What is Antique Furniture Restoration?

G. Wiesen

Antique furniture restoration is typically a type of furniture repair or cleaning that seeks to return a piece of antique furniture to how it may have looked when new. This type of restoration is typically meant to be noninvasive and leave much of the piece of furniture intact whenever possible. It can include physical repairs, cleanup, replacement of damaged parts, and other minor cosmetic changes that are intended to return the piece to a state that resembles how it may have originally appeared. Antique furniture restoration can be fairly simple or quite complex, depending on the work being done, and though it can add value to some pieces, it can also greatly diminish the value of other pieces.

Restorers try to return antique or vintage furniture to its original condition.
Restorers try to return antique or vintage furniture to its original condition.

In general, the term “antique furniture” usually refers to pieces of furniture that are at least several decades old and often refers to furniture that is hundreds of years old. It is a somewhat subjective term, however, and can be used by different people to refer to many different items. Antique furniture restoration is typically utilized when an older piece of furniture is found or purchased that is fairly worn with age and may look generally dirty. It can be as simple as cleaning dirt off of a table, or as complex as re-hinging the top of a desk, repairing legs on the desk, and refinishing the entire piece.

Antique furniture restoration is usually aimed at bringing a piece of furniture back to how it looked and functioned when it was first made. Updates and major changes can also be done, but this is usually not referred to as “restoration” and is typically frowned upon by furniture collectors. If a particular piece of furniture is especially rare or serves as an excellent example of a particular period or furniture maker, then the restoration should usually be done by a professional. While an amateur furniture collector can perform antique furniture restoration on a piece, it can be a complicated process.

The nature of a piece of furniture and the restoration done to it can greatly impact the value of that object. While the buildup of dirt and dust on a piece of furniture may be seen as unwanted by some people, it can often be referred to as a “patina” and removal of it during antique furniture restoration can greatly diminish the value of a piece. Professional appraisal can often give someone a sense of what work should be done to increase the value of an item, and what type of work should be avoided to keep it valuable.

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