Erin Miller
Special to The Union

Rejuvenate: Uncovering the beauty in old pieces

One of the greatest things about being a designer and being creative is how empowered I feel. I can look at almost anything and see potential. I know homes and objects can be transformed, and even the most off-putting looks can be transformed into something stunning.

During the past three months, I’ve written columns about the complete transformation of a country-style ranch house to a stunning, modern home. And the message is that we should live in an environment we love with things that we love. If you don’t love your surroundings, change them.

Short of major remodeling, re-imagining older furnishings is a fantastic way to improve your surroundings! And giving a facelift to older furnishings has many benefits:

— Older furnishings are often better made than today’s furnishings. Wood in the past often came from older hardwoods that are more dense, dry and stable than materials in less expensive furnishings made today. In older pieces, the “joinery” to connect wood pieces together is often dovetail and/or mortise and tenon — stronger and more elegant than nails and screws.

— Classic styles outlive today’s contemporary trends. I love contemporary designs and decade after decade seeing what is current and trendy is exciting to me.

But what is contemporary today is typically a trend that will become dated. But classic styles remain timeless.

— We often have older pieces with irreplaceable sentimental value. But usually, they don’t match our style preferences and can ruin our décor. By re-imagining such pieces, you can get a look you love without discarding a sentimental piece and its memories.

— An older piece that has been re-imagined will be unique and one-of-a-kind. You won’t have the same look as your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbor.

— Purchasing older pieces can be significantly more affordable than purchasing new pieces of similar quality.

Our area has many antique stores that offer vintage pieces (less than 100 years old) and true antiques that are more than 100 years old.

I also love our local consignment/used stores.

One of my favorite treats is to place an order at Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters on Maltman Drive in Grass Valley. While it is being made, I wander next door to Consignments Unlimited to see what they currently have.

We have many good thrift and consignment stores in our area, but this is one favorite and worth a visit!

Consignment store inventory changes daily so go often.

Finishes and hardware can be changed, so look past that. What I look for is (in order):

1. Lines/interest

2. Function

3. Size/scale

4. And finally, its sturdiness/construction/condition.

I have re-imagined many pieces over the years.

The rejuvenation process is always the same: patiently sand, fill, repair, then paint or stain to suit the décor.

Finally, each piece gets new knobs that sparkle and add interest just like jewelry does on a well dressed person.

One example is a buffet that was rustic with a distressed paint treatment and a hand-painted vine. Not my taste! But it had great lines and was a perfect size. And the price was wonderful.

By adding a single, contemporary paint color, its classic lines shine.

The small crystal knobs work with its traditional character. The bowed pulls in the center were selected because the top of the furniture has a slight bow to it and the bow pulls respect that graceful curve.

These bow pulls also add a bit of a contemporary feel, so the combination of classic lines with contemporary touches help the piece transition between contemporary and traditional.

A side table that had a really unusual design caught my eye because I had never seen anything quite like it. I was told it was hand-built as a knitting and sewing chest. (Yarn and knitting needles could be stored in the side compartments). I thought the side compartments could be very functional for stashing newspapers, magazines or TV remotes next to a nice reading chair.

Its transformation was fairly straight-forward. The piece is unusual and dented and imperfect. So I did not want to attempt to perfect it or make it too formal. Instead I chose a neutral color and a variety of fun knobs to coordinate with some glass art placed on top of the piece. Add a reading lamp, and it is very functional and interesting.

You do not have to compromise style when living with older pieces. If you live with older furnishings because of their sentimental value or because they are affordable and well made, keep the best ones but alter their look. Just like people, they can be dressed up with new finishes and jewelry. The results can be more beautiful than dime-a-dozen big-box pieces! You can create your own, unique classics.

Erin Miller is the owner of Erin Miller Designs in Grass Valley, which offers interior design and décor and complete design and plan-drafting services for remodels, additions, kitchens, baths and custom homes. Erin can be reached at 530-477-1401 or at erinmillerdesigns.com.


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The Union Updated Jan 18, 2013 10:02PM Published Jan 18, 2013 10:02PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.