Questions and Quandaries

>> 2.10.2014

Occasionally I will feature a reader question or quandary and today's is a pretty special one. I hope you'll humor me while I highlight another sister again, but she came up with idea, and gave me a pretty awesome first submission.

 So with that, here's Missy.

"This is a table that belonged to my husband John's paternal grandfather and has been handed down to his father and then to us. It was used in Michigan where my husband's family originated. There are marks on the underside of the table where they attached machines for processing deer and other meat that they hunted and caught. It's about 3'x3' without leaves and has 7 leaf extensions. Four of the chairs match and two are slightly different. We have a picture of a man who is part of the Cuffe family (my husband and son's middle name) standing outside a house where the two un-matching chairs are on the porch behind him. He died in 1905, leading us to believe the table and chairs are actually much older than that.

So my question is, do I embrace and repair some of the wicker on the chairs to restore them to their original glory? Do I take the wicker off and replace it with upholstery? Or do I just sew new seat cushions to keep the wicker protected? I'm inclined to make cushions and I think that's the route John wants to go too, I just thought I would get your opinion.

Also, any tips for properly repairing parts of antique furniture without stripping off all of the original finish (which we really don't want to do,) would be helpful. Thanks!"

Here's the gorgeous centurion now.

I'm dying over this set! The wood grain! The details! The HISTORY! I die...

First of all, let's talk about furniture value and restoration. An antique is considered most valuable when it is left in its original condition. Once you have changed or altered the original finish, it immediately loses value. Now I know that Missy and John don't care about the monetary value of the table and chairs, but keeping the set as true to its original form is important to them. And I agree completely. 

Think of all the history, all of the things done around this table and the generations of people that sat in these chairs. Stripping it away is like stripping away history. Each nick and irregularity is a memory, and combined they tell a story of a family. Is it pathetic that I actually get emotional about this? .....sniff......


I actually learned something doing research for this. There are a lot of cleaning and polishing techniques floating around on the internet that involve oil, vinegar, lemon, etc. Although I see nothing wrong with using those products on newer solid wood furniture that you don't plan on passing down to your children, when you're dealing with a true antique, you need to be very careful about what you put on your furniture. 

Oil, according to many antique experts, actually causes damage to the wood, soaking into the open grains and causing the wood to oxidize, therefore turning it black. Huh. 

The experts at Antiques Roadshow have a little bit to say about that.

As does the Antique Almanac here:

So if Missy wants to be a true purist and maintain the current condition of the finish and keep the table and chairs in good shape for generations to come, she should follow the advice of the experts above by cleaning with Murphy Oil Soap, and follow it with a good waxing with Minwax Finishing Paste. 

Now on to the wicker! I haven't seen these chairs in person, but we will just assume that the wicker is original. The wicker on the chairs is actually in really good shape, considering how old the chairs are and how many children have climbed all over them for ONE HUNDRED YEARS. And we have established that making changes to the furniture loses its value, AND Missy and John prefer to cover the chairs with cushions to protect them. So let's go fabric shopping!

A few of my favorite websites for fabric are Tonic Living, Spoonflower, and

Based on the color scheme in the rest of missy's house, the surrounding decor, and the style of the table and chairs, I have picked a few fabric choices. She wants something lighter, to brighten up the dark wood and rug and she would prefer a durable outdoor material, and doesn't want to spend an arm and a leg. So some of these may not be appropriate, but I picked them to show some different style options. And it's always nice to dream a little, right?

This first one is one of my favorites. It's a feather pattern chevron and the color is awesome.

Mint Feather Aarow by Spoonflowe
Moroccan is really popular right now, and I love the color combo here. 
Linen Tile Caribe by Spoonflower
 Missy mentioned that her mother-in-law loves birds, so that's why I chose the next two.

Serene Songbirds from Spoonflower

This one is a little more subtle, but its still a lighter fabric that will blend in with her current decor.

Going with a solid, woven outdoor fabric is a good durable option. The texture compliments the ruggedness of the table, and the solid color is versatile.  
Sunnyside by tonic living

Arrows are big right now, and I really like this pattern.
Blue Chevron by spoonflower

This last one is a little funky, but I think it's an interesting and trendy way to pay homage to the history of the table.

The fabric options online are endless, which is a little overwhelming, but hopefully this helps Missy get a better idea of what she wants.

So which one do you think Missy should pick?

Leave a comment and give her some furniture love!

Also, if you have a question or quandary related to furniture, interior decorating, or the like, email me at!


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