is completely out of the question, can they be put in storage? Moved to a different room—one less central and used? I have found in my own journey that often just moving the furniture elsewhere has changed my whole attitude to it—for the better.

  12. I absolutely love the mural and actual china; they are all wonderful pieces. The china has a good bit of bittersweet color in it; I wonder if cream linen drapes with a greek key trim in bittersweet might work? And also,if you really don’t want to paint the china cabinet, could you affix a fabric/wallpaper/interesting paper to the back as a temporary upgrade?

    The mural and china pieces both suggest you have a love of plants/fruits. Maybe you could expand on that theme with a larger piece of art?

    I love your place and I’ll bet you are a wonderful hostess, Patricia.

  13. I too, have my grandmothers antique dining room set, which I’ve coveted since I was young. I’ve been following your blog for awhile and while I can’t bear to paint the chairs, I’ve recently been acquiring Ballard Designs Chippendale-like chairs in cream. Fortunately I’m just down the road from the a Ballard’s outlet and pick them up as I spot them. I put the matching chairs in the basement for overflow. My design friend also helped me choose a modern simple chandelier so the room wouldn’t look like “early American Grandma”. My words not hers! Because my table had four legs on the corners which drove me crazy when we had large groups, I found a super talented (in ATL) wood worker and he built me a pedestal base for the table. I’ve fallen in love all over again with my sentimental furniture. I love reading your blog and pinning your articles. I feel like my taste has grown and improved under your guidance.

  14. I LOVE this post – and love the house and furniture. This so applies to me as well. I can hardly wait to see all of the suggestions. You have beautiful furniture Patricia and a lovely style. I love the mural you painted. Thanks for sharing your home!

  15. I would first ensure there are enough roomy, comfortable seats for the 8 adults. Maybe add an extension or card table. Add extra padding or cushions to seats. Move most furniture out so people have more room to circulate. Hopefully, add children’s table. If buffet is not being used to serve food, move it. Then I would have the table as the centerpiece. Beautiful and colorful table cloth, maybe placemats or chargers, floral arrangements in center and sides, etc. Leave it set up all the time. Get a really beautiful chandelier to top it off.

  16. What a lovely home, thank you for sharing! These are my favorite posts, I learn so much not just from you, Laurel, but your community of readers, and that is a huge and amazing feat. Thanks everybody.

    1. Hi Paula,

      I learn a lot from me, too! hahahaha!!! No, really. I always say this, but I’ve learned SO much since starting this blog it’s not funny. And yes, you guys are incredible! I learn from y’all too and that is one of the coolest things ever! This entire thing is. I never dreamed that any of this was possible.

      It just goes to show you that when folks say that you need to have a vision for something to come true, is pretty much crap. I’m not saying that never happened. It did. But, not until about four years ago. That leaves three years where I was mostly groping in the dark trying to find my way. However, looking back on it, even though I didn’t know where I was going, I was on the right road about two years before I realized that I was!

  17. SO incredibly helpful, Laurel, as always…thank you once again! I also have a question which you might be able to answer in your Part Two to this post…I see that Patricia(Pamela) placed a table behind a loveseat, and I am wondering if you could tell us if there are some rules and regs about what size table should go behind sofas, or loveseats? Are there any minimums or maximums in height or length of table in comparison to sofa? Also, I actually have something to impart…I just learned that if you use the App on Chairish you can click on SEE IN ROOM, to insert the piece you are looking at into your room, and then even take a picture of it to see exactly what it looks like in the room!!! For a completely clueless person like me, it has been such a help and so much fun! 😀

    1. Hi Kathryn,

      That’s so cool about the app on Chairish. I do love that website. I would love them even more if they had not discontinued their affiliate program and if they had configured their program properly when they did have it. I sold a lot for them, but rarely received credit for the orders, because the cookie was confined to only that session and most of the time, people don’t order something on the spot. Even if they come back 30 minutes later. No credit. Not fair. But then, when they discontinued the program, I had 100s of links on the site that send out a strange message. Ugh. So, had to do work getting rid of them and still am finding some.

      Wisteria did the same thing. Still love both companies but if they aren’t a part of the affiliate program, can’t put them in the widgets.

