In with the old

In with the old

There’s a certain charm, an intrigue to furniture that’s been used and appreciated and loved before. Pieces that wear their patina with pride and tell a story or two. There’s also, we think, enormous satisfaction in reviving those in a sorrier state and giving them a new lease of life, providing function and something pretty to look at once again. The gentle restoration of well-designed, well-made furniture is pleasant antidote to a world which spins seemingly faster every day.

The preservation of character

Furniture crafted to a high standard from good materials can be revitalised and adapted for contemporary use time and time again, regardless of when it was first made. One of the joys of second-hand furniture is that every bang and scrape it has endured amasses to create a unique piece, with shape and form and character evident from every angle. A second joy is that it can be used as intended, it can soak up the bumps and bashes from everyday life and can eventually be repaired.

The trick of restoration therefore is to ensure the preservation of character, adapt for modern functionality where necessary and, above all, honour the original design.

Designs of distinction

Of course the question of “good” design is subjective, hence furniture comes in boundless styles and genres. Charles Eames’ philosophy gave serious weight to functionality, but with value on appearance: “Don’t give us that good design crap, the real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?” William Morris took a not dissimilar view: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

So we are looking for clever, thoughtful design, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional, with a comprehensive approach to restoration, considering an object’s past, present and future use. Where has a material or an object come from, what does it need to do now, how will it function in 10, 50, 100 years’ time?

New furniture in old clothing

We are bombarded on a daily basis with the mantra that shiny and new is better than old; that we can ‘upgrade’ our lives at the click of a button. The irony here (within the furniture industry) is that a quick search of the most popular current designs are modern reproductions of past design eras; whether mid-century minimalism, Art-Deco extravagance or sturdy, sensible ‘brown’ furniture.

Another recent idea has been to mass produce ‘pre-distressed’ new furniture, in a way mimicking trends often seen in the fashion industry - ripped jeans anyone? Almost unbelievably it is now acceptable to have a preference for something new that looks old as opposed to something that is simply, well, old. Further, unless purchasing a bespoke item, anything new is likely one of thousands produced.

There will always be a need for good quality, new furniture that is well-considered, sustainably sourced and built with care. Such furniture, by dint of its provenance and design quality, will (almost) always sit very comfortably alongside older furniture which has been well looked after or restored.

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