Written by me, Blake Soule for the Commerical Appeal, Memphis TN
Ask The Expert
Q & A with Soulé Furniture Restoration owner,
Q: Is my furniture worth refinishing?
It depends. Most furniture that was made around 1995 and before seems to be higher quality than the furniture that is now made overseas. When old furniture is refinished you have a custom finish that is also built better. This seems to be the case no matter who the manufacturer. Cheap overseas furniture forced everyone to cut corners in order to compete in the furniture market.
Q: Why is my furniture that was once shiny, now dull?
Lemon oil dries with a flat sheen and causes the problem that it claims to resolve. Silicon (Pledge) is shiny but causes a lot of other problems depending on how much and how often you use it, but it is better than oils. Paper is also quite abrasive and dulls the sheen on a top.
Q: How do I clean or dust my furniture?
I recommend distilled water and distilled vinegar mixed 50/50 for smudges. Do not spray the solution on the furniture but on the cotton wash cloth. Dry dust with a microfiber cloth.
Q: Should I polish my furniture, and, if so, what should I use?
No. All polish will build up and cause several problems, and it does not moisturize the wood.
Q: "Antiques Roadshow" advises that refinishing and repairing antique furniture destroys its value. Is this true?
Actually, according to ARS, "Well-conceived and well-executed refinishing and restoration usually enhances the value of just about any piece of old furniture," except for museum-quality furniture.
To learn more about furniture maintenance and restoration, check out Blake Soulé's blog: www.FurnitureRestoration.com.
The answer to this question used to be to look for dovetailed drawers, solid drawer sides and bottoms. I would say to stay away from any very dark colors and very flat finishes which are used to hide flaws of every type.
Q: Should I look for solid wood furniture?
Most people think that solid wood means "quality" but this is not entirely true. This may be one aspect of quality, but it has a lot of inherent problems. Solid wood moves by expanding and contracting with changes in relative humidity which causes a lot of cracks, splits and warps which are characteristic of solid wood. Most manufacturers cannot afford all the merchandise returns so they are forced to use MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and particle board.
Q: Does veneered furniture point to poor quality?
No, I call it a "Necessary Evil" along with MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), which is normally the substrate for veneer. These two materials are the solution to solid wood movement.
Q: What is the most important thing I can do to take care of my wood furniture?
Since wood is reacting to relative humidity, which in turn causes pressure on joints and veneer to release, invest in an evaporative humidifier and maintain your home humidity between 40 percent and 60 percent. In Memphis, this is most important during the winter.