      One good thing to know is that a lot of vendors on Chairish also have shops on Etsy (yes, that’s an affiliate link, lol) and other sites. The prices on Etsy are almost always lower, so if you see something on Chairish you like, do a google search of the vendor and/or product.

  18. These types of your blogs are my favorite! I can totally relate to most of the homeowners issues and when I see your advice I end up tweaking my own rooms every single time! Thank you!!

    1. Hi Shelly,

      I like doing these as well because I get to be creative without having to do the part I hate which is everything else. lol Okay, hate is a little strong.

  19. Patricia, I love the mural! Hi, Laurel. This post is one of my favorites. It’s such a hard balance to find. Based on your ideas, I put together some options. Hopefully, they aren’t way of course! What do you think? Hmmm…. I didn’t think this through. How do you send photos!

    1. Thanks so much Laura and I did receive the photos. Beautiful! Sorry, unless the photos are some place on the internet, there’s no way to post in a comment. One work around would be to create a pinterest board and then link to it here. I don’t encourage links, because I have to go in and make them so that they open up in a new tab for technical reasons. But one link, is fine.

  20. I’ve put off commenting to have time for a think, so this is a bit late.
    Here’s what I would do:
    Put the tall cabinet somewhere else in the house. Replace it with the server piece, leaving room for some art on that wall — or a big chinoiserie panel on a blue ground, clearly this would be a DIY job, as the mural shows P could easily do this.
    The mural is great, but doesn’t give a different colour to the wall. And there’s the problem of where does it end at the sitting room end. I’d suggest putting a painted column (symmetric to the fireplace — corner of room RH side, separation to dining room LH side) to make a division — easy to do with a short stencil as in Lyn Le Grice’s book, The Stencilled House. Then I’d go over the stencil to put it against a washed blue background above, a greenish ground at the bottom. A damp sponge will take off any overpaint on the mural.
    Then yes to Laurel’s big gold mirror and to the Chinese jar lamps. With a mural, plain curtains. Raise the pole and shorten the ends, paint it the same colour as the walls. Curtains: I haven’t looked at Ikea US, but here in France they do a beautiful mid-dark blue Aina linen, sold as panels or by the metre. You’d need two drops each side so ideally buy by the metre to get 3-metre width each side.
    Definitely remove the runner on the buffet — put it on the table with a whacking great green glass jar and a whacking great display of green foliage.
    I think without the server you’d have room to put a narrow console table behind the sofa, and use the current buffet lamps there, plus some of the smaller photo things from the mantel. Something more gutsy over the mantel.
    Personally I really like the camelback sofas but would put them facing one another so as to have the two armchairs at a bit of an angle opposite the fireplace to get away from the rather rigid current placement. More colour here from cushions and a throw or two.
    Last word: dining room rug. I have no idea here, since in France you don’t want a rug in the dining room because breadcrumbs after every meal are part of the French way of life!

  21. If you were painting some of Patricia’s furniture which pieces would you paint? What colors would you choose? I, too, have an inherited dining room “set” – buffet and china cabinet. I have often thought about painting it, but I am not sure if it is weird to paint only one piece of a set or if both pieces were painted is it too matchy?
    Love, love, love your blog. It’s my absolute favorite.

  22. My last name means “tree” in German so I love almost anything with a tree motif. I had already started thinking to myself “I hope they give the name of this beautiful tree wallpaper mural “ when I read that the homeowner hand painted it! Great job! I’d love to be able to do that kind of art. Beautiful home too!

  23. Hi Laurel,
    My easy solution to this dilemma would be to break up the matching pieces & find uses for them in other rooms.
    The remaining pieces can be updated with some more contemporary or modern accessories. I’m picturing a modern chandelier & an overscale abstract painting leaning over the sideboard instead of the mirror. Your suggestion of larger lamps is perfect. And more contemporary chairs next to the vintage table would be lovely together.
    All the cream needs a punch of color. That could be done with the new chairs & window treatments & lamps.
    Her DIY painting is beautiful. I hope she continues it around the room. She should be very proud of her work & talent.
    I love garden tours. I can’t wait to read about the one you went on.
    Which reminds me…the dining room needs some plants. Plants always add life to a room.

