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Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history that tells the story of who we are and where we have come from. And I love the story that my newly-acquired brass urn tells!

I recently received an ugly-but-meaningful brass urn that belonged to my maternal grandmother. It is dull with tarnish and rust, making it appear as though it is covered in yellowed mud. I admit, it looks gross.

But this ugly urn holds such beautiful & inspirational memories of my grandmother! In fact, I think of her every time I look at it. Isn’t she cute?

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from
My Sweet Grandmother, Who Passed Down Several Family Heirlooms

That beautiful lady (my sweet grandmother!) in the photo above overcame such odds in life. With only a sixth grade education and truly good taste, she opened and operated a successful women’s clothing and accessory boutique she called Margaret’s.

An Inspirational Reminder

I loved going to my grandmother’s store and looking at all of the beautiful things- including this now tarnished urn. And while her store is no longer in operation, my memories of it are so vibrant and clear. Racks of lovely textures, glass cases of jewels and mannequins so perfectly styled. She built a truly beautiful business.

This once beautiful urn was used as a decorative planter in her store. She positioned it so that it framed the outer edges of a three-way mirror just outside her dressing rooms. As a young girl I spent hours in front of that mirror, making funny faces and laughing at the reflections from several angles.

So choosing to keep this urn, a small token of my grandmother’s store, is a “no-brainer”. As a child I did not truly realize the strength and determination this “self-made” woman had. However, as an adult, completely understand, respect and admire it. I just wish she was here for me to tell her.

Keeping the Urn

For one hot minute I do consider placing this urn in my own store. But, honestly, I want to admire it at home. And, while keeping the urn is a “no-brainer”, it is also challenging because, as you may recall from this post, I am doing the Swedish death cleanse. It is a purposeful process based on the book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson.

So, while it may seem counterproductive to bring another item into my home (while I am trying to declutter!), I am choosing to clean this urn rather than store it. And after it is clean I am going to incorporate it into my décor so I can enjoy it everyday. I cannot wait to see the results!

How to Clean Tarnish & Rust From a Family Heirloom

I will admit, for one fleeting moment I considered using chalk paint. Don’t judge! But, yes, I considered covering the blemishes of this urn once and for all with a funky coat of color. However, a dear friend talked me out of it. And I am so thankful that she did!

In fact, her suggestion is using Bar Keeper’s Friend and Wright’s Silver Cream to restore the urn’s original finish. Using these products never crossed my mind!

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from
Bar Keepers Friend removed the tarnish and Wright’s Silver Cream polished it up!

And this suggestion is phenomenal! The Bar Keeper’s Friend removes tarnish so quickly and does not damage the urn. I just sprinkle it on the urn, let it sit for a few seconds and then scrub with a soft cloth and rinse with water.

Edited & updated to add: Several of you have asked if I preferred the powdered Bar Keeper’s Friend or the liquid Bar Keeper’s Friend. During this process I used both the liquid and the powder. I found that I prefer the powder.

You Won’t Believe the Transformation!

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from
Sprinkle Bar Keepers Friend On and Wipe the Tarnish Off

I use Q-Tips for the little places that are hard to clean. Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from

Q-Tips Are Great for Those Tiny Places

The handles, however, are stubborn and the Q-Tips don’t get them very clean. So I decide to try a toothbrush. You will recall that I keep old toothbrushes for so many cleaning tasks!

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from
Old Toothbrushes Make Great Tools!

Finally, I wise up and decide to completely remove the handles. They are secured with screws and come off fairly easily. Look at the difference between the area under the handles and the areas I have already cleaned! Wow!!

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from
This Brass Urn is Cleaning Up Nicely!

But a little Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from

Wright’s Silver Cream Helps it Polish Up Nicely!

The end result is breath-taking! It looks just as beautiful as I remember! I cannot help but to think that my grandmother is smiling in Heaven over this transformation!

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from
I am SO Pleased With the Results!

The Perfect Placement

Finding the perfect place for my urn is a little challenging. But, thankfully, brass and gold tones are in right now! When I think of this urn and the meaning it holds, I gain a better idea of where to place it. It is a reminder of how my grandmother accomplished her entrepreneurial dreams. And I know I want to inspired by her.

Anyone who is an entrepreneur knows exactly how challenging it is. It requires daily learning in order to accomplish your idea of what success looks like. And I love that part of it!

Every morning I start my day with reading. I get up earlier than anyone else in the house, sip on my morning drink and read. I read about anything and everything that may impact my business. Ideas, thoughts, technologies- you name it!

Having a quiet place to read and focus is important to me, so I created this transitional reading nook. It is my morning place and I love it! And because I spend so much time here working to accomplish my dreams (just like she did!), it is only fitting that I incorporate her urn in this space. What a incredible way to incorporate her legacy into my own!

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from.
My Family Heirloom Urn is the Finishing Touch to my Reading Nook

Where to Find My Reading Nook Items

Edited to add: Many have asked about the decor for my reading nook! I am thrilled so many people love it!

The chaise lounge is an item I never knew I needed! It is perfect for a bare corner and inexpensive as well. You can find it here.

The drum end table is such a fun piece! It is only 16″ tall, which is perfect next to the chaise. You can find it here.

The rug is my favorite! So I only buy inexpensive rugs. We are just hard on them at our house and I do not want to be heartbroken when my dog tears it up or my kids track in mud. I love the way this one looks and you can it here.

The bookcase (barely seen to the right) is another family heirloom piece. The story behind it is incredible and I will definitely share it with you soon!

Labeling Family Heirloom Pieces- The Final Step

One thing Margareta Magnusson discusses in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, is the importance of labeling family heirlooms. And I truly believe it is important.

Family heirloom pieces are so much fun! They hold a history and meaning that tell the story of who we are and where we have come from.
Labeling Special Pieces is Important for Passing Down Family History

Although I am young-ish and do not plan to die (or lose my mind!) any time soon, I do want my children to know why this piece is important to me. I choose to use the Avery Peel & Stick Address Labels for this. They are small, easy to write on and stick to objects really well. It is amazing that something so simple may potentially be important one day!

Incorporating Your Own Family Heirlooms Into Your Décor

What I learned from this process is that it is important to understand why an heirloom piece is important to you. And once you understand why it is important, you will be better able to incorporate it into your décor in a meaningful way.

How do you incorporate family heirloom pieces into your decor? Do you have heirloom pieces sitting in the attic that you would like to incorporate? Drop me a line and tell me about your project!

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5 Comments

  1. I love this! I am huge fancy history and antiques especially when it is my own family. The urn turned out so nice! It looks great how your are using it!

  2. What a wonderful thing you have done & a great idea (I think the urn is gorgeous). I also love your reading nook, I will definitely adding one of those to the house.

  3. The urn turned out beautifully. We use Bar Keepers Friend for various things, and it always works like a charm! Also, I love your reading nook – so cozy! Hoping to do something similar in our new house. 😊

  4. Wow what a beauty! And with such a beautiful history, it’s so lovely to see a beautiful antic kept so well

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