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"Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:05 pm
by shazapple
How authentic do you want your antiques? Does it have to be restored using the same type of glue, finish, fabric, etc as the original woodworker? Or do you believe that antiques still hold their 'antique feel' even when repairing them with modern techniques and materials?
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IMG00269-20110118-1653 (Medium).jpg (90.61 KiB) Viewed 9514 times
My parents have the above pictured couch. The fabric is wearing, the springs are creaky, the horse hair is dusty and lumpy, and the thing is basically unusable to us because it is uncomfortable and allergy inducing! I'm inclined to pull out the guts, stiffen up the 'chassis', and put some more comfortable materials in there (foam or something).

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:31 pm
by Luetic
have nothing in your home that you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful.

If it is not useful make it useful.

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:54 pm
by aberdeen606
I agree! You should fill your home with things you love and think are nice looking. I try to furnish using period furniture, but lets face it, a lot of period Victorian furniture is pretty gawdy and tacky!!! :lol: That's a beautiful sofa by the way. WOuld be real comfortable with some sort of down filling and maybe a silk type fabric I bet. I'm jealous, I've been wanting one of those Empire sofas for a long time! :)

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:55 am
by McCall
Well, it kind of depends on if they are Antique or not. If they are then by all means use original materials and techniques to repair them. If they are just kind of old stuff, or they are reproductions then use whatever works.

With real antiques, you are preserving the VALUE by using the proper methods and materials, even though other materials or methods might LOOK fine.

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:43 am
by Nancy W
The voice of experience here says be cautious with updating sofa's and chairs such as yours. My mother had the same thoughts you have, and removed the old filling and springs from a Victorian piece, replaing with foam. I still have it, however it is not at all comfortable without the springs. It is just TOO hard and unforgiving to be comfortable as the springs were.

Since then, I have redone some furniture and have left the springs, replacing most of the cotton batting and washing the horsehair. I wash it in a tub in the yard, and rinse with a little fabric softener in the rinse water so it doesn't smell like a wet horse. Spread it out on a screen elevated on cement blocks to allow good air circulation as it dries in the sun. You can use foam in additon to the springs if you want to, but it will collect just as much dust as anything else.

My upholestry teacher said that horsehair is the sign of quality furniture, the more, the better; and it should be reused. Some pieces will just have a thin layer on top while others have substantially more. The part-time upholester I help on occaision firmly belives in foam and trys to get rid of springs whenever possible. But I do not find the furniture as comfortable as originally. The springs just need to be retied appropriately. The cord holding them together may have broken after 50 or 100 years.

When I was 20 something, I bought a large scale Victorian parlor set at auction, in very poor condition (the wood was great, but the springs had fallen through the bottom with drywalll holding them up, and the fabric was VERY dirty, it had been in a barn). I was bidding against a dealer and was so afraid the dealer would bid more than I had to spend. I was successful. After the bidding was over the the set, this older man approached me and said, "Young lady, don't you let any upholesterer ruin this set with his new fangled ideas." :mrgreen: Then proceeded to tell me what someone would try to do and that I should not allow it to happen. Removing springs and replacing with foam was not one of his concerns, but foam wasn't so common then.

Good luck. Whatever you decide to do.

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:55 am
by cs
I bought this set from a neighbor of my parents about 15 years ago:

The three large pieces had been placed in a barn back in the 1960's and the stool had been relegated to the attic. In short order, field mice had colonized the barn items, so the farmer ripped everything out of the frames, even the springs, but the stool was left alone.

After purchasing the items, my wife and I had everything reupholstered by a guy who specializes in restoring antiques. We got the recommendation from an antiques dealer we know (as a dealer, he needs quality restoration work done at a price that allows some profit margin for him when he resells the pieces). He was very reasonably priced for us, and he did a great job - though it took something like six months.
His most scathing criticism, was directed at the farmer's decision to discard the original springs from the pieces stored in the barn. His opinion, was that even if you absolutely must discard the soft parts... at least keep the springs. For the stool, he pretty much retained everything except the fabric covering.


Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:31 pm
by Don M
We have a tufted velvet love seat that has been falling apart for years. We've been planning to get it reupolstered but haven't so far. The velvet is not in terrible shape but the springs were falling out under it. Last week I bought some upolstery webbing (cheap) & added it to the underside of the piece, securing it with small screws in place of furniture tacks. The seat now has some spring to it & the springs are no longer falling out on the floor. It was an easy repair & will be good until we finally take it to be properly restored. Don

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:52 pm
by melissakd
If it isn't original (fabric, finish, etc.) and a particularly valuable piece [well said by someone else as antique with a capital A], all you're risking is the feel of its original period. Which will not go away unless you spray it silver and cover it in fuchsia, or something. Even then you're all right unless you *wanted* it to match a house of the turn of the century.

Upholstered furniture, like our old windows, needs to be taken apart every 100 or 150 years, cleaned and touched up as needed, and put back together.

You probably can find fabric along the same lines as that. With renewed stuffing, I bet the springs will be really quite comfortable.


Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 5:40 pm
by matchbookhouse
Springs really are the way to go; foam can harden or break down and become crumbly. As a dealer, I try to keep my pieces as original as possible; that's the whole point of buying antiques. I have had several pieces from the 1870's to the 1920's restrung, using the original springs, and would have kept the original horsehair if it had still been present (my Eastlake settee actually had newspapers stuffed between the springs - aghhh!). I also don't refinish pieces, but restore the finish with Howard's or Restorz-It. Above all, if you're redoing a piece and the original fabric covering is unusable, make sure to use a period-appropriate fabric. There's few things worse looking than an original furniture frame that has been recovered in zebra-print plush or psychedelic 60's fabric. That ruins both the value and aesthetic appeal.

Re: "Antiqueness" of furniture

Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 2:17 am
by Nancy W
I forgot to mention the seat cushion. The sofa from the original post does not appear to have loose seat cushions, however the pictures posted by cs show a chair with a loose cushion. It appears the cushion is NOT foam filled and looks appropriate for the chair. Foam cushions in an antique chair are just too ridgid and don't look right. I guess it is like replacing wood window with vinyl. They just don't look right. Or having one pane of modern glass in a 6 over 6 window where all the other panes are nice wavy glass. It stands out like a sore thumb. Of course that's my opinion.