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Do you have a piece of furniture in storage, the garage, or attic? Maybe it’s something that’s been in your family for generations but it just doesn’t go with your decor? Before you decide to pull a “Marie Kondo” think about seeing if that piece has a second life where it will be appreciated and can stay inside the family. Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding whether you should treasure that piece—by re-finishing it—or tossing it, saving yourself some storage space. 

Sometimes just stripping off old paint or refinishing a piece will give it an entirely new look. Here’s what to look for when deciding if you’ll trash it or save it:

Is the piece painted?

Furniture that has already been painted can be a cause for concern. Sometimes paint is a way to cover blemishes and imperfections like burns or water stains. It may be difficult for you to determine what is hiding under the color before deciding if it is worth keeping. Ugly paint jobs can hide a lot more damage than ugly varnish, whose transparency leads to fewer surprises. A professional furniture company such as CLS Custom Upholsterers and Furniture Refinishing can not only help you decide if the piece is worth keeping, but they can also do the refinishing for you, saving you time and often a literal headache (those fumes can be a knockout!).

When was the piece created?

We’ve all heard an older relative say “they don’t make ’em like they used to” at some point in our lives. Well, when it comes to furniture that is almost always true. If you have a table or chair that is only 10 or 15 years old the chances that it’s worth the cost of refinishing the piece are slim. Teri Masaschi, a woodworking expert, suggests looking for evidence that a piece was made before 1960. Teri explains that “that’s when particleboard, laminate surfaces, and cutting corners came along”.

Furniture that is 50 years old or older has the best chance of improving its value and appearance through refinishing. If you find a beautiful piece in a yard sale—maybe it has gorgeous scrollwork or just the right shape for the empty spot in your living room—even if it’s 50 years old or more with a broken leg or damaged caning, it may be a great candidate for repair and refinish.

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to find or inherit a piece that dates back to 1850 or earlier you should know that refinishing the furniture can actually diminish the value as an antique piece of furniture, so you may want to either accept it as is or consider donating or selling it if you just hate the look. 

Furniture with genuine historical value will need more than just your story to verify it. It would need something called a “provenance” which is a record of ownership that goes all the way back to the original owner. Your grandmother may have told you that George Washington once sat in that chair in your attic, but unless you have a provenance proving it it won’t be valued as such. If you do have that then don’t touch it! Have it appraised and thank your lucky stars. If you don’t, consider contacting a professional like CLS Custom Upholsterers and Furniture Refinishing so they can refinish it and give it a whole new life! You’ll have a gorgeous piece of furniture and it’ll get a chance to live on in a whole new way.