Call me sentimental, but the lives of my ancestors, and your ancestors, very ordinary people from long ago, fascinate me.  It’s one of the main reasons I love, and sell, antiques!

Mostly hard-working every day people {or in some cases, wealthy family members with houses filled to the brim with every day things of exceptional beauty}, our family members, no matter how humble, most likely had at least one beautiful thing they cherished.

If you are lucky, you inherited some of these to bring your family story to your home.

You don’t have to inherit museum-worthy collections to pay homage to your heritage, though.  I gladly mix in other antiques here at home that remind me of my grandparents and Mom, and just imagine that they would have loved and used them.

Here are some easy ideas to inspire you to add to the beauty of your home with pieces that honor your heritage.


Each antique has unique stories to tell, and adds a touch of the human hands that created them. Decorating with them is a joyful way to create a home that feels authentically like you.

Every mended tablecloth, preserved piece of porcelain and slightly out of round silver spoon tells a story begun long ago, a story that hasn’t ended yet.

If you don’t have anything passed down from generations before, you can acquire a beautiful antique that you imagine your great-grandmother would have loved. Or perhaps a piece that is like the one you’ve seen in photographs.

I am always thrilled when clients email or call me, with tears in their voice, to let me know the antique sterling trophy cup they bought from FrenchGardenHouse, for example, is almost just like the one they remember from their grandmere’s home, long ago.

One of the best ways to display your heritage is to use family photographs. A collection of antique frames, filled with faces of the past you love, brings a charming personal accent to any small space.

This little grouping of framed photographs, on the wall of my friend Marion’s hallway, tells the story of her family’s heritage so beautifully. Another friend has a group of antique French gilt frames she bought from me on a little demi-lune table next to her sofa.

Not just for faces, a grouping of antique letters in simple gold frames make for a decorative reminder of the beautiful handwriting our great-great-great grandparents created. {Especially now that we are no longer taught cursive writing, old letters are becoming more and more collectible.}

In our house, we’ve hung up all sorts of beautiful reminders of our European ancestors, like these old, old hand written letters over our sofa.

The little black antique shadow box to the left of our couch {above} holds our collection of sterling silver napkin rings. {obviously this photo is from last fall-in this summery month the colors look a little warm, but it does make me long for autumn!}

You can frame almost anything. My clients have the most exciting ways to create art for their homes with antiques. Some of my favorites – done by a client who bought all the pieces from FrenchGardenHouse to go along with one silver spoon she inherited – a collection of antique tea spoons in a beautiful shadow box frame.  Another client framed a collection of antique French fans she bought from us.

If you inherited, or are drawn to, a collection of a variety of small objet d’ art, grouping them together will avoid a cluttered, chaotic look. Placing pieces on a tray will create a three-dimensional collection that will display like a scrapbook filled with memories and mementoes of your family’s heritage.

On my bedroom vanity, an antique mirrored tray shows off gleaming antique crystal perfume bottles and powder jars to perfection.

The same concept, applied to a collection of sterling salt cellars. I took this photograph for a holiday story for a magazine, hence the faux snow, but you get the idea, right?


I confess that I am drawn to little things. When I’m at a French dealer’s showroom, looking for large, grand scale stunning statement pieces to enhance a client’s home, I spy the tiny. little. sweet reminders of lives long ago. And group those in with the furniture, the Old Paris porcelain dishes, and the large scale finds I purchase for FrenchGardenHouse. {the tinies=for me.}

I know, I know, they don’t match my “elegant French Country” style, but well, what can I say?   Love.  At.  First.  Sight.

So as not to make this a crazy messy collection, I place all these small charmers behind glass in one of our French armoires.

It’s where my grandmother’s childhood poetry book lives happily ever after with a  pair of glasses that remind me of my husband’s John Lennon style glasses I hated and got rid of when he got new ones {still a bone of contention}, my father-in-law’s Air Force decoration, and a little paper boat I made. In the background? Little porcelain doll legs stick out of a cup.

Gather all your heirloom dishes, your antique glassware, silver baby cups, and treat them like the beloved treasures they are. Your antiques are gorgeous, don’t hide them away behind closed doors! Show your antiques some love by displaying them like art.


In our family room, I display antique toleware, French plates, and ironstone platters and tureens in a French armoire. Often, I throw open the doors to really let my favorites shine!

There is such beauty in displaying antiques in your home. But you also don’t want to live in a museum or antique shop. Think of interesting, unexpected ways to display your collections at home.

In our guest bedroom, an old mannequin showcases a few antique lockets. Not only do they add the beauty of precious mementoes- both real and imagined “passed-down-jewelry” – this way the necklaces are on display as group, making a statement. Bonus= the lockets are readily available to add joy to your daily ensemble, no digging trough layers in a jewelry box.

The decorator’s trick to using antiques in any setting is to work carefully chosen pieces into the decor so they enhance the room.

Priceless, over the top luxurious, or simple and country elegant, adding unique antiques to your home is one of the best ways to express yourself. Create a home filled with things you love, things that make you smile!

It’s the whole reason I launched FrenchGardenHouse and shop the world for one-of-a-kind antiques – to help you make your home just what you want it to be!  A home filled with beautiful things, a mix of antique and contemporary, and a certain je ne sais quoi.

I love what I do, and I thank you for loving and appreciating the artistry and craftsmanship of the antiques I sell at FrenchGardenHouse. Knowing that you appreciate them as much as I do makes it a whole lot easier to send them off to their new homes. Treasured pieces with a past, steeped in tradition, are a sure fire way to liven up your interiors.


