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Open Cans of Different Paints, Varnish and Stain on White Wooden Background

Open Cans of Different Paints, Varnish and Stain on White Wooden Background )

The Case for Furniture Restoration

Published Sep 27, 2018 • Last Updated 01:59 pm, September 27, 2018

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Finding just the right piece of furniture for that one particular spot in your home can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. So, when you find something that catches your eye, you'll do just about anything to make it work. But, how do you know which pieces are worth upcycling and which are better left at the curb with a large free sign?

Bob Mittelhauser, owner of Saye-Brook Strip Shop, has been in the business of repairing and restoring furniture on the shoreline for the past 35 years. He says the first thing when considering a piece for possible restoration is the quality of construction.

"Make sure your piece has strong secure joints and is in good working condition," says Mittelhauser. "Be aware of moisture damage, which is hard to overcome and may be a chronic condition to a piece that was stored in a damp basement."

Jennifer Cardinal, a design associate at Deep River's Nautical Needles, echoed Mittelhauser's comments.

"If something is made well and has a good frame, then the only thing holding you back from transforming it into anything you want it to be is your own creativity," Cardinal says.

Mary Ellen Collett co-owns Another Look Home Furnishing Consignments in Branford with her husband Edward. They've been in the business of refurbishing furniture for nearly 20 years, and she agrees that the piece's construction is key in deciding whether it's suitable for restoration.

"Every situation is different," says Collett. "You really have to check for a piece's sturdiness, see if there is any peeling of veneer or dark stains in the wood because those are not easy fixes, but if it is solid and sound, usually it can be saved and transformed into something you love and treasure."

"There are not too many things we can't restore, as long as they have structural integrity," Collett continues. "We just re-did a beautiful 1930s Mahogany desk that was painted two different colors and was sitting in a town hall for years. It was not looking so good when it came in, and now it is an absolutely beautiful piece of furniture. The quality of craftsmanship really could not be replicated today so it is wonderful that we were able to bring it back and make it beautiful and functional again."

Collett cautions against attempting an at-home upcycling job.  Do-it-yourselfers should first weigh the time and energy of doing the job alone against the cost of hiring a professional to do the work.

Cardinal explains that each piece is different, and the value of the piece doesn't always matter when determining whether to consider restoration.

"It's really more about what it means to the customer," Cardinal says. "We do a lot of pieces that have a lot of sentimental value, and we can redo pieces in a wide range of price points. We have fabric that is nine or $10 a yard, to fabric that is $300 a yard, so it really just depends on what you want to do and what you want to spend."

"I will say that most of the time the older pieces have better quality frames than what you buy today, so there are definitely times when it's worth it to redo a piece instead of buying new because its better quality and it will last longer," Cardinal continues.

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élan Magazine

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P.O. Box 1010
Madison, CT 06443


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Publisher: Robyn Collins-Wolcott

Editor: Laura Robida

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