Today’s post is from SB Memphis Editor Christian Owen:

SB Note: Antique collectors and enthusiasts can stand tall in the most eco-friendly of crowds. Whether you travel far to seek the finest Old World European treasures or simply enjoy placing family heirlooms and items with regional historic character throughout the home, your affinity for antiques expresses a desire for making the most of existing materials. Antiques play a central and creative role in the interior spaces created by designer Suzanne Varner. Today’s images are from Suzanne’s home. She and her husband, Jim, are avid collectors of antiques and historical artifacts. 

“Recycling” is a household term when used in reference to aluminum cans, plastic bottles and newspapers. But rooms decorated with items such as aged sterling, leather-bound books, well-preserved textiles, antique wooden furniture and reclaimed architectural features also give a respectful nod towards conservation.


Italian bas relief sculpture, one of Suzanne’s favorite antique objects.

Of course, acquiring beautiful antiques is far from suffering for a cause. Aged objects offer a patina to complement any color palette; their appealing imperfections are a link to iconic designers and craftsmen and a tangible narrative of the past.


The antique chandelier in Suzanne’s dining room is a find from the Paris Flea Market.


Her antique dining table and chairs are English. A circa 1900 Indian mural, which originally hung in the historic Chisca Hotel in downtown Memphis, is the focal point of this room, and repurposed Italian gilt panels flank a row of windows on the outermost wall.

Antiques were made before assembly lines and mass-production arrived, during a time when appreciation for quality overruled the demand for quantity. Fast-forward to the present, when woods used to create furniture, flooring and other household features may be of the same species as their ancestral trees, but not necessarily of the same quality. For example, most pine grown today is produced quickly. In turn, the younger crop does not develop the hardy old-growth wood that craftsmen had access to years ago.


Antique books and sculptural artifacts.

Antiques large and small in the living room.

Antiques large and small in the living room.


A collection of sterling tea caddies grouped with an antique wooden box.

Antique textiles could be the inspiration for the color palette of an entire room. This is certainly true when a hand-dyed antique Persian rug enters the home. Its rich varying tones were painstakingly created by the individual who made it, so each rug is a unique work of art. Hand-woven quilts, whose patterns, variations and pictorial images may literally tell a story, summon images of the sociable environment in which they were made. The adventurous tale of porcelain and earthenware takes us back to the earliest dynasties of China and continues on a visually exciting journey through history. Today, the most valuable porcelain objects don the shelves of museums and discerning collectors, but less-expensive pieces also add interest to both formal and casual rooms. Consider the many uses for a small antique porcelain serving piece—a decorative accessory for any occasional table or simply a clever soap dish for the powder room.


Oversized pillows in a striped pattern complement the color palette established by an antique screen on one wall of the living room.


Vintage bronze busts

Iron and stone present unlimited options to the clever homeowner. With a mixed-media artist’s eye, stroll through a well-stocked antique market and consider the many ways to assemble portions of that aged iron gate and cut stone or glass to create a coffee table or demi-lune piece. Large discarded portions of old buildings, such as carved mantelpieces, doors, window frames and columns are surprisingly modern when used creatively in a new setting. Smaller architectural fragments sculpted by time that were once used as balustrades, decorative brackets or medallions can be re-used in countless places inside and outdoors to add instant charm and character.


English hall chair


An Italian reliquary is the centerpiece in this vignette which includes an early American screen, oak table and Oriental rug.


This four-poster bed is a family heirloom.

Media, marketing campaigns and special interest groups encourage everyone to “go green.” At the risk of sounding simplistic, these examples of decorating with antiques are meant to redefine the image of an antique collector for today’s eco-friendly generation. If we have already cut down one tree, why not use it again as often and in as many ways as possible. Thus, conservation and recycling are truly second nature to those who recognize the timeless appeal and versatility of antique objects.

Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your “eco-friendly” home! Follow Suzanne Varner Interior Design here: