Bye-Bye to Grandma’s Stuff, Part I: 6 Tips from an Amateur Decorator

Recently, my friend and I spoke about an online article that claimed nobody wants your old, inherited stuff. Amen to that. My daughter’s home is lovely and filled with what she and her husband prefer. Okay, maybe a few cherished items from yesteryear, but not myriad collections. Nor are Donna’s children interested in her old bits and pieces. Only one granddaughter shares my friend’s passion. Without the passion part.

FSR.Wheatley Oil Lamp

Donna’s 1880s Wheatley Oil Lamp relocated to the fireplace mantel. This cool lamp has four sides, each painted with a different flower. It’s pretty special. And now, everyone can enjoy it.

I’d come to see Donna’s newly acquired Wheatley Pottery oil lamp, but couldn’t get a good look because it sat on a shelf crammed with other antiques. Then I noticed her fireplace mantel seemed very crowded, as well. More Wheatley and other pottery, pictures of her children and grands in modern frames, and various treasured whatnots. Plus a plant or two. Why wasn’t the lovely oil lamp on the mantel with the other Wheatley cache?

Boldly, I suggested some minor reshuffling. Indulging me, Donna played along. Soon, the pictures were on the shelf and the Wheatley was on the mantle. After a little creative reorganization, we had achieved something of a designer look. For ten feet or so.


The redesigned mantel featuring: the Wheatley oil lamp, a small Wheatley Vase, a curved vase (also by Wheatley), a stoneware, Roseville fruit jar, one more Wheatley, & an American Belleek vase w/winter scene. The age of the pieces. colors, & primitive nature makes them go together.

Since then, Donna has made more changes. “The living room refresh inspired me to dig into my curio cabinets and pare down my collections. But…those are hard decisions.”

Are they ever! I’m trying to do the same, but it’s not easy. Here are some of the things we agree help us to let go and make our nests the best:

  1. First, have a trusted “someone” take a look at your room with new eyes. As Donna said, “Things are just there and you don’t see them anymore.” When I noticed a less-than-lovely-basket filled with dried flowers, ready for retirement, Donna agreed. She freshened the display with different fronds in a favorite Roseville vase. Now she smiles every time she passes by that corner.

    FSR.Roseville Corner

    A Roseville Bittersweet vase from Donna’s curio replaces an old basket. The foliage has    been freshened & the arrangement shines atop this charming wicker table.

  2. Only surround yourself with items you actually like/love. One often displays an object out of respect for the former owner, but it gives no pleasure. It can go.
  3. Think “lots of white space.” As an author, I notice when big blocks of text make me want to close the page. If every space on every wall is covered, the eye has no place to rest. Look for things to delete from your décor.
  4. Lower pictures to eye level. We’ve all seen pictures floating near the ceiling. When asked why it hangs there, the answer is always, “There was a nail in that spot.” Go ahead & patch that old nail hole. Bring that picture down and it will become a member of a vignette family.
  5. Remember to group items in odd numbers: one or three or five, etc. My mother, an artist, taught me that principle long ago. It is more pleasing to the eye. Thinking odd numbers of items grouped together will help you choose only your favorites. The others? Bye, now.
  6. And of course, the old “less is more” adage. I believe in it, even if I don’t always adhere. It promotes white space and the choicest selections.
  7. A final point, things don’t have to match, but they should go together. Do you want your room to look like a hotel or furniture store? Or a home, reflecting your taste, lifestyle and memories? If decorated with what you like best, chances are good that things will “go together.”

Coming tomorrow – six more tips on how to recycle your unwanted collectibles….


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7 responses to “Bye-Bye to Grandma’s Stuff, Part I: 6 Tips from an Amateur Decorator

  1. Pam Elliott

    Hey, Cathy. Liked all your good points. You’re right about having clean white space. I have two walls with nothing on them (my bad)! I love the Wheatley collection on her mantel, all those rich colors. I have to say though, the vase on very right seems distracting, As it’s just so different in color and doesn’t have the deep rich glaze of the Wheatley. Does she have some candlesticks that would go with the Wheatley? Like maybe a group of three at right end of mantel? And then maybe the Wheatley stuff should be a little closer together with some space between the Wheatley and the candlesticks (or a clock, maybe, instead of candlesticks). And here’s another “picky me” idea: the large grouping of miniature Ivorex in the frame above mantel…I think it’s too busy. It seems to distract from the rich Wheatley things. I think a beautiful, large seascape oil painting in a dark antique frame would be refreshing. She could put the Ivorex collection somewhere else (after she changes out the frame and background material to something else more elegant). I think a sort of deep boxy type (shadow box) frame would be nice cuz it would contain the many pieces better. Anyway, just my two cents. Hope I’m not being presumptive. Love the whole idea of displaying things differently and pairing down. Fun to do with a friend.

    • Pam Elliott

      I was just looking at the picture of mantel again. I think it’d be pretty to have the Wheatley lamp at left end but not right up against left edge (have some space there at left edge). Then the other three Wheatley pieces on right side of mantel. Put the Belem case and the Roseville small vase somewhere else. Then a pretty large oil painting above it all not hung too high but low enough so the Wheatley is actually a bit in front of painting.

    • Thanks, Pammy, for your insightful reply. So many great ideas. You know I love your style, lady! And yes, the Belleek is a different texture, but isn’t it beautiful? I hear Donna has a brand new Wheatley vase, so it may push that Belleek right off the mantel. He-he. The Belleck would look lovely anywhere.

      And Donna does have plans for the Ivorex in the future. A new, wonderful frame & lush backing at the very least. Maybe it will be replaced by a mirror? I like the idea of a seascape. That could be very rich. But of course, it’s up to Donna to chose what she loves. She will; takes time. It was nice of her to allow me to make suggestions in the first place, no? We had so much fun & I’m inspired, too.

  2. Pingback: Bye-Bye to Grandma’s Stuff, Part II: 6 Tips to Recycle Your Old Stuff | Crafting Mysteries & Suspense

  3. Donna

    Hi Cathy, I’m in awe of your talents after reading your articles. Taken from a friendly afternoon visit together, you’ve completed an interesting and informative story. You and I have been talking for years about ‘what to do with our collections/accumulations.’ Getting together and actually talking about specifics and moving items around was an eye opener! Being the ‘Donna’ described above, my head is just brimming with ideas and plans. I hope your articles are distributed to the masses who may benefit from your pointers.

    • Donna, thanks for the kind words. And also for allowing me to use your name, quotes, & photos of your home. I loved what we accomplished, just trying different things. And so appreciated how you allowed me to make suggestions for change. It often takes an outside eye to look at things in a new way until your eye is ready to see. 🙂 So much fun! Now you are “in the zone” & soon your cottage will be featured in Country Home or something. Or SHOULD BE!

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