July 14, 1991|By Scott Ponemone
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Antique basement pieces can be a collector’s curse, abnormally if the beneficiary insists, as I do, on absolutely application them.
It’s one affair to advance them aloof for looks. Museums do not accept to anguish about them actuality structurally complete abundant to buck the weight of your heftiest abode guest. Nor do museums affront over aliment spills on the afresh reupholstered seats of your dining-room chairs.
It’s addition affair to use them. Anniversary time a armchair is confused about (dragged), anniversary time it’s sat aloft (plopped bottomward on), anniversary time the babysitter changes position (squirms), the chair’s anatomy is stressed. Same for its upholstery and the basal abstracts acclimated to pad out the shape. The corruption is constant.
Take for instance the set of six chairs in my dining room. In the bristles years I’ve endemic them, three accept been reglued. One currently needs the fiber replaced on its seat, so it’s been shunted off to a bedchamber to adjournment repair.
Some time bottomward the alley I face the cher assignment of reupholstering the sofa. It’s avant-garde foundation of cream aloof doesn’t sit right, but aback its bolt has little wear, I’m aggravating to avoid it.
Which brings me to the hinge armchair I bought aftermost winter with its bench defective repair. The springs had appear apart and the covering was split.
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Despite my acquaintance with basement furniture, I anticipation I faced alone the replacing of the seat. The covering on the aback looked sound. The anatomy was able and afresh refinished (too agilely for my tastes, but I anticipation I could alive with it).
The afterward is an annual of what I apparent in the advance of aggravating to be the amenable buyer of an aged chair.
Returning my hinge armchair to use adapted a cardinal of decisions, all based on some important assumptions about the agent of the chair.
When I bought it, I was told (and it’s accounting on my receipt) it was fabricated in the Boston breadth amid 1810 and 1820. Its tapered, reeded legs adapted the dating was right. The reeding of the apparent copse forth the top bend of the armchair back, the appearance of the aback and the anatomy of the back’s frame, arresting from the rear, all accommodated to models from the period. Its primary copse (what you can see) was mahogany, actual for burghal appliance of the time. Its upholstery, atramentous leather, was a replacement, although an adapted choice.
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It was missing, however, an important allotment of its aboriginal structure. This was axiomatic by a aperture area the cross-stretchers (wood that affiliated the legs in the anatomy of an X) intersected. Such a aperture would accept captivated the shaft of a board spiral accessory advised to accession and lower the bench by axis it.
In advertence books I’ve apparent agnate constructions for music chairs of the period. The ambit of my chair, however, is added than these. Additionally my armchair has an adipose aback that wraps about to anatomy fractional arms. It was awash to me as a library chair, and because its construction, it could able-bodied accept been advised as such.
The spiral had been replaced, maybe a hundred years ago, by an adamant apparatus that accustomed the bench to circumduct but not change height. A cogent alteration, but I anticipation the anatomy attenuate enough, the architecture beautiful enough, and the armchair adequate abundant for me to acquirement it.
I try not to deceive myself that back it comes to furniture, I can allow to buy an absolutely aboriginal anything. I try to apprentice the admeasurement of a piece’s boldness afore I acquirement it. In actuality I’m added adequate back I atom changes in a allotment — like a mended leg, patched appearance or replaced drawer pulls — than back I can’t.
Yet back you booty a allotment home, accordingly there are surprises ahead. You aloof achievement the surprises aren’t too ugly. In this case, I hoped the armchair anatomy was fabricated in the aboriginal 19th century.
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Anyway the allotment was abundance and it bare work, but area to turn?
In the accomplished I’ve been actual annoyed with the Baltimore close of Adajian and Nelson for apology and with their best in upholsterers, Hasip Tuzeer. But abundantly because this commodity was percolating in my head, I absitively to augment my choices.
So I alleged the Maryland Historical Society and talked to its director, Gregory R. Weidman. Aboriginal off, she said that a clandestine beneficiary should chase the arrangement they use for basement furniture: “We booty [it] to a conservator first, again we may booty it to an upholsterer.” Don’t apprehend an upholsterer, she said, to be able to do the attention assignment bare on the frame.
But she bound reminded me that the attention needs of museums and clandestine collectors may alter greatly.
“We accept for our things beneath is more,” she said. “We bottle as abundant of the aboriginal bolt [both anatomy and upholstery materials] as possible. We are not as anxious with structural backbone because we accept no one is activity to sit on it.”
Wendy Cooper, babysitter of the Department of Decorative Arts at the Baltimore Museum of Art, additionally talked about institutions benign “the atomic invasive upholstery treatment.”
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