Antique furniture adds character to home décor, especially if the pieces were handed down to you from family members. You should enjoy your furniture, whenever possible, but extra special care will help preserve your pieces for future generations to enjoy.
Avoid placing historical furniture in direct sunlight. Over time, light damages the surface of the piece, causing it to fade. This is especially problematic if the piece fades unevenly, because part of it is protected from sunlight but part of it is exposed. Observe your room at different times of day and in different seasons. Choose a spot that is completely in the shade or receives limited sunshine during the day.
Do not strip or refinish your furniture on your own. You should also seek the advice of a furniture conservator before cleaning a piece or applying waxes. Most commercially made products are not recommended for antiques.
Insist that guests use coasters to protect surfaces from water spots and glass rings. Use potholders and trivets to protect buffets, sideboards and tables from hot plates and serving dishes. A tablecloth will protect your table from light damage, but remember spills will go through and potentially harm the surface of the wood. Consider placing a waterproof barrier, such as mylar cut to size – between the table and tablecloth.
Place furniture that you don’t want to be used often in a remote area of your home, such as a hallway or guest room. A chair in your living room or family room will be used much more often, so consider the space before deciding on a location.
If a piece is too fragile for your guests to actually use, but you still like the way it looks in your home, make sure they know not to sit on it. Place a small sign that reads something like: “I’m very fragile! Please do not sit on me.” It will make a great conversation piece for your next gathering.
For more information about caring for antique furniture, check out these recommended books: