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In the News: Unwanted Heirlooms

In the New York Times story "The Tyranny of the Heirloom," writer Joyce Wadler explores the idea of the unwanted family inheritance. Melodie Bryant, a New York composer whom Wadler interviews, for example, inherited a portrait of her Great-Great-Great-Uncle Ivins, even though she had no desire to hang the painting in her tiny Chelsea apartment. Add to this a moving accident, which ripped the canvas and cost Bryant $3,000 in repair costs, and you can understand why this portrait became a wall hanging you'd avert your eyes from.

In the article, Wadler writes,

Ambivalence and guilt, it seems, are central elements of furniture inheritance, the anchoring pieces around which everything is organized, like the sofa in a living room. Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and the director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in Manhattan, has observed this in a number of patients living with inherited furniture they hate. It’s an unhealthy setup, in which people become “slaves to inanimate objects,” he says. “Once you’re defining it as something you can’t get rid of, you’re not in control of your life or your home."

Of course, you probably know that my philosophy for decorating and design goes something along the lines of "less is more." That doesn't mean that I'm not living with some inherited pieces, but luckily, thus far, all of the pieces are ones that I love.

Have you been saddled with any unwanted heirlooms? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

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