Some Key Principles of Restoration

Certainly, it is possible if one possesses woodworking skills. Alternatively, you can entrust the task to a neighbor who has worked in carpentry. However, there are some things to consider:

Firstly, it is essential to determine the age and value of your furniture. If you accidentally tear off the veneer of a table from the 1950s (instead of repairing a few peeled areas and recoating it with a thick layer of tinted lacquer), the disaster won't be too great. However, such actions have been seen on furniture that is nearly 200 years old. The age and value of the furniture are best assessed by a specialist (relying solely on the evaluation of antique store employees is not always reliable, as not all of them are furniture experts, and not everyone is objective). The older and more valuable the furniture, the more strictly restoration principles should be adhered to. The idea that furniture is needed not for a museum but for personal use can sometimes lead to disappointment.


Restoration requires not only technical skills but also a deep understanding of the history, material characteristics, and artistic aspects of furniture.


To carry out furniture restoration, it is advisable to adhere to a few principles as much as possible:


  1. Preserve authentic old furniture elements to the maximum extent. It is necessary to try to preserve and use all parts of the furniture that can still perform their functions (wood, upholstery, furniture fabric) and add as few new elements as possible. The common saying among many carpenters, "it is easier to make from scratch than to restore," is entirely out of place.
  2. Avoid radical irreversible actions. The principle of reversibility is one of the most important in restoration. It is highly likely that this restoration will not be the last for your furniture. The most common and irreversible mistake made by non-professional craftsmen is rough, thoughtless sanding and scraping of furniture—the veneer is sanded through, and woodcuts lose their shape, and so on. Sanding with mechanical sanders and scraping with glass shards should be avoided! One should also steer clear of inadequately tested synthetic materials and technologies (synthetic glues, finishing materials). Even if you choose a modern synthetic varnish, you may find that the next furniture restoration will be disproportionately time-consuming (expensive) or even impossible. If you entrust your furniture to be restored by a craftsman, be sure to ask what materials he plans to work with.
  3. Respect the natural aging of furniture (patina). Mahogany, oak, and other wood rich in tannins become darker over time due to exposure to light. Shellac polish enhances the depth of the wood texture, and over time, this effect only intensifies, even if it loses its initial gloss and becomes matte. Do not try to improve the furniture to make it look completely new.
  4. Do not eliminate traces of earlier restorations. The same goes for furniture transformations if they are almost as old as the item itself. This indicates changes in taste and fashion over time. Eliminating such transformations does not guarantee that you have restored the furniture to its original appearance.
  5. Restoration of lost elements should only be done if you have reliable information. Identical or symmetrical decorative elements are used for making copies. But beautifying an item with inappropriate decorations should be avoided.
  6. Do not try to improve or transform furniture.
  7. Do not make quick and thoughtless decisions. Before starting restoration, think through the entire process and create an action plan. If necessary, seek advice from restorers, museum staff, and art scientists. Restorers are more willing to provide consultations rather than correct the consequences of improper restoration.
  8. Keep records of information about the furniture before restoration and the work done. Restorers create restoration passports for all significant works.
  9. Remember that non-professional furniture 'restoration' can significantly reduce the value of the item. If you think that you will somehow fix the furniture yourself and then sell it at a higher price, the opposite may happen."


Juris Kraulis