  24. Great idea about taking the pediment off the top! And does that piece have to remain in the dining room? It seems like the wall may be to small for it. Could it go in the living room with books in it? Maybe paint the interior a fun accent color (green with the blue and white lamps etc). Love the seagrass idea and the blue and white lamps….bring back the brass chandelier? Yes on changing the curtains…..what about a great roman shade with white linen side panels with a blue tape in the leading edge?

  25. Don’t think ALL those pieces need to be in the dining room. Can’t some of those find a home in another room in the house? China hutch doesn’t need to be just for china. Can put other do-dads in there.

  26. Many thanks to “Patricia” for sharing her home with us! It looks like a beautiful home with beautiful furniture. I wonder if it is just that she is so used to seeing it that it is hard to see the great points. (I’m currently having a love/hate relationship with my antiques and rugs, too.) I agree with those who suggest editing. There is a lot of furniture in there. How wonderful (I think?) that the family visits so often. I get that here, too, and we do need the chairs handy! If some of those could be moved to another room, that would probably help. I also would take most or all of the china out of the cabinet with the pediment and use it as display space. It just looks so full and that could be another spot to introduce color. If the plates are in frequent use, they could just be stacked on one of the side pieces and the lesser-used ones put out of sight. The glassware up on top of the tall cabinet calls attention to the pediment. I like the pediment but not the glassware. I also agree that the curtain rod is off. To me, it seems too long, like it needs to be cut off as well as painted. On my screen, those look like woven curtains. If they are, maybe a band of something with some color could be added. Though the dining room rug is pretty, it is limited in that it introduces no additional colors, so it may be one of the major culprits that make the room look static. Another thing is that all the art is antique or vintage, too. That adds to the museum vibe. Maybe “Patricia” could take a cue from the recent homeowner with the modern art pieces. In the living room, the mantel looks cluttered. Seems like there needs to be a larger piece of art, hung, not leaning. Also, those spaces either side of the fireplace are crying out for something. Maybe six framed coordinating prints, three on either side? Or a good-sized sconce on either side? Something with some height. Also–bright pillows on the settee and chairs? And some lamps and plants in the living room?

  27. Me again [sorry]. If Patricia could do a bit more of the same mural on the wall to the right of the fireplace, that would make the room feel more like a complete design. I agree with the suggestion from another reader above about perhaps adding a subtle color (bittersweet & blue/ green) to the mural, and have the branches curve/spread out wider to fill up the empty sections of wall.

  28. Laurel I am trying to pin some thing from your pin it icon. Thye are not taking and it says that something is wrong with the parameters. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks, Lorie

    1. Hi Lorie,

      Well, I got it too, but only on mobile. It’s fine on desktop. And the message came when I was on pinterest. The pin shows up and then when I hit pin to a board, I get the message and to try back later. Sorry, I don’t know what the problem is.

  29. I have tons of inherited furniture I cannot part with being an only Great Grandchild, Grandchild and only child. It is a blessing and at times overwhelming as as a sentimentalist. Some pieces are in my house and most sit in my basement storage. I am one of those “will not paint wood” people as I remember growing up with painted kitchen cabinets and furniture people worked days on end to strip. What does one do with this excess of antique well made sturdy furniture just because it belonged to someone who you loved and wanted to pass it to you? Oh my heart. 4 cedar chests, 3 oval tables, 2 buffets, 2 china cabinets and 2 extra bedroom sets later, 1 secretary, etc. And dishes….
    Thank you for your always interesting and informative posts. I need advice on detaching!!

  30. Great post Laurel! So many of us have a room full of brown furniture much of which is of great quality but looking a bit blah. Although Patricia doesn’t want to paint any of hers, I am big fan and would welcome your suggestions for colors and finish preference. Many thanks!

    1. Hi Jane,

      That’s a very good question and dependent on what else is going on. If this furniture were painted it would look more French. The styling would lend itself to the shabby chic look. And that’s usually painted white or off-white with some distressing. I don’t recommend that here. Some pieces look better painted than others, I think.

