If you are fortunate enough to possess fine antique furniture, you will wish to keep it looking good and staying that way. With a little loving attention, a good piece should last another century or two, giving the same pleasure to succeeding generations that you have had while it has been in your care. The following tips from leading restorers have been successfully tried and tested over many years.
- Antique furniture should never be placed close to heating vents, radiators or any source of direct heat or direct sunlight, as this can lead to veneers lifting and joints drying out. When wood is subjected to a dry atmosphere, it gradually gives up moisture and starts to shrink and split along the grain. It should be kept at least two feet from any heat source. Proper humidity levels are considered essential to the integrity of antique furniture and is the responsibility of the purchaser. It is advisable to invest in a good humidifier, either the free-standing type that uses several quarts of water a day, or one that can be plumbed-in permanently in a central location of the house. For a normal indoor temperature of 60-70 degrees, aim to maintain 45-55% relative humidity. Buy a good quality hygrometer at the hardware store to monitor humidity levels.
- Dust with a soft cotton cloth or feather duster. Do not use spray dusters as they contain silicone which can ultimately damage your wax finish.
- Do not overpolish furniture; too much wax can become sticky. For most furniture once a year should be enough. A dining table in daily use should perhaps be wax polished more often. Use only a good quality paste wax (carnauba), not a commercial spray or wax. Follow the directions on the can. Put one or two tablespoons of wax inside a few layers of cheese cloth or old cotton tee-shirt and knead the wax through the cloth, forming a pad. Rub in the direction of the grain. Avoid smears and streaks by rubbing the wax as evenly as possible. Buff with a clean lint-free soft cloth to a mellow luster. The heat produced by friction when polishing softens the wax and the pressure of the hand produces a flat, reflective surface. This is what gives the piece of furniture it’s shine.
- A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water is also a good cleaner if a dining table gets greasy or sticky. Use a damp cloth, not wet. Rub dry and wax sparingly.
- Drawers that do not run well can be eased by rubbing pieces of candle wax along the friction parts, i.e., runners and sides.
- Do not set drinks glasses, vases of flowers, hot containers etc., on surfaces without a coaster or mat protection. Serious water or heat marks on table surfaces should only be dealt with by a professional restorer.
- • If pieces of inlay or veneer come off, e.g., when dusting, be sure to keep them, however small. They will save hours of a restorer’s time – and your money.
- The patina that builds up on a piece of furniture as a result of many years of wear, polishing, oxidation and light, is very precious. Patina is the aging process that distinguishes poor quality from the very best. Unless the surface is really very badly marked and the finish no longer protects the wood adequately, you should never consider having the surface stripped and re-polished.
- Regard your fine furniture as something requiring regular maintenance, like your house and your car, and get a good professional restorer to look it over every few years. In this way you will minimize the amount of major work to be done in the long run.
English antiques add exquisite quality and history to any home. Here at Susan Silver Antiques, English antiques are our number one focus. The English are especially known for their elegant use of fine woods such walnut, mahogany, oak, satinwood and rosewood. Our formal English antiques include the following wonderful examples; an English antique 18th century George II walnut lowboy and an English early 18th century George II oak dresser base with a fantastic shaped apron. These can be seen on our website, susansilverantiques.com. An elegant example of the use of satinwood and ebony can be seen in our 19th century Anglo-Indian wardrobe. In the world of English Antiques, anyone would be proud to own these wonderful examples.
We would like to share some interesting facts about English antiques with you. They are categorized into several popular periods. Each period style has its own defining characteristics, whether it is the overall shape of a piece, how it is decorated or the materials used, which makes it easier to identify the era the piece belongs to.
We begin with Queen Anne, 1702-1715. During this time, design was restrained with elegant proportions. These elements were more important than the decoration. The wood used was primarily walnut. Characteristics included cabriole legs, ball and claw feet and vase-shaped back splats.
Following Queen Anne is the Georgian period 1715-1811, incorporating the reigns of the King Georges I, II and III. In the early part of the 18th century walnut was favored; toward the end of the period mahogany became the dominant wood. Furniture design displayed rectilinear shapes and neo-classical ornamentation. This was a time when the influences of William Kent, Thomas Chippendale, Thomas Hope, Thomas Sheraton, Robert Adam and George Hepplewhite had an increasingly powerful impact on the styles of the day through their design books. They all excelled at interpreting classical and Renaissance forms mixed with delicate ornamentation whether in a house, a chair or a teapot.
The Rococo period overlapped the Queen Anne and lasted through the George II period. It was known for its rejection of the earlier Baroque style which was lavishly decorated with heavy carving. Rococo was lighter in feeling, using curvaceous bombe forms, asymmetrical ornaments and the cabriole leg. Favorite motifs include shells, ribbons and flowers.
The Regency era is the period between 1811 — when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent — and 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV on the death of his father. It was linked to a renewed interest in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It was a very elegant refined period with emphasis on decorative motifs, such as the Greek key and other applied ornamentations, often gilded. The pinnacled, mosque like Pavilion at Brighton, England reflects his innovative, inspired influences. During this era Chinoiserie style was developed from a European fascination with exotic porcelain, lacquerware and other forms of decorative art imported from China and Japan. Some of the motifs included pagodas, landscapes and water scenes, dragons and lotus blossoms.
After George IV, came William IV, which was a short period and ran from 1830-1837. This era was known for having heavier lines than the Regency period with a more masculine appearance.
The Victorian era, spanning the entire reign of Queen Victoria, ran from 1837 to 1901. The use of walnut became popular again. Ornamentation became more ornate as the period progressed. There was an emphasis on comfort with many forms of upholstered furniture. During this period furniture became mass produced as industrialization was introduced. Later Victorian styles included the Aesthetic movement, the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau.
Into the 20th century we arrive at the Edwardian period, 1901-1910. Features from this period include some great revivals from other periods such as Georgian, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Chippendale and Gothic. Highlights include rectilinear forms and wooden inlays. Proportions during this time were less generous, with thinner arms, legs and splats.
One more style that incorporates many of the aforementioned eras; this is the Gothic style, which was first developed in England in the 18th century. The style was revived during the Regency period and then again in the late 19th century. Gothic furniture was influenced by medieval religious architecture.
In addition to the fabulous English antique furniture, the English also developed a fondness for beautiful ceramics. Ever since Marco Polo’s expedition to the Far East and his discovery of China in 1275, souvenirs have been brought back to England. Exotic treasures were collected as status symbols and for their decorative qualities. By the 17th century, organized trade was well established. The greatest of all Chinese exports was porcelain. Great quantities of monochrome, blue and white, and polychrome vases, large dishes and entire services were made for the European market and shipped in large loads. During the 17th century blue and white porcelain was admired to such an extent that it was widely imitated in pottery at Delft in Holland and Staffordshire, Bristol and Worcester in England.
The influences of the Far East are also seen in Chinese lacquer finishes on furniture. This became more prominent with the English in the 17th century and maintained its popularity into the 18th and 19th century. Over time lacquers and other various painted finishes as well as carved gilt wood have assumed a more important position in the antique decorative arts. Some of these finishes are light in feeling and are very elegant and sophisticated.
Please take a moment to browse our website at susansilverantiques.com and take a look at our great inventory of English antiques. As you look at this fine collection, we are sure you’ll share the enthusiasm for this genre as we do!