In praise of wood
LOET member Cara, owner of the bad Tatty Bits talks about her love of vintage furniture, what to look for when buying and where to find the best pieces in North London.
I love buying vintage furniture. Not only can you find unique pieces which will last far longer than any Ikea Billy bookcase, but you are also doing your bit for the environment.
Old furniture has so much character and can make a real statement in your home. When shopping for furniture I try only to buy second hand and here are some of my tips for what to look for and how to get vintage furniture looking its best.
What to look for
When looking for a vintage piece you can't go wrong with solid wood and you'd be surprised what a bit of a cleanup can do to bring a bookcase or side table back to life. The trend at the moment is to paint furniture but I'm a bit of a purist and like the warmth of wood. As long as a piece of furniture hasn't got a tough polyurethane lacquer then you should be able to clean strip or sand the piece to either stain, varnish or paint. Furniture finished with polyurethane are very hard to strip back as it's basically a plastic coating. You can normally tell if a piece of furniture has a polyurethane coating because it will have a high shine and little or no scratches.
Giving an old piece of furniture a new lease of life
To give a piece of furniture a good clean try a cocktail of one part white spirit, one part methylated spirts and one part linseed oil. Take some very fine wire wool (00 or 0 grade) and fold it into a pad. Wearing latex or rubber gloves, tip a little of the linseed mixture onto the wirewool pad and gently wipe it over your piece of furniture working on a small area at a time. Wipe the area you've worked on with a clean cloth. It's a good idea to try the solution on a small hidden area of your item to make sure it doesn't have any adverse effects. This solution will work wonders on solid wood and make scratches and scuffs blend in as well as remove paint splatters and ink stains. You can do this process more than once if your item is particularly dirty. Once done you can finish your item with either wax or a varnish. Things to look out for when sourcing vintage furniture.
Items made after the 1950s and 1960s are more likely to be made of woodchip and have laminate services so harder to restore. When buying chairs, rest your knee on the seat and rock it forwards and backwards to make sure the legs are solid. Don't be put off by early signs of woodworm. It takes a long time to really munch through a piece of furniture and can be easily treated with a solution you paint on. Furniture with damage to the veneer can be tricky to restore so best left to the professionals.
My favourite places to buy vintage and antique furniture
The Barnet Furniture Centre has a fantastic range of furniture from beds to desks and bookcases, all reasonably priced and they will even deliver for £10
Southgate Auction House has a good range. Auctions take place on Monday afternoon and you can view the items on Saturday mornings and Monday mornings as well as browse the catalogue online.
The North London Hospice has a shop in North Finchley dedicated to furniture
Lee Chinnick in North Finchley also has a good range of antique pieces
And of course there is always Ebay, Gumtree and Freecycle.
Cara from Tatty Bits