A Converted Sled, Salvaged Old House Finds, and Eastlake

Heirloom Stories, Vol. 2

Most heirlooms have a story, and we want to know more of them. This Heirloom Stories interview series explores why people collect antiques and how special collectibles find new life generations after their creation.

Featured

Name: Niki
IG: @restorationjunkie

What was the first antique you ever bought?

I’m a fairly new antiques lover. I never enjoyed them growing up or even as a young adult. I remember shopping with one of my aunts in Fredericksburg, VA right after college, and she asked if I wanted to stop into an antique store. I gave a look of disgust, “I’m not into that stuff.”

My hubby and I moved to Germany when I was 24 and seeing cathedrals that were 1,200 years old and everyday houses in my village that were older than the USA started my appreciation for old things. Touring famous castles, I would wonder who had been in that same room? Stood on those same floors? Ate at that table? Farted in that bed?

An antique sled that has been converted to shelves.

The first antique I can remember getting was a winter sled. I had seen a girlfriend who bought one in France that had been repurposed as a shelf, and I loved it. But I was certain I could get one much cheaper. Sure enough, in 2013, I found one at a flea market in Germany for €20 and made my own shelves. It’s one of my favorite pieces and I still have it. It’s so unique and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. 

Do you have a meaningful heirloom that was handed down to you?

I don’t have anything passed down through the generations. I do have a vintage BRIGHT ORANGE veggie platter that my grandma had in the sixties and a couple of pieces from Asia from my other grandparents. Since I rehab old houses, I like to think of some of the architectural salvage items as things that have been passed from one old house to my old houses. I have a couple of these items that stand out.

  • Antique kitchen cabinets (upper and lowers). I bought these beautiful cabinets in a suburb of Milwaukee, only to find out they had come from a gorgeous house less than a half-mile from my house! The address of the house they came from was written on one of the backsides of the cabinet that wasn’t visible once built. It upsets me that these were taken out of the house they were made for (and most likely replaced with something far inferior in quality and beauty), but at least I can put them into one of my houses that had some built-in cabinetry removed. These cabinets will get a second and very loved life.
  • Antique shelving with brass finials. These beautiful shelves don’t look very substantial, but they are eight feet tall and shockingly heavy. I got this set for $40 and plan to build these into flanking shelves around a massive old fireplace mantel I bought. The woman I bought these from said they belonged to her husband’s grandmother and had been in the family for decades. She had no space for them anymore and offered them to her children, who didn’t want them. I’m so thankful to have them and plan to send her a photo of them once the rehab is complete and she can see them in all their loved glory.
Antique shelves that are eight feet tall.

If you could only acquire one category of antiques or collectibles, which would it be and why? 

What a tough question! At different periods of my life, I’m sure my answer would be different, but for now (and the last few years), it would have to be Eastlake Victorian pieces. My hubby and I bought a simple Queen Ann Victorian duplex three years ago. We are currently living in one unit and rehabbing the other. I started researching the architectural style when we were starting work on the house and absolutely fell in love with Eastlake.

An Eastlake dresser that coordinates with Niki’s old house renovations.

I enjoy the variations in style, from fairly simple to insanely grand and ornate. I feel like there’s something to be had for everyone within this style, whether it’s an 11-foot tall pier mirror or a small shelf with a little decorative flair. 

*Responses may be edited for length and clarity.

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