Family heirlooms to change or not to change them?

Family Heirlooms:

In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members.

The term originated with the historical principle of an heirloom in English law, a chattel which by immemorial usage was regarded as annexed by inheritance to a family estate. Loom originally meant a tool.

So the question is, do you change,alter give a facelift to  family heirlooms?

Mike and I have been collecting antiques for years.

Some have been passed down from the family,

and some,

well, not even from our families, however from the families of perfect strangers.

Everything has a story.

And one day, these heirlooms will be passed onto our boys, hopefully from generation to generation,

with new stories to be told.

I have always been opposed to painting our antiques or treasures passed along the way.

I have no problem perhaps restoring, or bringing new life to them, but actually painting over new color, new paint, NO, that has been a never.

With that being said,

There was one thing recently given to me by my Father in law,

and if I recall his exact words were “do what you want with it,

you can even paint it if you like”.


Yes, I had a light bulb moment and decided this is ONE family heirloom

which was my husbands Grandmothers btw I would paint.


It is a vintage sewing basket, however

it was filled with vintage jewelry when given to us.


I just happened to have a can of Annie Sloan Louis blue chalkpaint left from last year.

One of my favorite colors.

Repurposed vintage sewing basket

So I got busy!

Painted two coats

let completely dry

lightly clear waxed

let it dry

and then lightly distressed.

Painted vintage sewing basket with Louis Blue Annie Sloan chalk paint

It goes perfectly in our bedroom and now I feel I made it my own. Making new memories for this vintage sewing basket to be perhaps talked about in years to come.

But no regrets for me on painting this piece.

Vintage sewing basket

I simply love it and will enjoy it myself for years to come.

Right now, it still holds some vintage jewelry in it,

however, I can always add to it, or keep some of my craft paints in there as well.

ForBefore and after vintage sewing basket

For a chance to Win a $50.00 True Value gift card:

Watch this very short, touching  video HERE


In fact, you will be touched after watching.

 Come back and tell me a little about your family heirlooms

Have you ever altered in any way a family heirloom? 

This is a sponsored/compensated post for True Value, however, all opinions and work are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



  1. says

    I laughingly call myself “Keeper of the dead people’s stuff” because I have inherited all the old family things. I only paint it if it’s in rough shape, and I hope that the best pieces will go to my kids. But EVERY SINGLE ONE of those items has a story, and I’ll tell them to whomever will listen. I hope one of my children will take them.

    • Dawn says

      Oh my Kirby! You sound like me!! I love love the pieces from my grandparents that they got when young couple. The thought of changing what attracted them to the piece hurts me!

  2. says

    BAM! I’m a fan. Entered 😉 This really turned out darling. My feeling is… make it yours while you’ve got it. Life is meant to be enjoyed, If it brings you joy, paint it! Just gives the next generation something to do when they strip and restore 😉 LOL! After all they are just things. Not the actual memories.

  3. Shannon says

    I think this a very personal choice. I see all sides to the debate, but honestly, once it’s given to you, unless altering it depreciates it, then go for it! I love vintage/old/antique pieces that are given new life and more history made. Also what’s the sense in having things in your home that don’t make you happy. If it’s not your style or to your liking than make it so. Life is to short to live with what you don’t love!! Just my honest opinion!

  4. says

    my thoughts are if you have something you don’t “love” then make it loveable! this ole’ “you can never paint this” is ridiculous! your jewelry cabinet is adorable, and LOVE those great curtains!

  5. Rae Henderson says

    I love it. I’ve always been the same way….never touch an antique….but I am about to paint a little secretary I’ve had for years. It is oak and in pretty bad shape. It has a water mark on it and when we moved we had some items stole from a car break-in. I had a drawer from that unit in the car. Of course all items were long gone, so I have a piece with a missing drawer. I’ve now decided to paint it and try and bring it to life again.

  6. Judith Bush Polcari says

    The sewing box looks great…..As for the jewelry, only fix what needs to be fixed,(like loose stones, and broken pins). Otherwise leave them alone. My opinion……Love all that you do….

  7. says

    I think it all depends on the piece and the connections that others in the family have to it as the way it is. If there are none (your family could care less) and you know your paint will not drastically reduce the market value of the piece then I say go for it! If however there is someone who thinks it should remain a certain way then unfortunately you often have to grin and bear it as it is! I speak from experience on this one! LOL! The piece you painted is definitely in the could use an update category and you certainly did a beautiful job on it. It looks fantastic. Beautiful redo!

  8. says

    Love the new finish on your sewing chest Debbie. I inherited a chair from my grandmother that I am thinking of painting. It’s an antique reproduction Louis XV chair. If it were the real thing, I wouldn’t touch it as it would affect it’s value. Not sure how my sister will feel about it, though. Paint can always be stripped.

