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What do you do when you inherit Grandma’s china or her ornate settee? It’s a dreaded burden for some, but today, many consider themselves quite lucky. According to longtime H&B Gallery Manager Jonathan Campbell, this trend is hitting home for a variety of reasons. The pandemic can be partially credited for a newfound appreciation for family heirlooms. As lockdowns put the brakes on going out and we retreated to our homes, we had time to unpack some boxes. And for some, this unboxing brought joy.

Photography by Victoria Campbell

Campbell has noticed many design-minded individuals and younger families visiting the shop for artwork, tabletop items and statement furnishings. “We are seeing 30-somethings picking up pieces that evoke memories, items that remind them of grandparents or their childhood,” he explains.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Deputy Fashion Director Rebecca Malinsky wrote that “so-called grandmillennials — young, design-minded people who have found beauty in old-timey furnishings, virtue in recycling, and delight in mixing and matching — are shifting attitudes surrounding such precious china. You only live once, they say. Use those beautiful plates.”

Other tastemakers note that the popular minimalist trend is the perfect pairing for more ornate heirlooms. Whether dinnerware, frames or even books, these blank canvases give context to the past. The past, in turn, acts as a beautiful nod to contemporary design. The most interesting interiors play with both. Mixing and matching, while it may seem random, is more often intentional. Consider the rich layering of textures, patterns and colors that the houses of Gucci, Etro, and Dolce & Gabbana achieve in ready-to-wear.

Hand-me-downs happen. Pieces that mean something will always feel special, but sometimes they don’t fit with our style preferences. When this happens, put your own spin on things. Stack plates in a cabinet if you’re not fond of the pattern. Pair an old walnut table with a lacquer bookcase, playing with scale and material. And don’t feel intimidated by an item’s intended use. Sentimental pieces should make you feel connected to others and to your own experiences. By changing them or evolving them into something new, like artwork, you’re adding a piece of yourself to the story — making it that much richer when it’s your turn to pass it on. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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