Maybe it’s Time to Restore That Cherished Piece of Fine Furniture

August 23rd, 2012 by

by David J. Currie

President, David J. Currie Upholstery

Many of us have a favorite sofa, wingback chair or love seat that we wouldn’t think of parting with, but really needs some repair. Maybe the fabric is worn or the wood finishing has tarnished or the cushioning has gone flat. Or maybe, tucked away in the spare room or attic is a cherished antique or family heirloom that you have always wanted to restore, but didn’t quite know how to go about it.

There is a significant difference between repairing and restoring furniture. With a repair we are achieving functionality of the furniture piece, ensuring that it will now work as originally intended. Replacing broken or squeaky wood members, torn upholstery and flattened or disfigured cushioning would be included here. This can bring on a new life for an otherwise well-worn or even beat-up piece of furniture.

Simple repairs on furniture can sometimes be done at home by someone who is handy with tools, re-gluing a broken chair leg or replacing a screw or bolt. But repairs involving refilling cushioning or replacing upholstery should be left to a professional upholsterer.

With fine furniture and antiques, one may desire to go a bit further, into restoration of the piece. The main goal of restoration is to bring back the original appearance of the furniture, as well as its functionality. Furniture restoration can be as simple as a light cleaning to remove disfiguring dirt or grime, or it may include an almost complete rebuilding or replacement of the piece. Restoration can even extend into conservation of the furniture, which is aimed at preserving the piece against future deterioration.

Restoring furniture properly not only requires extensive technique and an understanding of the history of the item, it is also an art form.

For many people, there is little value in an antique that is unusable or not able to be displayed, but most would still like the item to reflect an aesthetic that shows its age. An over-restored item can actually take away from its originality and perceived value.

Restoration of wooden furniture can involve a number of steps such as paint stripping to reveal the natural wood, sanding to remove knocks and scratches, joint repair and gluing, the reduction or elimination of warping and bowing of individual frame wood pieces and other steps as needed. All wood surfaces should then be sealed with a deep coat of penetrating preservative to protect the old, and usually, dry wood. In the finishing process, it is generally desirable to match the original patina of the wood.

The patina is the natural sheen on wooden furniture produced by age, wear and polishing. Harsh stripping can remove this naturally-aged finish. If the original patina-look is not desired, then a finish which retains the essence of the piece and its time period should be created. Producing an aged finish requires a fair degree of skill, however. The finish also acts to preserve and protect the furniture. When the finishing is done, the piece can now be reassembled or put through whatever reupholstering is needed.

Reupholstering fine furniture and antiques usually involves complete restoration. Beginning with the removal of all of the old fabric and padding right down to the frame, any necessary repairs can now be done and reconstruction can begin. Traditional padding materials and techniques are used to ensure authenticity. This includes the installation of fresh webbing, retying or replacing coil springs, burlap, hair pad, cotton padding, buttons and tufting, channel backs, and adding any new cushioning required to restore the original shape and usable state to the furniture. The right selection and matching of fabrics, leathers and patterns is critical to a properly finished or restored piece.

Each piece of furniture is unique, and should be worked to achieve the finished product desired. When restoring fine furniture, and particularly antiques, it will be found that each piece has its own individual character, history and challenges. Therefore, no two pieces are handled with exactly the same procedures. Techniques will vary somewhat to accommodate the individual needs of each piece of furniture.

The complete restoration of a furniture piece usually results in far better quality than what is commonly available on the market today. Custom upholstering, for example, that provides an unlimited selection of fabric textures, styles and colors to choose from is far superior to any ready-made factory furniture.

Furniture restoration, professionally done, not only ensures that a piece retains or increases its perceived and monetary value after restoration, but more importantly it creates a beautiful and functional piece of furniture that can add character, color and renewed life to a room. And that, many will agree, is the real beauty in restoring a cherished piece of fine furniture.

About David J. Currie Upholstery

David J. Currie Upholstery has been servicing clients in the Western New York area since 1980 and is skilled in all facets of furniture repair, restoration and conservation. It provides expertise to antique and fine furniture owners, including private clients and antiques dealers.

Currie Upholstery services include replacing fabrics and cushioning, polishing and repairs, period and hand-rubbed finishes, touch-up and color matching, chair repair and re-gluing, French polishing, reconditioning existing finishes, gilding and frame repair, faux finishes, hardware and metal polishing, furniture refinishing, stain removal, mold and mildew removal, repairs to chewed furniture, and inlay and carving repair. The shop provides free estimates and in-home consultations, and no-charge pick-up and delivery.

For more information on David J. Currie Upholstery, please contact David Currie; Phone 716-374-3632; 332 South Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14201; email;