Lifestyle & Seasonal

Hardscape hand-me-downs: How to integrate inherited pieces into your outdoor decor

Family members pass down their favorite furniture to the next generation. But what if those pieces don’t match your style?

Newspapers like the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and USA Today are noting the trend of adult children and grandchildren rebuffing offers for antique furniture and other decor. The time-honored tradition of divvying up Grandpop’s old treasures has faded.

The trend toward simple living has many indoor and outdoor pieces going on the charity truck. The second generation, like their parents, want to downsize their own homes. The adult grandchildren already have an established aesthetic. Yet everyone wants to see the pieces stay in the family and go to good use. The stories and the memories behind each piece are too precious to let go.

Why not customize the furniture to fit your needs? A nightstand doesn’t have to stay a nightstand. Wrought iron painted white need not forever be white. Take some “Before” pictures, then start rethinking these pieces. Let go of guilt and invite in some clever creativity. Sure, some relatives may be a little surprised at the pieces’ transformation, but you’re giving them new life while still honoring the memories.

Here are 3 ways to rehab inherited furniture to use on the patio that respects your relatives without compromising your style.

1.         Paint it. This seems simple; Outdoor furniture takes a beating, and a new coat of paint and sealant can revive almost anything. Choose colors that complement the home and the existing outdoor decor, e.g. paver shades or fabric hues. Use the type of paint meant for the material of the piece. Make sure you get paint made specifically for outdoor use. Exterior paints contain agents that resist mold and mildew and are resistant to fading. Tip: Don’t sand any pieces that are old enough to contain lead paint. Test kits can be found in stores or online.
2.         Cover it. Chair materials don’t have to remain the same. Take a good look at the “bones” of the piece. The frame may support the same material on your existing furniture. Chaise lounges with not-so-pretty vinyl may be professionally caned with rattan. Use horizontally-placed wooden planks instead of straps (remove the straps entirely and repaint the frame. Cut, sand and stain wood slats. The slats should be long enough to cover the width of the frame. Drill holes for screws in the slats and the frame and screw them down. Leave a half inch to an inch between slats). Chairs can also be converted to sling chairs with wide strips of fabric.
3.         Transform it. There’s no rule that says you must use inherited pieces in the same way your relatives did. The possibilities for outdoor furniture are only limited to your imagination. Remove the legs of a wooden seat and make it into a swing. Carve a tabletop out to hold a beverage cooler. Combine two chairs to serve as a backless bench. And almost any piece of furniture can be converted into a planter or raised bed. Turn the piece around, upside down or on its side to spark some ideas.

These pieces come with their own stories, and now you can add yours. Your guests will be delighted to know your new margarita bar was the buffet cabinet your grandmother used to hide her “pin money” in, or your beautiful new patio set was once the central attraction in your corny uncle’s 1970s-chic rec room. The hand-me-downs can spur new stories while keeping the old.

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