Antique Restoration – To restore or not?

Studio Guest Suites provide antique restoration services and is regularly asked about antique restoration by our clients. They wonder whether or not they should restore their antique furniture showing signs of wear & tear and of course age. Our answer is often varied, dependent on several factors concerning the finish, materials, and how the antique was first assembled—according to the age and provenance of the piece. For example, post-World War II pieces likely have clear coats, such as polyurethanes and lacquers, and therefor need to be stripped, whereas pre-war finishes, commonly waxes and oils, are far easier to restore luster without major works.

Antique Restoration Devaluation

Many clients worry about devaluing antiques by replacing old parts, but we often suggest a sympathetic restoration approach. After all, a piece is devalued if it’s not stable, functioning properly, or looks neglected. As a general rule don’t replace more than 30 percent of any piece, anything more, and it’s no longer an antique. We suggest swapping old hardware for quality reproductions when originals are missing or damaged; in the end, you’ll give the piece decades more life. Avoid however, the temptation of ‘marrying’ antiques – that is uniting antique furniture parts in order to form fully remodelled antique furniture items.

Re-upholstering Antique Restoration

Re-upholstering an antique chair where the seat is worn through, if the fabric is a carefully selected traditional print design, in a natural fiber like wool, silk, hemp or alternatively cotton or silk velvet and carefully matched to the era of the chair, for example a mission style Arts and Craft chair crafted by Gustav Stickley would look all the more handsome refurbished in a ‘William Morris’ print woven fabric.

Now it needs to be said, that for those of us who are challenged with basic carpentry skills, it isn’t wise to begin learning on an heirloom piece. Instead look to employ the services of a French polisher or skilled carpentry tradesperson well practiced in antique furniture repair. Most long-term antique store dealers will have their own trusted restorer and or French polisher at their disposal and will gladly organize restoration works for a small fee.