Don’t forget to leave a comment if you want to be entered in to win the heirloom issue of One Layer Cakes by Hoffman Media. {Not an antique, but it’s a keeper!}




  1. After my children were grown and married and after the loss of two daughters and my husband, My children convinced me that I needed to sell the house and move. It was one of the hardest things I had to do, but my children were scattered all over the states and I knew the house was too big and the snow and growing grass too much for me to handle, so I did what I had to do.
    Leaving all my treasures that told so many stories and made so many memories behind nearly broke my heart. I remember where I had lovingly placed each one. Fond memories. Those I can keep and begin again!

  2. Noreen, I am so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine how you miss them. I hope that you still have a few cherished pieces in your new home, and that you are making beautiful new memories where you live now.

  3. I am always in awe whenever you show us your exquisite collections. I am so like you in that I am drawn to the smaller pretties always trying to imagine the story behind it. I have very few things from my “ancestors” Maybe that is why I have always loved antiques. After my father passed away, I came across a copy of a letter that my dad sent to my grandfather during the War … I quickly had copies made and framed it with a photo of him with my grandfather and gifted to my siblings. I love how you so beautifully display your collections and find myself scrolling up and down your post taking in every gorgeous detail!

  4. All of the vignettes using your antiques are simply stunning, Lidy! I also love to use trays to display groupings of “treasures “. Thank you for another inspiring post.
    XO, Ginger

  5. I love to scroll through your posts and see revealed all the decor ‘tips’ you offer. Sometimes I think I must be a bore to my friends as when they ask me where did I obtain a specific piece, I immediately launch into a story about where or who it came from. Why shouldn’t our possessions be interesting and have a history??? Although I do feel in most cases I am merely a steward who will eventually pass these objects on to others who will hopefully savor and enjoy them.

    Love to collect old letters and other monogrammed pieces. No matter if it is not my initial…..

  6. I agreed now with Lisa about buying lines you love even if it is not your monogram. I can’t wait to see the napkins I just bought from French garden house. I will at them to the other linens I have purchased here. The displays are beautiful. They help you imagine the people that used the items inf their everyday life.
    Lidy thank you again for the inspiration to display more of those items I have put away.

  7. Love the idea of framing long ago relatives. Have to dig mine out.

  8. My Mother had so many items in boxes ,it was like Christmas when I opened them, I now have then displayed all over my home, she had them all so tucked away now they are used and talked about and I imagine the past homes they have adorned.

  9. I love the presentations you make with the heirlooms and treasures. . .although I do not have very many pieces inherited, I have done as you suggest and acquire things that have a past and which remind me of family. Carl has many mementos and photographs of his ancestors, and even some Christmas ornaments, and what fun it is every year to put these out on display!

  10. Lovely post. Yes, put it out on display. I love seeing my collections. Your family heirlooms and others (antiques) is what makes a home pretty!

  11. As a 28 year old divorcd mother of one, I knew I needed more than furniture to make my home feel loved and well lived in. Not having extra money to spend on these precious ornaments to make vignettes on tables etc, I often looked at magazines to see how and what other people had done. As time passed and my job changed with a better pay check I was able to shop for precious little items to use. Today when a I clean my home, I call it playing, as that’s when I touch each piece and remember the story behind each. Thanks Lidy for offering up your chosen pretties for us.

  12. I love that, Alice! It makes your things even more special, doesn’t it? When my Mom and I moved from Europe to the states, we lived very frugally too. It made each special treasure we were able to purchase that much more precious to us, and today, now that she is gone, I really cherish those things.

  13. Hi Lidy! As a new subscriber, I absolutely loved this post and will no doubt re-read it several times. I love to showcase heirloom objects in my house and feel I am merely a steward of the past for someone, hopefully, in the future to treasure. One thing you didn’t mention that I collect is old books. I love the fancy covers and am thrilled when I find an old inscription in beautiful handwriting inside. Plus they’re usually very affordable at estate sales. Looking forward to your next post. Pat at Bringing French Country Home

  14. Hi Pat! Thank you so much for sharing the love of antiques…I particularly adore antique books, too.
    The ones with the colored illustrations are always a special treat, aren’t they?

    Hope you are having a beautiful week, friend,

  15. Mme. Lidy, this is my style as well ! I HAVE FRENCH ROOTS in France as well as New Orleans…I also have numerous other roots…but the 18/19th C French just touches my heart. China Crystal, Silver, Linens, Oh La LA!
    Merci for this particular posting…as it touched me deeply.
    Jacquelyn Goudeau
    Bay Area, San Franciso, California

  16. Thank you Jacquelyn! I’m so glad to meet you here, and hope you will enjoy many posts to come.

  17. What a gorgeous post sweet Lidy!!! I love each and every idea ~ always display the treasures you love! Sending hugs & love, Dawn

  18. Hi Lidy, thanks for these great ideas for using family items and old photos in a decorative way, now I have another project!

  19. Lidy,
    as always your post is just lovely! I to am drawn to smalls, I think it is because you can always find a home for your new treasure. please enter me into the drawing.

  20. I not only display our family antiques but we use them too! Our everyday flatware is silverplate, we use antique glasses with gold rim and much more! Our collected blue transferware is throughout our house. We have lovely paintings on the walls and have much more on display. In fact I have to rotate things around so that we can enjoy it all!!

  21. I love this post. My husband and I are fortunate to have many family things. They bring me joy every day. You have given many ideas in this post of how to use and display our treasures. Many thanks !

  22. Love your ideas…..I just ran out to my STASH building and grabbed something that attempts to copy something of yours….keep those ideas coming…..MORE please

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