Prettying and personalizing a modern home with antiques

My house: Lately I have found myself with extra space and a desire to make it feel like me. And not just me, per say, but what has formed me – my family, my community. In an effort to fill these domestic spaces – and fill them meaningfully – I’ve spent a quite a bit of time meandering antique malls around Nashville and Franklin. Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes with friends. Sometimes I have a plan, sometimes not. Sometimes I scour my own closets and drawers, finding things I didn’t know or didn’t remember I had, and these, too, become great finds. Art recovered or repurposed. Some of my recent favorites:

This Eastlake sofa is from circa 1880 but has been relatively recently reupholstered in a bright gold that looks beautiful in my green and cream bedroom. It was one of a handful of antiques in a small downtown Franklin shop that sells primarily gifts and modern home accessories. The store owner told me the sofa had been on display for years, too fancy and unusual to muster serious attention from any practical buyers.

I bought it right away.

The images above it are from my mother’s family: formal portraits of her great aunts and uncles as babies, nurses, soldiers and parents. The frames are a variety of colors and sizes not intended for this grouping, but somehow it works out better that way. When the portraits didn’t fit the frames, I cobbled together matting from the portrait studios’ original paper sleeves.


Look closely: Several people’s grandmas fill my guest room.

The photographs on top of the table are from a school field trip from Columbia Central High School, circa 1960. (Another awesome find from my mother’s old albums.)

The panels above the beds are kitchen curtains from a place on Woodland Street in East Nashville.

The baby blanket draped over the bed on the left was made by my own grandmother.

The table itself is a Singer sewing table with a marble top. (The table and the marble cost me less than $40 from an antique mall on 8th Avenue in South Nashville.) Here’s a detail shot.


Some of my favorite pieces are ones I’ve had awhile but freshened up. My great-uncle built this little table which graces the base of my staircase, and my great-aunt gave me the crystal vase on top.I switched out his original brass drawer pulls with glass ones.

Again, the photographs on top are of family members: in this case, of my grandmother and her sister.

The painting is one I bought at a local art sale.

All these pieces, including the table, were in different parts of my house until recently, but they all look better right here, grouped together.


My dresser is special and so is everything on it. The dresser itself is circa 1920 and in fantastic shape. Unlike a lot of furniture this old, the drawers do not stick and the surfaces are well polished without much wear. (If you are looking for antique or vintage bedroom furniture, the Franklin Antique Mall has a great rotating selection.)

I am fairly certain the images on the left are from my father’s mother’s bridal shower. In one, she’s wearing a heavily crinolined dress, standing before a long table loaded with china. Another features only the table of china. The third shows my grandmother siting in a lovely ladies’ armchair looking exhausted and – if I’m not mistaken – slightly irritated. I’m not positive of the circumstances, but I think I can count on my dad’s mother to be annoyed by the idea of someone making her pose repeatedly beside a table of dishes. The photos are ironic, mysterious, spooky, even beautiful.

The coffee cup on the right: I painted it myself at one of those do-it-yourself pottery places. It’s sitting atop hand-embroidered linen cocktail napkins from Jamaica. The small books in the front: One is an autograph book from the Howard School in Nashville, the other a graphic novel called “How To Disappear”. The napkins and books were gifts from three women I love.


These 1940s postcards of New York and New Orleans hang in a collection above my desk. I found them in a box of my grandmother’s photographs, and my mom and I have deduced they’re from her parents’ honeymoon.

I stole the idea for displaying them from a friend whose guest room is full of fabulous surprises, including vintage camera bodies and hand-pieced quilts.

What about you? How have you used antiques and vintage pieces to freshen your modern spaces?


5 thoughts on “Prettying and personalizing a modern home with antiques

  1. Pingback: The Sweetest Little Moments from 2011 « Knight Stivender's life in full

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