  31. This dining room is a lovely room that needs a little bit of sex appeal to liven it up. I’d paint the walls a jade green and re-do the mural, there is a Gracie wallpaper in jade green with a cream floral motif that could serve as inspiration. I’d get 2 new host/hostess upholstered chairs in Schumacher Lotus Garden and reupholster the other chair seats in navy. I’d move the tall hutch somewhere else in the house because the DR looks a bit cluttered. Lastly, I agree that the window treatments should be higher with a plainer iron rod, in a patterned fabric. I agree that blue/white chinoiserie lamps on the buffet would be sensational that that the chandelier should be smaller-an antique or antique looking elegant chandelier in antique brass/bronze with crystals/prisms.. The creamware can stay but perhaps be updated seasonally with flowers, branches and other objects that reflect the season-hydrangea plants in summer, mini pumpkins and bittersweet in autumn, pine and holly boughs in winter and cheerful blooming bulbs in the spring.

  32. I love her home and all the furniture, reminds me of a long gone aunt’s home in Springfield MA. I wonder if she kept the brass chandelier and what it looked like?

  33. Hello Laurel and all the loyal “Laurelites”…is that what you are called? I am too new to this blog to know yet but that is a temporary thing. This is my (help!)dining room and I am most grateful for Laurel’s (awesome) insights.
    I just had no idea I would also hear from so many of you…feels like new friends!
    To Kathy O..what a great question. How sweet of you to care. I would like the rooms to come together…that mural wall…never knew where to stop since it is one long wall. I would like it to be warm and inviting for family, but not stuffy and grannyish. And more color. Classic
    Thanks to all for your suggestions
    Best, Pam

  34. I can sympathize with Patricia, I also have a lot of inherited furniture which I love, but that does make decorating more of a challenge. Patricia’s furniture is lovely and good quality– you’d pay $$$$ to get anything of that quality today. The mural is pretty cool, too!
    I think the room could really use some color and larger art on the walls to make it feel a little more contemporary. Laurel’s suggestion of a seagrass rug or rugs is a good idea– if they are large, the floor would not feel so weighty and dark. Since Patricia likes the bittersweet color of the rug in the living area, I’d suggest working from that. She could add draperies with a stripe or border of that color, or perhaps even do away with draperies entirely– instead use wood blinds with woven tape trim in a bittersweet-range color for a more modern feel. How about adding a very, very pale bittersweet color on the ceiling? The furniture, walls & ceiling at present have an analogous color scheme (cream/ beige/ bittersweet/ brown– colors close to each other on the color wheel); some contrast with a color on the opposite side of the color wheel would enliven the room, such as blue or blue-green. Maybe with the blue & white Chinoiserie or jade green china lamps, and a bit of a similar color carried throughout the room with pillows, artwork, upholstery, etc. Another thought is to paint one or two walls in a color (let the mural remain): if the china cabinet is against a wall that is a deeper color, the pediment on top that Patricia dislikes would not stand out so much. I’d also be tempted to paint the inside only of the china cabinet a color, perhaps a deeper bittersweet color or a yellow-green, whatever works with the dishes. In the living room area, it feels like there are too many pieces of seating furniture lined up in formation; perhaps one chair could be removed, or the barley twist table moved elsewhere so that the seating area will feel more spacious. Two chairs set on angle rather than backing up to the wall would help it feel less stiff. The small tables on each side of the fireplace seem a bit too small for the space– perhaps large potted plants like the fiddle leaf fig (very dramatic, sculptural leaves, 4’ tall) in blue & white or jade china pots on either side would bring the eye up and enhance the space. Finally, the artwork above the fireplace and on the wall to the right of it seems more bedroom-scale rather than living room scale. Could the mirror that’s above the sideboard be put above the mantel? And on the wall to the right of the fireplace, hang a large (at least 2x the size of the existing painting) framed painting or print that picks up some of those blue/blue-green & bittersweet colors would help bring color around the room. A smaller brass fireplace screen would pick up the gold/brass accents in the room.
    Hope this isn’t TMI! Your blog is the first one I read, Laurel– thanks!

  35. Love the before and after of removing the pediment on the hutch. It looks totally different and so current from Vickie.

  36. Hi Guys!

    Thank you so much for your comments! There are a lot today (love that!) However, I have to run out now. So, I may not be able to publish yours until later. So, don’t worry if you don’t see it until later this afternoon/evening. xoxo ~ Laurel

  37. Hi Laurel! I would Rub n Buff the lamps and maybe even the chandelier to save money. Mix in way more color and pattern in the style of Madcap Cottage?

