left: photo © Oberto Gilli, right: photo © Zach Desart from "To Your Taste" by Celerie Kemble

What's your personal experience decorating with heirlooms?
I come from a line of incredibly sentimental people. I grew up in the house next door to the house my mom grew up in, that's next door to the house her father grew up in. We don't let anything go – usually once something has landed in our house, it is not leaving unless it is going with one of us to another house. But we're also designers and decorators so there is an aesthetic override – everything in my family is in a constant state of revision – repainting, remaking, skirting or un-skirting. We hold the history of that object pretty sacred but usually things start to evolve and look different.

So that's the secret - evolution.
Without evolution we'd all still be wearing hoop skirts. I think the most important thing you can do is keep meaningful things in your home and find creative ways to help them evolve to whatever your new design aesthetic is, or your new purpose in life or in that space.

What are some ways to do this?
You can cut things down, reshape them, paint them, lacquer them, take the knobs off and use them elsewhere – there are many ways to do this. I'm a big believer in the repurposing refinishing – there's a lot you can do with make up.

It seems that method might work better with certain styles of décor than others.
Not being a strict this or that-er stylistically allows you the leeway to incorporate different style elements, time periods and scales. Perhaps I've shaped my aesthetic to accommodate the heirloom piece. If people feel like I do, they should guide themselves to more inclusive design styles.

  Celerie Kemble is a second-generation interior designer, whose mother, Mimi Maddock McMakin, founded Kemble Interiors in Palm Beach over 30 years ago. Growing up in a decorator's home, surrounded by beautiful things, made her acutely aware of the power of an heirloom/power of provenance.