We get asked a lot of questions that are subjective, and hard or even unethical to answer.
Y do you cost more than Sally’s Upholstery shop or a national chain?
First of all, it is unethical to badmouth other businesses. BUT, if we were to answer (and there is no Sally’s) it is because we’ve taken the time to learn how to repair an antique properly, to assist in keeping its value and integrity. 35 years of paying attention on all our jobs, 35 years of reading, 35 years of classes and working alongside other conscientious professionals. Anyone can staple gun fabric over an existing cover without cleaning the stained fabric and cotton off first and not tell you (but then there is that musty smell coming from the newly upholstered sofa . . . ) Anyone can push some foam into a cushion and call it sitting pretty (until the foam collapses.) It is pretty easy to slap some Gorilla glue on a broken leg and call it done (except that it will look like a broken leg and the next time a 200 lb man sits in it wrong it may break again.) And that polyurethane varnish that says it will cover everything will ruin the value of that nice family heirloom. And in our experience, many national chains are pushing products, not skills, and many of the employees have no in-depth training (a crash course!)
Y can’t you tell me what my piece is worth so I know whether to spend the money or not?
It is unethical. So I want to make a fortune, unethically (and we do not) I tell you that 90-year old chest of drawers your picked up is a real find, a rare 200-year old piece worth $15,000 when it is in good condition, and so my bill for $3500 sounds good. We are not appraisers, though we can authenticate the age of the piece, which can help you obtain a good appraisal.
Y is it important to keep the original finish?
Historic value = monetary value if the original finish is in good condition. Good condition is not mint condition, but can be repaired — that is, rubbed out, cleaned, and infilled with historically accurate and compatible materials, not new products.
Y is it important to preserve the original stuffings?
Upholstered pieces were designed to sit according to the shape and the times in which they were born. Proper stuffings made their frames comfortable, made them sit “right.” Older stuffings and the upholsterers who knew how to engineer a good sit knew the way the human body sits and squirms and fidgets, and built the seats to withstand that movement and last. Hair edgerolls, springs tied properly, pods built properly and properly lashed, and muslin undercoverings to secure them. Spring-filled cushions and backs, biscuit-filled tufting, and hair-filled interior arms. Not foam and Dacron, unless it is appropriate in a modern chair! AND, they won’t collapse (last another century) and will feel great longer AND your expensive showcover (fabric) will not wear prematurely.
(*Gads if there is anything you take away from a-to-z is don’t toss a spring-filled cushion.)
Y can’t I DIY?
You can. But you get what you pay for if you don’t have the skills!
Finally, PLEASE don’t listen to the eHow and other four-paragraph-with-pictures
ways to DIY. I know for a fact they do not know what they are talking about,
as they quoted us while giving advice on cleaning antique fabrics, and we never said it, don’t endorse what they said, and unless I had deep pockets and wanted to sue them,
can’t get them to TAKE IT DOWN. The writers get $7-20 for formula articles
(I went undercover to find out) and don’t even get to write in the filed they KNOW.
So take your pieces to a professional, take a class, read a whole book! Yikes!
©MPF Conservation. May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url +copyright is used as reference.
Thanks to Wikipedia, the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
and the Victoria and Albert Museum for images as noted.