    1. Hi Jodi,

      Certainly if money is an issue, those are some great ideas in terms of changing the finish. The Madcap Cottage look requires mostly painted pieces. Not all, but they’re big on painted furniture.

  38. You have a beautiful home! Your wall mural is so pretty; you are very talented! I love the idea of using the blue and white Chinoiserie lamps on your server. I, too, have a dining room full of inherited furniture. For that matter, I’ve been around awhile so some of the old furniture is my own, LOL! I see no need to replace good furniture so I must make it work. I love adding colorful porcelain pieces and I think those blue and white porcelain lamps would be a knock-out on your server! And if Laurel agrees, follow the link to her chandelier post and check out the “SEVEN-LOW” chandelier. I think it would be lovely in your dining room. It’s gone up a tad since I purchased it, but still well worth it! People comment on it all the time and it truly looks more expensive than it is. I have 8.5 foot ceilings so I felt that I had to shorten the bottom crystal strands slightly. I also replaced some of the ugly clips on each end of the crystal strands with jump rings that I purchased from a craft store. It really is lovely.

  39. Patricia, I think your home is beautiful,and kudos on painting the mural….so good! You just need some tweaking from our beloved Laurel…if only she could clone herself and help all of us!

    1. Oh Diane, that is such a sweet thing to say!!! Believe me, I have days when I also wish I could clone myself! However, I’m not sure if the world could handle two of me. haha!

  40. Dear Laurel,
    You often mention Sea grass rugs. I would love to put one in my living room under an oriental rug that is too small for the room. However, I somehow acquired 4 cats with claws intact. Will a sea grass rug hold up or turn into a scratch pad? I know you have experience with cats. Perhaps Peaches was declawed. My previous cats were, but once the kids grew up, I got soft. I have a lovely blue club chair that is frazzled on the back corner thanks to them. Any advice would be appreciated. The cats are here to stay.

    1. Hi Heidi,

      Peaches was not declawed. And, yes, he wrecked most of our furniture. That is, except for the velvet. And the cotton duck was okay and the linen, slipcover, okay. However, the linen with backing on my brand new expensive chairs was on the verge of getting decimated.

      As for seagrass; we did not have a seagrass rug. He did however, undo some of the knots in the Odegard Tibetan rug in our den. But those could be clipped and no harm done. The other Oriental rug was also fine.

      But, getting back to your question, many of my clients had seagrass rugs as well as cats and I did not get any reports of damage. The seagrass is very tough.

  41. I like the mural the homeowner painted in the dining room! I have recently become a volunteer at a historic house, and one thing you find out is that our ancestors loved pattern and color and fabric and accessories and used them to make the wood color less dominating–just like you often show in your blog posts. I am hoping that the sturdy 30-year old sofas can find a new life….but if the homeowner hates them, then she may be better off getting rid of them. However, they have lasted probably 20 years longer than most sofas today would last! I know you are doing part 2 and I really look forward to it.

    FYI: Here is a link to photos of the rooms in a historic house where I volunteer. In particular look at the dining room, because I think you will like the wall covering (it’s actually oil on canvas from the 1920s) and the mirror over the sideboard.

  42. First off, I love the furniture, including the pediment! Being an Air Force brat without any family pedigree I longed to grow up and become settled in one place with inherited furniture like this. I had to buy mine to look collected. I did petticoat slips like you suggest on my own traditional chairs & slipcovered the host chairs to the floor because when I see so many legs it bothered me that nothing felt grounded. I did the ties to wrap like ballerina laces down the chair legs to give the backs more interest since that’s all we normally see. That mural is beautiful. Very talented. All your other suggestions are great Laurel.

    PS I just redid our camel-back sofa in a creamy white with a raised sea coral design. & everyone loves it. I did update the skirt a bit. LOVE the sharpie for the grandkids, hysterical!

  43. Her furniture is beautiful. I know she said she wouldn’t paint any of it. How about the one piece she doesn’t love the top of? Maybe paint it to add interest. Your idea of upholstered host and hostess chairs will transform the room for sure.

