Heirloom Design At Home

When I was a kid, I thought we were Danish. I am going to tell you about it, but before I explain that far-fetched childhood fantasy, I’d like to talk about heirloom design. I promise to circle back to being Danish.

Bringing Heirloom Design Home

I wrote an article that supported the stance that we are replacing items too often. Our culture has made it easy to create too much stuff with short life cycles. The article explored the concept of “heirloom design.” I had heard Saul Griffith at a design conference outline how he was planning to give his soon-to-be-born son a Rolex and a Mont Blanc pen. When his kid was old enough, he would tell him that these would be the only watch and pen he could use for the next 100 years. Griffith’s rationale was that, if something is thoughtfully designed and beautiful, it could be passed down through the generations.

I decided to bring the concept home. I explained heirloom design to my kids and asked them to take a look around the house and tell me what they would consider heirloom and hand-me-down worthy. Here’s one:

“The artwork collection handed down from Grandma – Particularly, the Bjorn Wiinblad posters. They make Grandma, you, and us smile.”

You can read about the other items they chose here.

What Do You Mean We Are Not Danish?

My dad was a mid-century designer. His hand printed, silkscreen wallpaper designs were hung on all of our walls. Interspersed among the flocks and metallics were portraits of happy relatives…or so I thought. These whimsical portraits were the artwork of Bjorn Wiinblad (left). I truly believed Wiinblad was one of my kin. Gazing up at an oversized Wiinblad poster was like getting a huge, smiling hug from an adoring relative – Not the pinch-your-cheek kind, but the kind of family member you admire for her sense of colorful quirkiness.

The Wiinblad posters and pottery that decorated my home also greeted visitors at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. The posters were winking at me there too – we must all be related.

Eventually, I figured out that we had no Danish relatives (not a blond among us), and the inspired Wiinblad collection was actually a mutual admiration that my mom and aunt shared. They also collected Wiinblad cards, wrapping paper, china and ash trays.

My children have come to love this “designer’s designer” too. The twinkling eyes of Wiinblad’s portraits exude the themes of music, art, humor, and the joy of life. We have many Wiinblads in my home. The main image (above) is from a rare detailed ceramic plate that I got (won) on eBay a few years ago. When my best friend Cathy got married, we gave her the “Blue Lady.”

As my little home-research discovered, heirloom designed objects don’t have to be a Rolex or Mont Blanc, or even a Wiinblad to qualify as heirloom. But, they do have to be thoughtfully designed, beautiful and well taken care of.

If heirloom design goes hand and hand with slower consumption, do you think this is another one of those “green” concepts we should teach our kids? In your home, what would you consider to be heirloom designed? What would your kids choose?

Main image: Ted Fink