Throughout our lives furniture gets passed down to us, whether it is a sofa for our first apartment or a china cabinet from a mother-in-law.

Of course, some of this furniture we will love and cherish as it is, while other pieces we will hope get totaled during the move so we never have to have them in our homes. Many of my clients have such pieces and keep them out of obligation or for sentimental reasons, but secretly resent them and wish they could simply get rid of them.

If you are one of these people, do not despair, there is hope. Just because you inherited this furniture does not mean you need to keep it looking the same way it did when you received it.

Last summer, I had a client in Milton, who had a china cabinet in her kitchen that her mother-in-law had given her. She hated it but couldn’t bear to tell her husband so she suffered along with it. It was in good shape but the wood was stained a dark, depressing color and it didn’t fit with anything else in her home. So my business partner painted it one Sunday morning. He sanded down the wood and painted the entire thing a gorgeous pale green. He used a soft metallic gold color in the scroll carvings to really show them off. He then fixed the hardware on it and voila — an entirely new looking china cabinet. The client was thrilled.

When I was little, my grandmother gave me her beautiful Queen Anne styled bedroom set. It was in perfect condition and I loved it. Now that I am an adult, I have decided my tastes are more simple and modern, but I still have that bedroom set because I cannot bear to part with it. The solution is new hardware. By changing the drawer pulls and knobs, I can alter the entire feel of the furniture without damaging it in any way. I get to keep the furniture that is dear to me and have it reflect my style now, too.

A lot of clients tell me about sets of china that have been passed down to them that they are afraid to use. If this is your situation, consider displaying the collection instead. Use your china cabinet to display the inherited pieces instead of your own that you still use. This way you can still enjoy the collection instead of keeping it in storage.

Another solution to the hand-me-down dilemma is to mix and match. If you have a dining room set that has been passed down and you love the table but hate the chairs, then purchase new chairs. There is no reason why you cannot update the chairs or vice versa. This also works for a bedroom set. Maybe you love the bed but don’t like the dresser or the nightstands. Keep the pieces that you like and then introduce new items that will work with what you have.

Julie Chrissis is a professional home stager and interior decorator based in Nashua and Malden. She can reached at