    1. Hi Monique,

      That is a good possibility. It’s all like a giant puzzle because each piece needs to work as a part of the whole. That’s what makes it a challenge sometimes.

  44. Greenwich Garden Tour is such a treat – esp on a beautiful day!

    Love your suggestions here. I would add:
    1. Remove the clear glass from the top of the china cabinet and put the creamware collection up there. Pare contents of what’s in the china cabinet way down. I know your reader doesn’t want to paint the furniture, so maybe she would consider putting wallpaper or fabric in the back of the china cabinet for some color?
    2. Once the curtain rods are raised and she wants to use the current drapes, add a wide color block to the bottom or a band of color along the edges.
    3. Lose the runner on the server.
    4. Add a large colorful bowl in the center of the table.
    5. Use those side chairs from the living room as the host and hostess chairs, since they don’t look very big or use them to flank the server. Either way, get them out of the living room!
    6. Since this appears to be one long room, once those white side chairs are “rehomed” in the dining room, move that small server out of the way, and put the sofa whose back is to the dining room on the wall where the white chairs were.
    7. Lose the small side tables, ottoman, and glass coffee table in the living room. Clear the mantel. Use the barley leg table on an angle between the two white sofas.

  45. This is one of my favorite posts -a room that just needs a few changes to go from just ok to fabulous! The blog equivalent of the librarian taking off her glasses, letting her hair down and looking gorgeous!I noticed that everything is wood and cream–I think some color could make a BIG difference. Thanks Patrica for allowing us to see your lovely home!

  46. I love the mural!! It is subtle but elegant and it is ORIGINAL! One thing I don’t think Laurel mentioned that would give a more streamlined look would be to remove some of the china from the hutch. It looks overcrowded and could use some editing/styling.
    IMHO…If the furniture is of good quality and is well suited to your frequent large family dinners, with a few changes and you can pull a Tim Gunn and “Make it Work”.

  47. Holy Smokes! That mural was a DIY?? I need a cool cloth for my underachieving forehead!
    I even love the Ethan Allen camelbacks, they wear like iron. The table needs a big vase of blue hydrangeas and some Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon print pillows ( China Blue maybe?). Every single room in a house needs some of those in every color, IMO. HA!
    This is all said with the wisdom of a woman who is sitting on a sofa that is covered in Sharpie marks.

    1. hahaha! And yes, there is nothing like a big vase of blue or yellow-green hydrangeas. That’s the secret to all of those fabulous magazine covers!!!

  48. Love your site,appreciate your wit, value your insight. Today I loved this post because of your kindness to Patricia (not me but we think alike!). It’s so intimidating to open up to a talented professional but you were exceptionally gracious. Thank you for sharing yourself and your knowledge.

    1. Hi Pat,

      Actually, Patricia is not really Patricia. I changed her name and added in the sharpie bit, to take a little editorial artistic license, which I usually do with people’s stories. But 95% of what she said, she said.

  49. Laurel-correct me if I’m wrong ( and I know you will 🤭) but wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those pieces painted? Also, I love the mural but I think the whole wall should be done and perhaps have some of those trees leaning a bit. A couple of birds in shades of blue would go very nice with the chinoiserie lamps. Just my humble opinion. Thanks for your blog. Love your honesty.

    1. Hi Lana,

      Yes, it would be nice and actually, I am thinking that I would maybe like to see different chairs. I don’t dislike these, however and I think with some fabric would be quite lovely.

  50. Happy Sunday Laurel, but do you ever sleep? I am sorry (not apologizing) if I double posted, but I had phone issues on my first comment attempt and not sure where it went? So I am now on my laptop, hoping for better results. Love the botanical pic and do post more, peony is my fav. One suggestion to dear Patricia (and don’t we already just love her?) Knowing she is “anti-painting” for her pieces, I wonder, would she be open to clearing out the Royal Worchester and using a bold(ish) wallpaper on the back and replace her creamware to that space? Might add a visual pop and allow her to play with color that she can then carry through in her textiles rug, linens, drapery? It is too bad that the lighting choice didn’t do anything for the room as is, but, if replacing it isn’t in the budget, I wonder, what popping some shades(celadon green, clover green???) on those bulbs would do? Tried to post some pics, but alas, it won’t let me. Finally, I suggest painting the curtain rod in the same color as the shades and replace the pinecone finials if new hardware is not in the budget. Anyway, Patricia is in good hands here and she will whip that furniture into shape under your keen eye for detail. Love the direction this is going.

