It's decision time. Do I restore or replace with new?

Friday 15th May 2020 at 18:21

Many of you will be familiar with the BBC 1 television series ‘The Repair Shop’ where a team of experts repair and restore a wide variety of items accepted for the program, from furniture to clocks and mechanical items, paintings, needlework and toys. The program describes itself as ‘an antidote to throwaway culture’, endeavouring to ‘shine a light on the wonderful treasures to be found in homes across the country’.

We, at Potter Antiques, specialise in the repair and restoration of period wooden furniture. Our work embraces numerous styles and types of furniture from early ‘stick’ and primitive furniture to beautifully made items from the nineteenth and early twentieth century Some of these are heirlooms, treasured by the original owner and his successors for generations. Some break after years of use, have missing parts which need to be replaced with matching materials or just need to be given a new lease of life. These are individual items made from solid material, originally made to a high standard, which have often remained in use for hundreds of years and have a story to tell. The materials from which they have been made will not harm or detract from the environment and it is generally possible to repair and restore them. In some cases a defect or missing part may make a piece look terrible when it is not too difficult to repair, where possible with matching materials and finish and retaining original design features which have stood the test of time. This enables the piece to retain its original value or increase in value.

With some notable exceptions modern furniture is often mass produced from cheap material such as veneered plywood or chipboard. It is often quite flimsy in its construction. Joints held together by metal fittings often fail where the fittings are screwed to the underlying composite timber which collapses and can be virtually impossible to repair. Veneer is wafer thin. We have come across pieces where what appeared to be marquetry turned out to be a varnished transfer laid on chipboard. Nevertheless the original cost of such furniture often far outweighs that of a solid period original even when the cost of repair and restoration is factored in. The manufacturing process consumes trees and uses adhesives and chemicals which are harmful to the environment.

Therefore, before you replace what looks like a tired or damaged piece of period furniture with a modern substitute, have a thought as to whether it may come back to its former glory if repaired or restored and be good for many years further use. We are happy to appraise individual items and can generally quote for the cost of the work from high resolution photographs including relevant damage sent to us by email at We generally give a view as to whether the cost of restoration is worthwhile bearing in mind the ultimate value. Some customers like to proceed regardless of value for sentimental reasons. Also, if you are considering purchasing a lot at auction or otherwise we would be happy to quote for prospective restoration work should you acquire it. Internet quotations are free!

The images below show repairs in progress to a beautiful Hepplewhite style mahogany dining chair. A rear leg had snapped off at its joint with the seat rail. The force of the breakage twisted the top rail, damaging the joint for the splat and that of the top rail with the sound leg. The photographs show the front and back position after dismantling, re-assembling and gluing up. A neat  and strong repair which re-instates this chair to one of a set of six and maintains the value of the set..