Tools of the Trade
Ever wondered what to do with that special but damaged furniture that has been handed down in your family?
Dana had a conversation with Bernice Rapoport, owner and primary restoration expert, at Geppetto’s Antique Restoration in Point Richmond. Bernice provided some valuable context and practical information.
When is it worth having furniture repaired?
When you love it enough to fix it. Depending on what current styles are popular, many antiques don’t have a lot of resale value so often the motivation to invest in a repair is far more about preserving the piece for sentimental value. Knowing you and your family will be able to use grandma’s favorite writing table for years to come can mean the world.
What alternatives are there to a full repair?
If the piece is useable, sometimes it makes more sense to just give them a clean up or have finishes touched-up to make them more presentable. An example would be a tabletop with some old gouges or scratches. Rather than sanding out the damage and refinishing, some touch-up of the finish over the damage is sufficient. The scratches are actually part of the character of the piece and add to its charm.
How can we best protect our furniture?
- Don’t place items near heating vents. This accelerates the drying out of both the glues in a piece and the wood itself
- Keep furniture out of direct sunlight; it bleaches the wood
- Cane seating: twice a year (you can do it when the clocks change) use a water bottle to spray the underside of the cane seats with slightly warmer than warm (but not hot) water. Let air dry indoors at room temperature. This keeps the natural fiber supple and allows the fibers to tighten up.
- Rotate area rugs and tables twice a year to allow for more even wear
- Water rings occur when moisture gets between the wood and the finish. Finishes are slightly porous to allow the wood to move.
We’ve all seen the Antique Roadshows episodes where the appraiser tells the person how many thousands of dollars more their piece would be worth IF they hadn’t refinished it – how do you protect antiques without affecting their value?
It’s important to use period products and techniques when working on true antiques and to know when cleaning or touchup is advised over a full refinishing.
What’s the oldest piece you worked on?
A high back chair from the 2nd settlement to Jamestown from between 1608-1610. The chair had a natural reed rush seat. Really the only work it needed was a cleaning and waxing.
Bring Your Furniture Back to Life
What about modern furniture?
There’s lots of decent enough solid furniture out there, even from places like Restoration Hardware. Overall though, design is compromised for the cost savings of mass production. Handcrafted furniture can last for so long, sometimes centuries, because of the detail that went into it’s construction and design.
Do you have furniture pieces you love but can’t fully use because they’re broken or fragile? Don’t let them languish in your home or garage just taking up space. Explore the resources available to bring them back to life!