What to look for when buying period furniture:
1. Once you've found a piece of furniture you'd like to purchase, research as much as possible about the piece: the manufacturer, the designer, the number of known pieces of the same model or variations that were made.
2. Find out if the item is considered to be an important piece by the manufacturer/designer. Does it have any special features? What is its "provenance" (previous owners); perhaps it's been part of an important collection or was owned by someone of notoriety?
3. Get help from an expert to:
— Examine the construction methods to see if they correspond with ones used during the period the piece was made.
— Look for tell-tale signs of repair, replaced or retrofitted parts.
— Determine if the various woods used to make the piece came from a geographical area consistent with where the item was made. For pieces from the 20th and 21st century, it's important to evaluate the newer industrial materials, such as synthetic finishes and pre-fabricated substrates (plywood, particle board).
— Establish if the finish was used during the period. If it is original, assess the condition.
— Look for signs of how the piece has aged. Has the colour faded? Has it darkened to the point of obscuring the wood? Are the veneers secure?
— Check that the wood has its natural patina.
— Check if the upholstery fabric is original. Inspect the stuffing. Is it from the period? Determine how many times the piece has been reupholstered by checking the nail piercings in the wood.
— Evaluate any ornaments, accents, inlays, brasses, etc., to determine if any have been replaced.
Once you've determined a piece is worthy of purchase, how to maintain and restore it:
— A simple wood nourishment will help preserve the patina if the item has the original finish.
— If the finish is good but not original, apply a wood nourishment. If the condition of the finish detracts from the beauty of the piece, consider refinishing it.
— If there is structural damage, no matter how minor, it should be repaired to avoid further deterioration.
Source: Miguel Saco Restoration Inc.