Our Favorite Family Heirloom Ideas

Take a look at some treasured heirloom stories.

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I truly believe in the importance of family heirlooms. Heirlooms help connect past and present, and they hold a promise for the future. Our Heirloom Stories series explores special family heirlooms from the old house community. We’ve compiled our favorite themes from the series here. Keep reading to see if any of these family heirloom ideas could apply to your life too.

What Is a Family Heirloom?

A family heirloom is any sentimental item that someone passes down from one generation to the next. Some families pass down heirlooms for centuries, and other families quickly sell off every single belonging at an estate sale when a loved one passes away. It’s up to the current generation to decide whether they will continue to pass the item on to future generations or sell it off.

There are two distinct values to heirlooms: intrinsic and sentimental. The intrinsic value is relatively objective and is based on what an item would sell for at auction or in an antique shop. The sentimental value has nothing to do with money. It is based solely on the memory and intention of the possessor. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Family Heirloom Ideas

Jewelry

Shelly inherited a modest yet sentimental peridot ring from her grandmother. She had the stone reset and wore it on her wedding day.

antique oil painting

Art

Owen’s grandmother had passed down many family heirlooms to the family. Unfortunately, most of them were lost over the years. Owen was thrilled that this seascape painting survived and now hangs proudly in his home.

antique bookcase

Furniture

Brianna has an heirloom bookcase from her father, even though he is still alive and well. This piece of furniture was one of his prized antique purchases, and now Brianna enjoys it in her home. You don’t need to wait until a funeral to pass down sentimental items to family members who appreciate them.

architectural salvage

Architectural Salvage

Niki has a unique take on family heirlooms. She doesn’t have anything significant that has been passed down to her, but she likes to think that rehabbing old homes is a way of passing on heirlooms to future homeowners. By restoring some original period features, the previous generation’s labor can be enjoyed for another generation.

Collections & Mementos

Paige and her husband are doing a large-scale renovation in her old home, and she was charmed when she found various items hiding in the walls. She used a shadow box to create a unique heirloom that is specific to the story of her home.

antique hearth cricket

Home Decor

Maggie loves this brass hearth cricket from her grandmother. Even though she doesn’t have a fireplace, Maggie enjoys moving this good luck charm around her home.

antique wedding photo

Photographs & Ephemera

Lisa shared with us a beautiful curio cabinet heirloom that was given to her great-grandmother on her wedding day. Lisa also prizes all the photographs she has from that day.

antique persian rug

Linens, Clothing & Textiles

I don’t want to give too much away about Jess’s heirloom story. Let’s just say the way she got this antique rug is a tear-jerker.

Other popular family heirlooms include real estate, heirloom flowers from the garden, military items, watches, and hope chests.

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