Ask the Experts: The Antiques Restorer

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

How should you evaluate flea-­market finds?
Make sure the piece is in untouched condition, meaning it comes straight from an estate to the dealer. For furniture, make sure it’s structurally sound, and that it has stable legs and drawers that open and close—the cost of replacing these will outweigh a good deal. Look for a finish that’s at least mostly intact. If you have to strip the finish entirely and start again, that’s a huge project.

Describe your personal connection to antiques.
I literally grew up with antiques; my parents had an antique store in the South of France. Since the store was part of the house where we lived, balusters, columns, urns, you name it, overflowed into our garden. It was a way of life. I often came back from school to find out that my bed, desk, or armoire had been sold and replaced.

What’s the craziest thing someone’s brought in?
I once had to relacquer an Art Deco wood toilet seat with the historically correct off-white color.

Can you fix anything?
Don’t confuse me with a Park Avenue plastic surgeon—I can’t turn back time. Also, don’t make an old hutch into an entertainment unit. The painful destruction and transformation of an antique puts me off.

What’s the typical cost?
There’s not any one typical cost, due to the nature of this business. Working with antiques is expensive. It’s an investment.

How has your experience restoring antiques informed your collection of leather and wood polishes?
We actually started bottling the formulas I developed here in the studio. Originally, I made them for clients who had pieces restored—to use in case of little dings and for general polishing. The formulas for wood and leather care are all natural and made from organic ingredients; our clients, and customers around the country, want home care that’s not harmful to use around children and pets.

Trick of the Trade
“If you’re shopping for antiques online, make sure there are a lot of photos. The best auction houses and dealers have dozens of photos, including detailed shots of imperfections.”

Ask the Experts: The Antiques Restorer