Embrace the before, celebrate the after

Paring down doesn’t mean ditching memories

Story by Bailey Gilliam

A skee-ball machine, a telephone booth, artwork so small you need a magnifying glass to see the detail. These eccentric items may not be on the top of your list to keep when downsizing, but local DIY and downsizing expert Regina Kirshbaum of Refabby Regina recommends keeping treasured objects and enhancing your space around them.

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES – Regina Kirshbaum’s home is filled with celebrated pieces surrounded by treasure-hunted accessories, creating an experience and memory with each item.

“It’s all about keeping those pieces you love that tell a story,” she said, “and finding things worth celebrating and enhancing that experience in your home.”

Kirshbaum often works with Next Move Movers to help people downsize into retirement communities or smaller spaces. She said one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of her job is to help people decide what items they love, want to keep and fit into new residences.

“We look at everything they own,” said Kirshbaum. “It’s a chance for me to navigate their lives and help celebrate their lives in their new homes. All of a sudden that object, book or photograph is something they’re enjoying again in a new space, and yet it automatically feels like home because it’s showcasing a treasured object from their extraordinary lives.”

PLAY BALL – An antique skee-ball machine not only brings back memories but creates new ones every time a friendly game is played.

Penny arcade

“It’s important to infuse a home with fun,” said Kirshbaum. “I think it’s important to have every space make you smile.”

One item that will never make the declutter cut in Kirshbaum’s home is a prized arcade game.

“We have an antique skee-ball machine,” she said. “My husband bought it for me for my birthday because he knows I grew up on Long Island, went to Long Beach with my family and played skee-ball. It was our favorite thing to do.”

But just having this antique associated with a memory wasn’t enough for this dexterous designer. She decided to decorate with a purpose, using the machine as inspiration. 

“We celebrate our skee-ball machine by placing meaningful items around it that truly make it an event every time we play,” she said. “I commissioned Kevin Lawless from Iron Art to make us a whiteboard on which we can put people’s scores. I found a really cool storage piece that looks like a turtle to hold prizes for the people who are playing, and then I made a wall hanging out of my Mermaid Musings collection, which is one of my brands, and it holds chalk and markers for the whiteboard.”

Eye of the beholder

Another one of Kirshbaum’s curios that she decorated to enhance its experience is a piece of artwork found at an art show in Connecticut, where she used to live. Made from tiny pieces of paper, it creates an image resembling a painting of an overstuffed chair with a lamp and side table. 

“It’s a piece of art only about 5 x 7 inches that you hang on the wall, but I wanted to enhance its experience,” said Kirshbaum.

Her solution? She found a tiny magnifying glass and hung it below the painting with a color-coordinated silk string. “Now people can look at the piece of art for what it truly is and enjoy the depth of it.” 

Smooth operator

A beloved thrift shop find is sweetly displayed in Kirshbaum’s home office. It’s an antique payphone that brought back memories of the early romance she shared with her husband. 

“I was in a thrift shop with a friend, and I came across a payphone that completely brought me back in time to 1987 when I was dating my husband, having met him on a blind date,” she said. “We lived in Manhattan in the ‘80s, and we were on the Upper West Side where there were payphone booths on the street. I saw this payphone in the thrift shop and I said,‘I’ve got to have this thing,’ because it reminds me of when we’d walk home after dinner, jump in a payphone booth to kiss, and people would yell at us as they were walking by saying ‘Get a room!’ It was hilarious.” 

Kirshbaum embellished the payphone with a photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge that pays homage to her birthplace. 

“So this juxtaposition of the photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge, the phone that is bringing me back in time to a very precious place in our lives together and then a little table below it that displays coins we kept from our travels around the world — it just looks so cute together.”

Kirshbaum embraces the before and celebrates the after and said decorating trends mean absolutely nothing if you don’t have an emotional connection to the items in your home.

She said whether you’re downsizing, redecorating or just wishing you could find a spot for a favorite piece, it’s important to celebrate those items and create an experience around them that can bring a smile to your face every time you look at them. 

“Everyone has something important enough for them to display,” said Kirshbaum, “so go find what you love, get creative and decorate your home with happiness.” LL

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