joy of nesting

joy of nesting
California designer Shiree Hanson Segerstrom's weekly tips for decorating, gardening, and stylish living

The Evolution of a Home: Incorporating a Lifetime of Home Furnishings with Great Style

In between design projects and appointments for the past few months, I’ve been reorganizing closets in both of our homes. It’s amazing the things we accumulate over the years. In my case since about 1977, when I started collecting kitchen stuff in my mom’s old cedar hope chest as a senior in high school.



The heirloom silver and fine linens, the numerous sets of dinner plates, and mementos from a lifetime with my late husband Jim, all have a place in my cupboards and hutches. They’re filled to the brim but at least now they’re organized. It has also been a welcomed challenge to fully incorporate my new husband David’s and my belongings into one household.  

It occurs to me that starting out as a young couple, you have few belongings. You start with the basics. Your home looks simple and clean with few furnishings and accessories. Your priorities are work, play and taking care of the children. As years pass, you become more of a nester, adding to the décor or changing it up over time. People give you things or you inherit them. You collect a few pieces of artwork, or several. You buy a new sofa, or recover an old one. You purchase a few new chairs, or a nice dining room table.


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How does it all end up feeling like “you”? What is your “style”? What do you keep and what do you discard as you go through life? I’ve had personal and professional reasons to ponder these things and I think I have a philosophy that works.  


It’s not that complicated really, unless you make it so. If something is ugly, if it’s cheap, if it has no sentimental value, give it away or consign it. If it’s designed and/or crafted well, is a keepsake or an heirloom, or is something you really love, you will find a place for it eventually.


Another thing I’ve noticed, when something is really outdated it’s often because it wasn’t well designed or well-crafted to begin with. Sofas with big, rolled arms; faux distressed furniture; anything Tuscan or French looking, but made in China; or colors and styles that have been grossly overused, generally don’t pass the test of time.
Whatever era, quality American or European hand crafted furniture is very desirable and if you’ve been wise enough to purchase or lucky enough to inherit pieces like these, keep them. If they don’t work with your living room décor, put them to work in a spare room with the knowledge that a better space will open up for them at some point.

In my own home, I’ve inherited many things I treasure and a few I’ve stored away in the garage for my son Christian when he has his own home. One was his great, great grandmother’s mission style rocking chair given to me by my paternal grandfather when Christian was born. Another is a red leather rocking chair from his father’s bachelor pad, before we met. In the master bedroom I have a darling vintage dressing table that came with the house. Initially, I’d planned to get rid of it but now I love it.


Then there’s the bird’s eye maple tall boy dresser that I boldly painted black because it didn’t go well with the wood floors. It’s a quality piece and eventually it will be refinished properly. It works fine for now. Because I’ve been loath to discard anything that’s wood, I also have some fun, mismatched tables and dressers around the house.

In David’s new den we’ve incorporated several things including my favorite pair of black Edwardian “étagère” bookcases that I purchased from my old design store, S.S. Home; a small black secretary/desk that was in my step grandparents’ home now being used as a laptop work place; an antique lyre back Larson chair with a custom skirted seat pad to match the draperies; a matching slipcovered cabinet, incredibly ugly in its former life that now houses extra guest bedding; sheer, floor length curtains from David’s old living room, which fit perfectly under my existing custom valances and stationery curtain panels, his brilliant idea.
There is a round, rattan end table with a removable tray top, formerly in my living room; a vintage Chinese red lacquered stool that he uses for drinks, found at a local thrift shop; and his television, TV stand and newly purchased, loveseat hide-a-bed for overnight guests. The loveseat’s coordinating brownish-green fabric looks so handsome with the room’s existing green walls and green floral window treatments and matching lumbar pillows.
I love it when I get to repurpose things as we’ve done in this project. What was initially a space planning nightmare is now a warm and welcoming “Man Cave”. All that’s left to do at this point is hang the rest of his pictures when they come out of storage.
Shiree’s Style File
To incorporate a variety of furniture styles, use unifying elements like lamps, paint, pillows and other fabrics to pull everything together in a cohesive design scheme.
If something isn’t well designed or well made, has no sentimental value, or isn’t working in your home, give it to the thrift store.
If something is good quality, but outdated try moving it around from room to room first. If it still doesn’t resonate with you on any level, consign it or give it away to a needy college student. Let someone else have it who will appreciate it.
It takes years, often decades, to put together an evolved, well accoutered home. Don’t discard something just because you feel it’s old or outdated. It’s those oddball pieces that make a home’s décor unique.

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