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Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea

by Garrett Fleming

Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
Growing up, we moved quite a bit. No matter where we called home, though, one constant was my mom’s pair of blue velvet wingback chairs. At the time, I didn’t think much about them in regards to style or design. I was just a kid. For me they were simply the chairs my sister Meredith would jump onto to avoid the nipping of our always-angry Jack Russell.

My last memory of the set is as rich as that of a screaming Meredith and growling pup. We had moved back to Texas after a stint in Louisiana, and my mom was having a garage sale. Before putting the chairs on the driveway, she offered to keep them around if I thought I’d ever want them. Convinced their look would be too hard to decorate around, I encouraged her to sell both. I even remember what they went for: $25 a pop. Oh, the stellar rooms I could create today if I’d only realized their potential back then!

One designer with a much keener eye for potential than me is the founder of , Ariene C. Bethea. Clients head to Ariene because of her knack for creating eclectic spaces that seamlessly mix hand-me-downs and pieces from different eras with modern finds. But the strategy isn’t only reserved for others. Her own Charlotte, NC home has become a showcase of how to beautifully live amongst treasures from the past. For example, she’s hung a piece of artwork passed down from her parents in one room, their old table serves as the command center for Ariene’s home office, and the sectional Ariene used to cuddle into as a child is currently the star of her living room.

You’d never know these items were as old as they are thanks to Ariene’s thoughtful designer hand. Today, she’s taken all she’s learned from decorating with them and put together a list of Creative Ways to Update Inherited Pieces. Her ideas have me super inspired (and dreaming about those chairs I let go). Scroll down to check out how each one was styled then and how Ariene has cleverly made them feel very “now.” Enjoy! —

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Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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This 80s-era Robert Lawson painting used to hang in Ariene's childhood house. In order to create cohesion between the hand-me-down and the rest of Ariene's home, she paired it with metallic accessories that match its frame.
Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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The fireplace's sleek paint job serves up the artwork as the room's focal point.
Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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Ariene suggests doing a bit of research before you begin decorating with an inherited piece. Once you've nailed down when the item was made, and how it was styled when it debuted, you can use the information to inform how you'll reinterpret the piece.
Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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"If you are feeling confident, try mi eras like an 80s-era sofa with a 60s-era painting. The easiest way to mix pieces is through art and lighting. In my family room I have a mix of new and vintage furniture, lighting, art and accessories," Ariene says.
Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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"If you are bringing in inherited table lamps, try them with a modern shade for an updated look," Ariene suggests.
Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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Ariene has turned her mom's 60s-era dining table into a desk for her home office. She put her own spin on the piece by painting the table red. She loves this nod to the set's previous upholstery color.
Before & After: Updating Inherited Pieces with Ariene C. Bethea, Design*Droits-Humains
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Ariene's mom recovered these chairs in the 80s, so they were easy to incorporate into her office. Ariene applauds her mom's choice in color and suggests others take note: "Upholster your inherited piece in a solid color so it doesn’t look dated years later."

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