How Original Do You Want It?

by John Werry on February 6, 2008

b240 3 706877 How Original Do You Want It?Here’s a great Eastlake table that looks like it just came off the showroom in 1875 and I think it looks quite wonderful. The question is whether you want it to look gorgeous or like it should look 130 years later? My guess is that this table probably looked like someone threw it out a window before they went to work on it – at least I hope so, since it is completely redone. The question is whether Rare Victorian readers hold out for pristine original pieces or are happy to put a fully restored piece in their home?

Bidding for this table starts at $948 and ends on February 10th.

Let me know your thoughts by hitting “leave a comment” below. If you are reading this via your email, click through to the site to comment.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 7, 2008 at 12:06 am

I would rather have a piece in the original condition IF the condition is good. If the original condition is not good, I would much rather have the piece fully restored IF THE RESTORATION is done exceedingly well. Does that make sense?

Thanks for your website and your interesting articles. I don’t have time to write often, but I do enjoy reading the very interesting material. I’ve learned a lot from the site and have a much better/deeper appreciation of Victorian furniture. Thanks.

BornaHeel

Oh! Tonight’s the night: Go Heels. Beat Duke.

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1881victorian February 7, 2008 at 1:18 am

I thought about mentioning this one to you when I saw it a day or two ago. Several years ago, AC Antiques had the IDENTICAL table for sale and they listed it as a reproduction. I suspect that they would have more answers as I got the impression that the person who was reproducing these worked at/with AC Antiques in Maine. As a result, I never consider buying any tables that are 100% identical to the repro that AC Antiques was selling (at a very reasonable price, as I recall). So…there is your lead…call up AC and see what they know. – Jason

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Anonymous February 7, 2008 at 4:06 am

My personal preference is for pieces that still have the original finish and are in good shape. If the piece is a wreck and has been abused for years, I would say a good overall restoration(putting the piece back as close as possible to original condition using original shellac, nails, etc) is preferable to the discarding of the piece which can never be replaced.
Great website! Just love it and visit it almost everyday. Keep up the good work–you definitely keep me informed and continue to educate me on Victorian furniture.

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james February 7, 2008 at 10:12 am

uh ohhh, now you’ve done it, opened up the “original surface” debate, lol. i go along with born, if finish is in good or better condition, keep it, if not consider conservation. after all, we are just temporary owners of these pieces, they will be here long after we are gone and need a protective finish if they are going to survive.

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John W February 7, 2008 at 2:13 pm

It seems we are all on the same page regarding restoration. I’m going to inquire for an additional photo – under the marble to see how “new” the bare wood is. I’ve also asked them directly if it is a repro.

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Emeriol February 7, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I’m cheap John. So nearly all the pieces I buy look like they have been wasting away in grandma’s basement for at least 50 years. In addition to the mold are several layers of rat nibbled upholstery.

Here’s the one I bought a few years back:
http://hunzinger.blogspot.com/2006/07/why-refinish.html

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John W February 7, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Emeriol, once in a while you’ve got to splurge on that Hunzinger habit of yours ;-)

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1881victorian February 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Looks like the item description has been revised & no longer includes the “Original; 1850-1899″ claim on age.

I would bet very big money that this is the same table that AC Antiques was selling as a reproduction about 6 years ago. As I recall, they were offering this “faithfully reproduced” table and a smaller repro candlestand sort of table. I thought about buying one back then (it is very pretty, afterall), but, hey, why buy a repro?

As an aside, I don’t think that I have ever seen an old marble top with the same edge profile as this one (the hard chine at the top surface–before becoming a curve). Also, in addition to every surface looking BRAND NEW, the grain of the wood doesn’t look as tight as what I would expect…and I would expect a veneer panel/strip, maybe of burl, in those areas just under the marble top centered between the gilt-&-ebonized horizontal stripes.

…just my opinion…

- Jason

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Michadi Antiques February 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm

As someone who restores quite a bit of antique furniture, this is an issue that strikes close to the heart. I generally try to keep things as original as possible and still look “good”, however having said that I constantly have to make a subjective judgment as to what looks good and what does not. Often times in order to achieve this desired state of goodness, I find it necessary to alter the piece more than I would prefer. People would be amazed at how many pieces of fine furniture have been relegated to “garage duty” at some point in the past, and are used to store nuts, bolts and used car parts in. Consequently the resulting damage was not an issue at the time, but as time has passed these items have once again become valuable and end up in my shop.

A second issue aside from the normal 150 years of wear and tear, are the problems related to previous amateur repairs that are encountered in perhaps 80 percent of the furniture I deal with. I literally spend more time attempting to correct bad restoration work than any other activity. My wife often will find me in the shop cursing and complaining about the damage a well intentioned person has inflicted on a piece, that has aggravated the original defect, caused other problems in the process, and now made it much more difficult to correctly restore.

Unfortunately the sad fact is most antique furniture you will encounter is not in the original condition. A correctly done restoration will attempt to remain as true to the condition the piece was in when it left the factory as possible, yet still retain the history of a century or more of use. This is the balancing act and dilemma that the restorer faces, as these two issues can be mutually exclusive.

Michael

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John W February 8, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Jason, I never got a response from them for pictures or whether they knew if it was a repro. Now the listing changes…hmmm…

A side note about repairs that Michael mentions done to correct “damage a well intentioned person has inflicted on a piece, that has aggravated the original defect” – my repair guy calls these a$$h0le fixes that need to be re-repaired.

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