Buying unrestored: Custom antique restorations means usability

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One of the best things about controlling your own restorations is the ability to decide what the final result will look like. This end result can sometimes be as important as the original because the “customer’s customer” is going to be thinking about where and how the piece will fit into their home. Often a “buy or not buy” decision will be made based on small details. Because ethnic furnishings is a industry like any other, as buyers one must think also about the end consumer and factor their needs into any buying decisions.

For some pieces its best to restore it as closely as possible to the original. Many consider it blasphemy to significantly modify an antique piece and for Chinese classical antiques I would agree. However for more common Chinese country antiques, modifications during restoration may be the best choice.

This wonderful sideboard was a great find, if a bit unusual and clunky at first. The left and right portions of the sideboard are completely open – no back, no sides, no bottom. The carved panels along the top were completely open as well. Here are some of the changes we made to make the piece a bit more “home friendly.”

  1. Add bottom floor board to the left & right open sections.
  2. Add a back panel and two side panels to the left & right open sections.
  3. Install shelves, rather then leaving these huge open (and unusable) spaces.
  4. Modify carvings in top section, turning them into working drawers.
  5. Stain new panels to match original colors.
  6. Replace missing handles & fittings.

In the final (bottom) set of photos you can see the end result – a beautiful antique sideboard which is both usable in the home and visually attractive.

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