Heirloom Stories, Vol. 7
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.
What was the first antique you ever bought?
I can’t remember the first antique I ever bought. I’ve been going to thrift stores my whole life. I’ve spent most of my life without money to spare, and I moved a lot in my 20s, so most stuff I had because it was free, inexpensive, and filled the need.
So I’m going to talk about the first antique I bought with my husband simply because we loved it. It is an antique French armoire.
We bought it for $100 from someone on FB Marketplace. He said it was from his aunt who was an antique dealer. I was drawn to it because it was beautiful and useful. I knew I would use it daily for clothing storage in the bedroom, and it would bring so much beauty to our home.
It is incredibly well made and truly a piece of art. I love the idea of a home being filled with beautiful, sturdy, useful items. If you’re going to have something, why not have it be both beautiful and useful. Antiques can also withstand the test of wear and time. This is a piece we will keep forever and hand down as an heirloom.
Do you have a meaningful heirloom that was handed down to you?
The item that comes to mind is a 1920s mirror that was given to my family by a next-door neighbor at my childhood house. He was a WWII vet, and he and his wife were always very kind. I loved the mirror so much I asked my mom if I could bring it to college with me, and she let me.
It’s traveled with me since then to all of my homes. Currently, it’s in our bathroom above the sink. I love this mirror because it reminds me of my kind neighbors, and it is beautiful. But I also love it because it’s so versatile stylistically and functionally. A good antique or really any decor item can withstand a lot of use (appropriate to what it was made for) and is timeless in style.
If you could only acquire one category of antiques or collectibles, which would it be and why?
It would be primitive (folk art) items. Not sure if that’s a category, but I’m going with it. There is something so amazing to me when I come across an item that was made, usually out of necessity, by an individual. For example, hand-carved bowls or handmade pottery.
Also cabinets. I love a good primitive cabinet.
I think they speak to me because there’s such a strong connection to humanity and how beautiful everyday life and everyday experiences are. Someone 200 years ago needed a bowl to make bread so they made one. Or needed a cabinet to store stuff.
Now I need to store stuff or mix something, and that item they created is still around and usable. It always amazes me how not only did they make something useful, but they also made it beautiful. I think there’s something powerful about that which speaks to the human condition.
For more antiques from Kate, shop her collection of found goods at Shay Co. Collections.
*Responses may be edited for length and clarity.