Skip to main content

Preserving The Past, Creating The Future

My husband Eric’s late father, Mike, grew up in a fancy Upper East Side apartment on 79th and Lex. Mike’s father and Eric’s grandfather, Jacob, grew up in the Lower East Side where the family owned a paint store. Jacob became a successful attorney, married Eric’s grandmother, Evelyn, and they had Mike and his younger sister, Helen. While practicing law in downtown Manhattan, Jacob couldn’t find a place to pray–so in 1938 he founded a synagogue in a loft space above a bar. This became the Civic Center Synagogue, which later became the Synagogue for the Arts, and is now called TriBeCa Synagogue. Seventy years after Jacob founded it, Eric and I got married there. Above is a picture of Mike with his parents on a trip to Italy in the 50’s.

Both kids went on to practice law themselves, Mike in Chicago and Helen on Shelter Island, where she was one of the 2,000’ish full-time residents. She was the Shelter Island town attorney for nearly 20 years and served as a town justice for nearly 20 more years. Helen was eccentric. At any given time she had between two and seven cats and she spent much of her free time as a volunteer EMT. She had exchanged her parents’ love of luxury for a love of animals and nature. Rather than the glamorous dresses she grew up wearing on the Upper East Side, Aunt Helen was usually wearing a sweatshirt covered in cat hair. One other thing about Aunt Helen: she never threw anything out. Her modest waterfront home was filled with the furniture and china that once furnished her parent’s apartment in Manhattan.

I am sad to report that Aunt Helen died in February of 2022. It was a terrible loss. This summer Eric’s sister Jennifer and I went to clean out Aunt Helen’s house and because Eric’s siblings live elsewhere, we ended up keeping Aunt Helen’s furniture. Among a few gems we found a beautifully tufted wingback reading chair that had a damask woven fabric. The construction and silhouette of the frame are beautiful and elegant. It has an accompanying curule style ottoman with shapely solid wood curved legs.

The chinoiserie lamps that dimly lit Aunt Helen’s living room came off as a little old fashioned, but I knew they had potential. I had them rewired and paired the blue porcelain base with a modern blue stick shade to modernize the lamp’s old world vibe. The coral lamp was a bit more of a challenge. I searched and searched for the ride shade, I finally found this shown below one in a Thaibut fabric at Illume.

Reclaiming old furniture is a way to preserve memories and legacies. I’m so grateful that we got to restore and preserve some of Jacob and Evelyn’s furtniture, which had been safeguarded for years by Aunt Helen. Part of our family’s history now lives in our home. Restoring vintage furniture with modern touches adds so much character and soul to a place. It’s also a wonderfully sustainable practice; passing furniture down from generation to generation helps to retain the memories of terrific people like Aunt Helen, and it helps prevent our landfills from literally being clogged by corpses of fast furniture.

© / all rights reserved / 440-371-5846


© / all rights reserved / 440-371-5846