frequently asked questions about furniture restoration, repair, refinishing, upholstery, and more

1. “Is my antique/vintage furniture worth spending my money on?”
I'd say that this is the most frequently asked question.
If a person likes the style of the piece and they want something that lasts, then generally my answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Most vintage and antique furniture is far superior to the new furniture sold in the Big Box stores. The materials (select hardwoods) and exceptional craftsmanship of these early pieces are of a much higher quality. And as far as value is concerned, take for example a Baker (Baker is a current U.S. manufacturer of high grade furniture) formal 10 foot dining table that has been in use for decades. We’re able to restore and refinish a table like this for approximately $2500.00. The MSRP for this equivalent table in a Baker showroom today is greater than $20,000.00 (believe it or not). The advantage is obvious. (P.S. Used tables and other furniture of this high quality typically sell for pennies on the dollar in the auction and online market place.) In other words you can end up with a $20K piece of furniture for the price of the Big box store’s inferior throw-away furniture.
2. “Will repairing or refinishing devalue my piece?”
If you feel your piece might be of museum quality, very valuable, or an historically/culturally important piece, then by all means consult an expert and/or reputable auction house. If it is an important piece, then have it conserved (preserving all original materials/surfaces and using original methods). All other antique/vintage furniture is improved by quality repair/refinishing, extending its’ life for generations.
3. “Should I reupholster my furniture or buy new?”
Again the same approach holds true here. The earlier upholstered frames are simply made much better. Compare the weight of a new upholstered chair to an earlier 20th century chair of comparable size. It will be obvious to you that the earlier chair weighs 2 to 3 times that of the new chair. The simple reason is that the earlier piece has a more sophisticated and substantial understructure, more stuffing and a heavier solid hardwood (oak or maple) frame. And contrary to what Eliot says, the Big Box stores simply cannot deliver the same quality level. And not to mention that you can have a high quality fabric of your choosing rather than a mediocre fabric of their choosing.
4. “After refinishing is the new finish durable and how should I care for it?”
The current finishes (lacquer, pre-cat lacquer, conversion varnish) are far superior to earlier finishes. They are harder (more impact resistant) and impervious to water marks. Care consists of wiping up spills with a damp cloth and a semi-annual paste waxing.
I’d be happy to answer any of your questions concerning the furniture repair/restoration process. Just call the shop or email me at [email protected].
- Dan McAuliffe