To refinish antique furniture or not? This question often riles up a heated debate among designers. On the one hand, some antique enthusiasts prefer to maintain the furniture in its present condition, believing that tampering with antiques is blasphemy and diminishes their value. On the other hand, some old furniture desperately needs a little love, and refinishing the piece extends its longevity – doing more justice than harm.
So, what determines whether antique furniture is worthy of a restoration project? Before investing time and money in refinishing a piece, here are some things to consider.
Is the furniture unique or a masterpiece? Look for distinguishing features and characteristics that make the furniture an out-of-the-ordinary piece. This evaluation includes the quality of the construction and its age. As a general rule of thumb, avoid refinishing any pieces from the 19th century or earlier – as it hurts their value. Furniture from the 50s and 60s is often sturdier and makes a great vintage piece. Anything made from cheap material such as MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is not worth the elbow grease.
Is it the work of a notable craftsman? Carefully inspect the antiques for marks, carvings, or labels that might point out to its origin. Regardless of the age, refinishing high-quality furniture made by a notable manufacturer or craftsman should either be avoided or left to skilled professionals.
What is the least invasive method to give the furniture a facelift? It’s advisable to take the least invasive path when refinishing an antique. If cleaning out the debris and performing minor repairs serves the purpose, take that path.
Time & Effort
How much work will go into refinishing the piece? The time and effort it takes to restore an antique to its former glory depend on several factors. Consider whether the spindles or slats are close together, the level of filigree work, the sturdiness of the structure, the type of wood, and whether the different components need individual applications.
How will the final product look? Some antiques lie neglected in a dark attic for decades. Time and the elements of nature take a toll on the furniture – hiding its pure form. Before refinishing an antique, always look for signs of the original wood (color and grain) in a protected spot. This spot could be on the backside, underneath the drawers’ surface, or the inner side of a drawer front.
Deciding whether to refinish antique furniture boils down to inspecting the piece and making the best judgment.