Monday, August 3, 2015

The art of preserving your antique furniture

Antiques call for a great deal of attention. The aim of conservation is to preserve the furniture in its original condition. Since furniture comes in a combination of different kinds of wood, metal, glass, fabric and plastic, each has to be dealt with delicately, in its own way. And furniture being functional is subject to wear and tear, and dents, scraped surfaces , worn pieces of metal or fabric are to be preserved as part of the artefacts history. Preventive conservation can prolong the life of an antique.

Environment
Light radiation attacks furniture, breaking down its finish, damaging fabric and leather, making wood brittle and can lead to change of colour. Ultraviolet and infra-red light must be eliminated. A conservator will recommend 15 foot candles for most organics and 5 foot candles for textiles and coloured furniture. Direct sunlight on the furniture must be avoided. Effective shades should be used to filter out light.

Drastic fluctuations in humidity can be very damaging. Since mould and fungi grow rapidly in still air and darkness, switching on the light and increasing circulation of air will slow down their growth.

Pests
Furniture made of organic material is susceptible to attacks by pests, which seek crevices in unsuspecting places and slowly break down furniture. If you spot fresh wood powder dropping from your furniture, it’s a clear indication of infestation. If the part can be removed, it must be put in a large polythene bag with a black paper below the infected part, and isolated from the rest of the collection. After a few days if it persists, you must call for professional conservator’s help.

Caution: Amateurs can do more harm than good to your dear collection.

Installation:
Keep furniture away from direct sunlight, heat rays and damp surfaces. Always see to it that a piece is supported evenly on all its feet. Don’t overload drawers and refrain from using them often, to prevent wear. Use effective shades to keep out light. Cover furniture with fabric that allows breathing and keeps out dust.

Maintenance.

Generally, water-based cleaning solutions should never be used. Washed, lint-free rugs are fine for dusting. Glass taps can be cleansed with alcohol on cotton swabs. Marble tops can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Re-wax finish, if necessary. Metal pieces like knobs, or handles should be cleaned in a solution of ammonia on cotton swabs, rinsed with distilled water and dried thoroughly. Vacuum upholstered pieces. 

You may be tempted to sit on period upholsteries, but you mustn't. Seek professional advice in case of doubt.