Capturing Significance Without Sacrificing Style


I see it all the time, and it is a subject I try to handle with care. But almost every single one of my clients have been in the same predicament — they have inherited something that they hate and can’t stomach the idea of getting rid of it. Whether it was appraised at a high value or is a “genuine (fill in the blank)” the bottom line is: it’s ugly and you don’t like it in your home. This doesn’t just pertain to things you inherited, I also see clients wince at the thought of getting rid of something because at some point in time they paid a lot of money for it, and it seems wasteful to get rid of it.


So here are some things to consider:

  1. Just because someone paid a lot of money for something at some point in time does not make you obligated to put it in your house.
  2. Most likely the piece of furniture, rug, etc. that you inherited is very old. It has served its purpose for many years, and it is okay to move on.
  3. Some clients decide they will only get rid of something if they can get X amount of dollars for it. Unfortunately, the resale value of furniture is terrible. Value is determined by what someone will pay for it. The bottom line is, if no one wants it — it’s not worth anything. My best advice is, if you have a receipt for the item, you can donate it and get a tax write off. You may have to get it appraised and get an official slip from Goodwill, but it’s worth looking into if you just can’t bear the thought of donating it and being done with it. I am not an accountant however, so do your research.
  4. Most likely your deceased relative would not want you to live with something that you hate. They probably wouldn’t like that you clench your teeth every time you pass by their old china cabinet or table.

 Chances are your favorite memory of your deceased relative had nothing to do with their china cabinet or oriental rug. People may feel they are being disrespectful by giving their possessions to Goodwill, but with a little creativity clients can honor their loved ones in a different way, one that is much more significant and personal than holding onto an inherited piece of furniture.


For example:

  1. Think of a significant place to you and this special person. Frame a map, a watercolor from a local artist, or a photograph from that particular place.
  2. Do a gallery wall with memorabilia that makes you think of this special person — stay tuned for a blog post about creating a gallery wall in the next few weeks.
  3. Frame something with their handwriting – there is something so significant to me about handwriting. Frame a handwritten recipe in your kitchen, or have it printed on a dishtowel so you can see it every day.
  4. This person may have had a phrase or little pearl of wisdom they would always say — have someone hand calligraphy this phrase onto a canvas and put it on your wall. If you would like a framed quote (like the ones seen on customized with your own personal phrase please contact me about having this done for you!
  5. Think of something that they loved to do or that you associate with them. If you always remember how your grandmother liked to garden, get some framed botanical prints of her favorite flowers or have a custom “pretend” arrangement made with all of the things she loved. 
  6. Use shadow boxes. Shadow boxes are a great way to neatly display pretty much anything! My grandmother always wore a gold wishbone necklace. She passed away earlier this year and someone gave me a gold wishbone. I can't see it without thinking of her. Even if it is totally random – think of something that you can’t look at without thinking of this special person. Whether it’s a tea towel, a shoe horn, or a particular brand of some household item, trust me, there is a way to display this significant thing without it being tacky. Feel free to contact me if you need ideas – I have lots of them!

Remember the reason why you loved this person and how they impacted your life – most likely it had nothing to do with what you received from their estate. Don’t hold onto the things that they left behind out of guilt. Honor them in another way, and move on from that piece of furniture you feel obligated to keep because of the person associated with it.


Virginia Harper

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