Old Things I Love

I’m not one to live in the past, but oh my do I love lots of old things. I have peppered my home with collections of vintage treasures, family heirlooms and a few antiques because they fill my heart and just make me happy. The secret to decorating effectively with old things, I’ve found, is to use them sparingly and to mix them with fresh, new pieces so your interior doesn’t feel stale or stuffy. Here are seven of my favorite old things to have in my home: 

1. Transferware

If my house was on fire, I would run back in for my transferware dishes. A quick snatch of history: Transferware was developed in England in the 1750s as a way to mass produce dinnerware so that it was accessible and affordable for middle class folks. It’s been produced ever since. If I could, I would have a set in every color-way imaginable. I use it in my everyday dining, to set a beautiful table when I entertain and in decorating.

Hang transferware plates on your wall as art. Put a beautiful bowl filed with apples or lemons at the center of your kitchen island. Prop a platter in an easel and use it as a backdrop for a display in a bookcase. Blue and white transferware steals the show in my friend Ann’s light, bright, airy kitchen, in the photos above. Her home is featured in most of these snapshots because I think Ann does a marvelous job of showcasing wonderful old pieces in a way that makes them  fresh and fun.


2. Silver

My love affair with sliver began when Mimi, Dan’s mother, started giving me a few pieces from her collection as gifts for Christmas or my birthday (I always knew I was in trouble with her when she gave me Isotoner gloves instead!). I’ve been collecting vintage silver ever since. It’s magical how adding something as simple as a silver bowl, candlestick or tray can take a ho-hum display and sent it through the roof.

Here, Ann created a simple yet stunning centerpiece for her dining room table just by filling a silver serving dish with flowers and flanking them with a set of charming candelabra. You can’t beat silver when it’s kept shiny (It’s painless to polish it while you’re binge watching your favorite series on Netfilx!). But it’s also great with a touch of tarnish if you’re going for an aged look in your display.


3. Florals

At our Midsummer Night’s Dream Showcase on July 25 at Nell Hill’s Briracliff, we are revealing the 140 brand new fabrics we just got at market and our gorgeous summer bedding ensembles. Many of these beauties feature floral fabric, because florals are crazy hot right now. I am thrilled floral fabrics are back, because I’ve loved them for year. Today’s florals span the spectrum from traditional patterns, to transitional and modern. I hope you’ll come join us for this fun showcase, and enjoy a glass of Prosecco and hors d’oeuvres!


4. Tole Trays

Tole trays, with their romantic designs and rich colors, are perfect accent pieces for your kitchen, living room or bath. Really, they work anywhere in your home – they are just that wonderful. The Tole painting process was developed in the 17th century as a way to help protect metal household pieces from rusting. These charming trays have been popular ever since. If you’re a collector of fine antiques, expect to pay a bundle for the real deal. But if you want vintage trays from the ’40 and ’50, or modern reproductions, you can snag them for as little at $10 on sites like Etsy. I love Tole trays hung as art, backing a display in a bookcase, like Ann did here in her kitchen cabinet, or used as a base of a display.


5. Books

I’ve waxed poetic before about my love of books. They bring warmth and character to a display, and I use them all over my home when I decorate. They serve as risers, conversation pieces and backdrops. Ann created a tower of tomes to work as a little side table in her living room.


6. Porch Swings

Why did porch swings ever go out of style? There is nothing better to do on a warm summer evening than sit on the porch and swing back and forth as you sip a cold drink, watch the fireflies and talk with friends. Ann says her guests always gravitate to the swing on their porch. No wonder: That’s where I would be too!


7. Dan Garrity

I couldn’t resist this one! But, honestly, what a blessing it is to grow old together, still in love after all these years!


Next Week … Do you suffer from picture hanging anxiety? Sometimes, it’s so hard to take that hammer and nail and get to it, filling your walls with artwork. Next week, Dillon, who creates all the artwork displays at Nell Hill’s and in my home, will share his secrets.