Replacing Antique Upholstery

September 25, 2013

There are many hazards that upholstery will encounter over the course of years. Sunlight causes dyes to fade. Insects chew holes through things. People are rough on their environment, including the furnishings in that environment. With all these things degrading it, there is little wonder that outside a museum, any furniture that can justly be called an antique could use a little sprucing up. Deciding to do so requires a little thought to avoid making mistakes.

Before deciding what to do and how, it is crucial to consider whether to do anything at all. For items with collector value, much of that value lies in the age of the materials comprising the item. Classic car enthusiasts run into this concept often. They embark on a labor of love, spending countless dollars and hours turning a rusty eyesore into a vehicle that looks like it just drove off the showroom floor and performs even better than it did when it was new... but, to collectors they have created a replica. To avoid encountering the same situation, anyone who is interested in the monetary value of the antique furniture in question as opposed to the simple joy of being able to use something steeped in history should do some serious investigation to determine what level of restoration can be accomplished while still having the piece considered a true antique.

If the furniture owner has decided that the monetary value of the piece does not matter or it has been determined that reupholstering the antique furniture will not adversely affect that value, the next essential point is whether and how to simulate age on the new upholstery. When replacing antique upholstery, the point is not to make it look brand new again, but to put it in functional condition while retaining the character that age brings. Cloth fades over time. Leather develops a patina that a skilled eye can use to roughly judge its age. It takes knowledge and experience to simulate these things with new materials.

Lastly, the actual assembly must be considered. Remember, most antique furniture was built by hand. The craftsman who did so likely spent years perfecting his craft. This being the case, it is likely that a complete novice will encounter a nightmare of a time trying to disassemble and reassemble the piece using the same methods.

With all these things to consider, a choice needs to be made. If the item's authenticity as an antique is not a consideration and the owner simply likes its appearance, a do it yourself approach may be fine. For valuable pieces or those that need to retain their character in a repaired incarnation, turning to someone with experience to handle the task is almost certainly the better option.

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