Re-designing heirlooms: Helping Memories transcend through colour, shapes and materials.
We have mixed feelings when deciding what to do with family heirlooms. We value the emotional connection to antique objects or vintage furniture that keep our memories alive. Yet sometimes, we feel troubled because, although meaningful, we find heirlooms outdated and hardly fitting into our modern homes.
When my mother died, she left us a house full of beautiful things. Her home contained everything I had grown up with; thus, everything had a lot of emotional value. Nevertheless, I was realistic and gave away most of it; there was simply no place in my home. I selected a few items for their emotional value, things that, I must say, were not the easiest to accommodate in my house. Pieces that weren't a fit for my style and the way I lived:
My mother had various antique silver objects she and my father got, for their wedding, more than 40 years before. I never realized she had so many things stored in a closet! She showcased a tea set on a tray in her dining room; the rest remained ignored in felt bags to avoid further maintenance (silver has to be cleaned and polished every so often).
One rule I have as an Interior Designer is never to store things I don't need or use. Thus, storing my mom's silverware for years and years made no sense. There was also no chance I would exhibit a highly ornamented, hard-to-clean variety of silver pieces in a vitrine, and I was doubtful this trend would come back. But it broke my heart to sell something she held precious for many years. I could feel my mother's judging stare while deciding what to do.
For my mother, silverware was an exclusive good that brought elegance to a home. I love silver, too. Metals in Interior Design still add layers of refinement and sophistication, silver being at the top. My incompatibility with these heirlooms was about their look, functionality and maintenance.
At some point, I felt she would trust me to enjoy her things in the best possible way. That's when I got the idea of keeping the silver while transforming it into a homage to her. I would make the material evolve into a shape I could cherish and enjoy while finding inspiration from the strong connection I held with my mom. I started designing a silver sculpture in her memory. The outcome brings me to heirloom number two.
The second most meaningful piece I got from my mother was a Mexican painting she bought while visiting Mexico when I was 14 years old. Loud and busy, outdated and bombastic, the art piece was a total mismatch for my style, except for the beautiful heavy and elegant gilded frame my mother decided the painting deserved.
The art piece held immense value to me. The scene's brightness, colours and exuberance mirrored my mother's joy when she bought it and hung it in our living room. Furthermore, it had consistently welcomed us home for decades and not least, it expressed my mother's genuine vitality and enjoyment of life. It clashed with my taste but kept my mother's memory alive like no other object.
Back to the silver...
My mother's silver became simple half-moon geometries resembling five watermelon pieces inspired by the slice the girl was holding in the painting. I asked the silversmith to use all the material, so they ended up being heavy. I changed the texture, so they were glossy on the exterior and textured and matte on the sides —for a more modern look. I loved the outcome!
These watermelon sculptures now hold a special place in my house. They are the centrepiece of my dining table and welcome me every time I walk in, just as the girl in the yellow dress once did.
Because they are sculptures, as they darken over time (by the natural process of oxidation), they look amazing. I only clean them once a year so their maintenance is quite easy.
If you ever need help understanding what to do with an heirloom reach out. Some heirlooms are NOT to be touched —transcending for what they are. But there are pieces we don't like, yet, we regard them dearly because of what they mean to us. Don't miss the chance to build upon beautiful emotions. Through materials, colours and shapes, you can nurture your personal evolution.
Have a great day!