Western New Yorkers are no strangers to hand-me-down decor. So many of the houses The Buffalo News has featured through the years have been home to furniture, housewares, collectibles and other items – often repurposed – passed down from parents, grandparents and other relatives.
(That doesn’t include the nifty thrift store, garage sale and curbside finds that people collect.)
Recently, we photographed the South Buffalo home of Elaine and Jude Kawczynski, which includes a glass-topped desk he made using his grandfather’s workbench as the base.
In the kitchen, food-themed artwork painted by Elaine Kawczynski’s late mother hangs on the wall. An old suitcase that belonged to an uncle, shown at top, is now used to store games in the dining room.
In the past, other homeowners have pointed out family pieces they cherish: an antique marble-topped chest passed down three generations; old typewriters and sewing machines used decoratively; platters and other serving pieces; holiday china; table linens; and garden decor.
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We’ve seen a rarely used soup tureen transformed into a base for a table centerpiece; a grandmother’s white wash bowl and water pitcher accenting a dresser in a guest room; a dining room chandelier that once hung in the homeowner’s mother’s house; a cultivator from an uncle’s farm now used as a rustic accent in a garden; a “fainting couch” given new life in a young family’s living room; a vintage china cabinet turned into towel storage in a bathroom; and lots of old dishes mixed with new.
Interior designer Susan Cherry Redino and her husband, Rick Redino, have many passed-down items from their families at their Eggertsville home.
She calls their home “the lost and found house” – which reflects the name of her secondhand/vintage specialty business (Cherry Tree Design – Lost & Found). That’s because so many pieces – she estimated 80%, inside and out – come with history.
“If it’s not something from my family or his family, it’s something that was in someone else’s family,” she said.
Her favorite is the baby grand piano that belonged to her late mother.
“I love my mother’s piano, and I love to play the piano. She got it when she was a little girl,” Redino said.
“I also have a lot of holiday dishes, and I just cherish setting the holiday table and eating on those same dishes that we had on Thanksgiving,” she said.
Even the rhubarb, peonies and violets in her garden came from the garden at the home where she grew up – which was right down the street.
The flagstones on her garden path and a stone bench also came from her childhood home.
What makes these things so special?
“History, nostalgia and memories,” Redino said.
“I’m just a sucker for that. I see other people’s things and I see history,” she said.
She especially loves restoring old dressing tables – and imagining who once sat there.
“Who got ready for their prom there? What little girl experimented with makeup for the first time, and for her whole life dressed for special occasions and dances and her wedding?” she said.
“Things have personalities, and I have a connection with them. Even if it’s not a personal connection, it speaks to me,” Redino said.