  9. says

    What a treasure and it looks beautiful against your drapes, the perfect color! If it is a really nice antique piece of furniture, I don’t like to paint them but if it is in really bad shape I say go for it!

  10. says

    I’m with you, Debbie..I generally like to preserve antiques in their original condition. But if you are not enjoying them that way, then by all means, change it up! I think your basket looks better now that it’s painted.

  11. Nicole says

    It all depends on personal preference. I have family pieces I have painted/altered but then I have a little child sized hutch my grandma handmade for me when I was three that I just can’t for the life of me paint. That being said though I love what you did with it. It looks amazing.

  12. Melanie Willis says

    I think it depends on the piece. I have some inherited antiques that I have painted and they still tell their story. I also have other pieces that I would never paint. I love genealogy so knowing the story and passing that on to my children is very important.

  13. Anna Starner says

    I love it! Goes so great with your room now. I also love the idea of using it for jewelry. I have painted old pieces and now I love them, thats what is important. If I don’t have a place for it as is but I know it will work painted or stripped I will do it. I do have some antiques that I wouldn’t paint but others I have no problem making my own.

  14. says

    Loved the video Debbie. Thanks for sharing it. I agree with everyone else that it’s a personal preference/choice on what to do with “heirlooms”.

  15. says

    I like the new color! It looks like it goes perfectly in your room!! I always just let the furniture talk to me! I do have a hard time painting things that were my moms though. Maybe once she passes I’ll change my mind but they hold so many memories of my childhood, I guess I fear I’ll forget! Crazy!!!~~Ang

  16. says

    Well, you know I would definitely have painted it too! I think it’s better to paint it to suit your style rather than sticking it up in an attic or basement if it doesn’t go with your decor. It’s not something you ever planned on selling anyway so the actual dollar value of it isn’t important! It looks great:)

  17. says

    I would definitely have painted that, mainly because you were given “permission” but also because it looks so perfect painted. I do know what you mean, though. It’s so hard to make the decision which things are paintable and which are not. I have a table that belonged to my grandmother and her grandmother. The twin to it is in the Smithsonian (I saw it. That’s how I know.) I love it more than any treasure I own, but there is always this nagging voice that tells me the finish takes away from the rest of the room it’s in.

    Also, I stripped some chairs back in the 80s to refinish and THEN discovered that I had devalued them by a huge amount because they were a specific finish which is valuable. Still want to kick myself because of that. I never refinished them. I felt so guilty that they are hiding in my attic in mid finish. True story.

    Rambling. Sorry. LOVE your sewing basket.

  18. says

    I love the color and the light distressing you added as well. It can be a difficult choice to change a family heirloom, but I think that you did a great job at breathing new life into it!

  19. Diane says

    Debbie, I love the new look of your sewing basket; it is beautiful against your bedroom drapes. The few heirloom items I have from my grandmothers are not furniture, so I’ve never had to struggle with the paint or not paint dilemma for them. However, I do have my own rocking chair from my “baby-hood”. About 35 years ago, when pregnant with my first child, I was decorating the nursery and decided to paint the chair white. Many years later, I decided I wanted it returned to its natural finish. My precious daddy sanded it down (since it had spindles on the back, he said that was a very tedious job!) and restained it for me. Daddy is no longer with us and that chair now means the world to me … to know his hands lovingly touched every inch of it makes it one of my most cherished possessions. (PS You’re right … the video was very touching.)

  20. says

    Debbie, I love your new/old sewing basket. I think this was an heirloom that was served well by a doo over!
    it look great in your bedroom.
    I have an entertainment center my dad made in the 60s. The first one I had ever seen. Back then people still had large floor model TVs. He build it around the TV. I have it in my den but it is an orangey pine and goes with nothing. I wanted to paint it white, which would look great in that room. Bob insists that I should not paint it. My dad would NOT have cared. He was always changing things and he made it the way he did because it made sense in their den.One daughter says paint it another says NO. The one who says no is the one who will inherit the piece.Her husband says leave me alone and let me do what I want with it. As you can see, there has been much discussion about this entertainment center. Maybe if I win the gift certificate I can buy some white paint. LOL! Ginger

  21. says

    Debbie what a great piece and how lucky you are to have pieces handed down to you from family members. I have a few pieces that were my moms but they aren’t antique. They have a lot of sentimental value for me and that is important to me. Love the color you chose.


