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Some of us have been lucky enough to inherit a beautiful, but beaten, piece of antique furniture. It may be tempting to spruce up an old Chippendale armchair by slapping on a new coat of paint, but you may actually decrease the value of the piece in your attempt to restore it.
So how do you decide whether or not to refinish your antique furniture? There are a couple of factors you should consider before pulling out the sandpaper.
Do you like the way it looks? You shouldn’t feel compelled to sand out every scratch in an attempt to make the piece look brand new. Many collectors prefer a piece that is aged with patina and that has little imperfections, believing that bruises add to an item’s history. Some will even take a new piece of furniture and distress it by roughing it up with power tools, or by applying a special paint to give it an “antique finish.”
Do you plan on selling it for a profit, and are you aware of the piece’s history?If concerned about the potential value, ask someone in the antique business for their opinion. If it’s a large piece, take pictures of it to a dealer and ask them for their input.
Refinishing doesn’t usually destroy the value of antique furniture, and if done professionally can actually enhance it. However if the piece is extremely old or has historical significance, you’ll want to preserve its original finish.
If you’re still undecided, try giving your antique a good cleaning. It’s amazing what a little bit of soap, followed up by a good polishing can do. Just be sure to research the appropriate cleaning technique required for your particular piece of furniture. Before cleaning the whole surface, test your method out on a small area that isn’t highly visible.