    1. Thanks so much Pamela. I don’t see the other post. Sorry about that, but for you, not for me. haha.

      I don’t sleep as much as they say I’m supposed to. But when I was younger, I needed at least eight hours. Since the Pause O’ Men, that has changed, however. Oh, if you have some pics to share, you can email them to me.

  51. Hi Laurel,

    Thanks for the post. Would you mind sharing a few examples of the “host chairs with arms that are mostly upholstered”? I have some similar dining furniture from the 20s and wanted to add more seating.

    By the way, love your paints from your collection. I used them to paint my house and love the end result.


    1. Hi Nathalie,

      Yes, I promise to do so and also talk about what to look for so that the host chairs look coordinated with the side chairs. I always loved doing that. One time, I had a husband who looked at me like I had six heads when I suggested that the end chairs be something else. Of course, we just did the coordinating arm chair. Hey, easier for me!!!

  52. Ok..I must get up too early, as I seem to be the first one to post a lot of the times, the dining room, personally..that’s a lot of wood in there. I do really like her mural, but I think the paint is maybe not warm enough for all the wood. Seems stark and an unfriendly room. . I’d leave the mural on the wall, and warm up that paint and yes..the drapes are too colourless (like the walls). I don’t like the furniture all lined up along the walls either..I don’t mind her living at all, other than the wooden piece behind that loveseat. I like it..just not there. It looks too big and wide and chunky. And again..chairs lined up along the wall in there too…It’s like there is an abundance of furniture and she doesn’t know what to do with it all, and she wants to keep it, but has no place to put it all. Could some of it not go to other rooms or bedrooms and then, as seasons change, she can change things out….Then it would be like a a whole new room every few months. anyways..that’s my opinion and I won’t be apologizing for anything I’ve said.Ha!

  53. I love this post! Patricia sounds lovely, and I appreciate you, Laurel, for being so compassionate and for sharing your life with us. Your suggestions already (in my head) make the room come alive. Can’t wait for additional thoughts – and the post about the garden tour. Yum!! Anyway, what really prompted me to write is the question, “What is Patricia’s vision for her home?” We know what she doesn’t like, but what’s her style/aesthetic? It might be the coffee, but I’m practically jumping out of my skin with the desire to see what her dream board (if that’s the right term) would look like. Maybe she could fill us in before the next post…..? Thank you, Laurel, for another great “Design Sunday Morning.” It’s one of my favorite times of the week!

  54. Patricia: your home is beautiful. It’s filled with a lot of love and warmth. I absolutely love the murals you painted on the dining room walls.

    Laurel: I love the post and suggestions for Patrica. I Appreciate seeing how some simple things can update a room.

    Thank you for sharing…

  55. Wow, Laurel! Thank you very much for this post and I am looking forward for the next one. I nearly started jumping from joy after seeing the picture of Patricia’s dining room 🙂 We have very similar inherited pieces of furniture and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. They are inherited from my partner’s late mum, and she herself inherited the sideboard from her aunt. So, yes, they stay, and NO, they can’t be painted (I personally would paint them in a blink of an eye). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Patricia, for writing this letter, and thank you so, so, so much Laurel, for replying to it in your wonderful blog!!!

  56. I am in LOVE with the hand-painted mural. Really, the rooms are very pretty in a traditional way. There may be a few too many pieces and not enough contrast, but I think editing out a few pieces and adding light colored accessories (like the slipcovers!) will create some excitement.

  57. Agree with all Laurel’s suggestions, plus: Carry on with the mural on the other walls, add artwork to other walls, and paint JUST the China cabinet in same Shade as the walls, making the interior a different contrasting color.

    Love the camel back sofas. They just need more, bigger and colorful throw pillows. Hide sharpies from grandchildren.

    Add some color someplace. Immerse yourself in Maura Endres’s Instagram and you will see you have the basis for wonderful interiors.

    Don’t forget about tablecloths—you can leave a patterned one on the table all the time, with candlesticks and plants and books. See Miles Redd.

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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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