Buying a piece of vintage furniture is a great way to
enjoy the designs of the past and it’s also good for
the environment, but how do you look after these pieces
so they can be enjoyed by future generations?
When it comes to restoration and conservation, you
really need to know what your doing before you consider
repainting, reupholstering, or repairing vintage furniture.
My advice is to do your research so that you can restore
pieces as faithfully and gently as possible so you retain
the integrity of the piece. Many state galleries and museums,
especially the Powerhouse in Sydney, have conservation
departments that will often provide you with free advice on
the best ways to conserve your treasured post-war furniture.
Resist the temptatation to be a DIY king or queen by
practicing you new found talents on a rare Featherston
chair or Krimper cabinet. Rule of thumb is, unless you
are skilled, always get a professional to carry out repairs
on your quality pieces. Do your homework and ask reputable
dealers or other collectors who they get to carry out work
on their furniture or join a group such as The Furniture
History Society and get access to expert advice and
the opportunity to meet up with others who share
It a good idea to familiarize yourself with the type of
timbers, paint and other materials used in the
production of your furniture so that you know the best
ways to look after and preserve your favorite pieces.
Most timber furniture doesn’t like extremes in temperature,
so avoid leaving your quality pieces in damp rooms or in
places which get too much direct sunlight. And where
appropriate use a quality furniture wax (see your antique
shop) once or twice a year for added protection. Avoid
using cheap supermarket polishes, these products are
often not natural and can damage fine furniture.
For metal furniture such as Meadmore chairs and
other steel rod pieces, removing rust can often be
a big problem. Surface rust can easily be removed with
Quadruple zero (0000) fine steel wool soaked in a little
Linseed oil or WD 40. For severe rust, you can use a
product called rustconverter, which chemically treats
the rust and turns it black. Always test products on
a small section in a less obvious place first just to make
sure you get the correct result. In cases where the piece
is extremely rusty, there is often no other option than
to have it professionally sandblasted and resprayed,
which is surprisingly quite inexpensive.
Australian post-war furniture is often beautiful,
sometimes fragile, but always old. So always
get professional advice and try to preserve the
original character as much as possible so that
others can also enjoy it in the future.
For more expert information and tips on conservation
check out the Collections Australia Network website.