  22. says

    I think whether I’d alter something depends on what it is. There are some things I’d have no hesitation in painting, but I have an old wicker rocking chair that my mom bought when I was born to rock me in and it sat in my childhood room until a few years ago when mom gave it to me. It’s in rough shape and needs some fixing up, but I don’t think I’d paint it. Just the sight of it brings back so many memories and if its physical appearance changed drastically I think I’d lose that.

  23. says

    Sadly, I don’t have any family heirlooms. I have one piece that my Mom got somewhere when she was newly married. It was painted a million times. I stripped it down and restored it. Now I want to paint it! That’s all I have. :( Your sewing box turned out amazing. It actually looks older (vintage) after the paint. It was a perfect color. Great job.

  24. says

    What a beautiful family heirloom! You are truly blessed to have things passed down. I have my Mom’s teacup & saucer collection (not that I am a fan…but she loved them…therefore I love them).

    There is one thing I cherish & it is a picnic basket our family used for many a picnic & trips to the beach. After my Mom had died, my Dad and I were puttering in his little storage barn. Up overhead, sat the picnic basket. I got it down & our last name had been printed on the top. I asked my Dad if he knew where it came from, but he had no idea & said that I should have it.

    I do still have it & a friend painted some cheese & mice on it with the word Picnic! I guess it is my family heirloom!

  25. says

    What a beautiful job you’ve done, Debbie! Family heirlooms are to be cherished forever and if it is re purposed to continue enjoying it and incorporate it into your decor at the same time, then why not? Giving it a facelift doesn’t necessarily mean you altered it completely! I love the sewing basket and looks perfectly pretty in your bedroom:) Very touching video, indeed! Have a wonderful day!Hugs,Poppy

  26. says

    It looks good in Louis and yes the video did choke me up. No matter what someone does to an heirloom, paint it, restain it – that doesn’t change it’s history.

  27. says

    I love that color…super cute. I think you took and made it yours and have now brought on a new meaning/memory for the next lucky one to receive such a great piece. I believe in making memories around what we have in our home even if it is a passed down heirloom and if painting it brings on a new memory…then go for it.

  28. Donna Ingalls says

    I love your sewing chest. What a beautiful color.
    My family heirloom is my great grandmother’s butter churning chair. I reprinted it a different color to match my living room and no one can believe that it’s over 100 years old.

  29. kim d. says

    i would have painted it if it was my grandma’s. i love the makeover and tender heart me cried over the video. i know my grandma would have been looking down and smiling that i made it my own; that i made it fit my house. see, when i was growing up my grandparents didn’t have alot. my grandma got down on her hands and knees and sewed together pieces of carpet that someone else had cut up to remove from their house and my grandpa brought home. she spent days sewing with thick carpet thread to make it her own. i can still see those pretty flowers on that dark red wool carpet.. what i wouldn’t do to be able to to walk across it and hear my grandma singing in the kitchen, or to hear my grandpa sounding out words as he read from the bible. and, i wish i had that piano bench that doubled as a seat at the kitchen table for the smaller grand kids. grandma would have been proud that i loved it enough to make it my own .. i bet your husband’s grandma is too.

  30. Kathy says

    Posted on FB. I say keep the family heirlooms as they are but I am itching to paint MIL’s hope chest. Video was touching. I have always loved True vValue!

  31. says

    I loved the video. We own quite a few inherited pieces. Some are very large and most likely won’t be altered…but I’ve painted a couple of smaller pieces and have no regrets. In fact I think they look updated now and the paint job gave them a whole new life. A family heirloom means nothing if you don’t use it and love it. If altering it in a positive way makes it emotionally valuable to the next generation, then I say go for it! Loved this post. ~Ann

  32. Bev says

    I love your makeover of the vintage sewing basket and I am so loving the color that you used.

    I feel that when a person leaves an item to you that they intend for you to use it in the way that you want to. I think Mike’s Grandmother would love seeing the two of you enjoying this gorgeous sewing basket together and see what pleasure it brings to you.

  33. says

    Debbie, this looks fantastic! And, I am in love with your drapery fabric, too!

    I have painted a couple of family heirlooms only because I felt it enhanced the piece, otherwise, I’m with you and hesitate to paint or alter them. In fact, I just posted about wavering on whether or not to paint an antique I have. In the pictures it looks like a more expensive piece, but truthfully it is missing parts, has holes in the marble, etc. So I’m really considering giving it a facelift. But, I think I’ll keep it as is and just keep looking for something more paintable on Craig’s list or at a garage sale.

    Anyway…I’m rambling! Love what you did…looks great! :)

  34. Shari says

    I have several things I’d like to, and plan to, refinish or what have you both from parents & grandparents, but I’ve not quite worked up the courage to start. I know, I know…. LOL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>