Restoring Mid Century Furniture
Many homes in the Southern California region feature mid-century modern furniture, a distinctive style that was partially created and refined by artists and architects in Los Angeles. For a number of reasons, this valuable furniture may develop significant, unique problems as it ages. When the time for restoration comes, homeowners and collectors must find knowledgeable experts who understand how to achieve a finished result that faithfully adheres to their furniture’s signature look, and also preserves their substantial investment. At Rahn’s Furniture Restoration, we have decades of experience restoring mid-century modern furniture. Our highly skilled staff will assess each of your treasured pieces, develop an appropriate restoration plan, and use top-quality materials to return your furniture to its authentic appearance and lasting good health.
What Is Mid-Century Modern Furniture?
Mid-century modern is a term coined in the 1980’s to describe a style of furniture making that first appeared in the 1930’s and lasted until roughly the mid-1960’s. This style has its roots in a style of architecture known as International, as well as in the theory and works of a 1920s German arts school called Bauhaus. Another influence on the mid-century modern movement was the creation of new types of furniture-making materials, including plastic, Plexiglas, Lucite, stainless steel and plywood.
Mid-century modern furniture has several unifying characteristics. First, the style features relatively clean lines and lacks the ornamental details of many earlier styles of furniture. Additional characteristics include the use of contrasting materials during construction, the use of vibrant and contrasting colors, and a preference for geometric shapes. In addition to materials only invented or widely used in the 20th century, mid-century modern furniture may feature glass or wood. Commonly used types of wood include teak, walnut, rosewood and oak. Plywood furniture from this era is typically covered in veneer (the term for thin sheets of decorative wood glued into place over a piece’s underlying structure).
Special Considerations During Restoration
Mid-century modern furniture can develop many types of damage common to a wide range of furniture styles, including such things as scratches, loose joints, worn-out upholstery, and peeling veneer. However, there are also some special considerations that affect the restoration process for this particular style of furniture. For example, scratches in mid-century modern furniture can affect a number of materials other than wood (e.g., Plexiglas and plastic).
The glue originally used for the construction of this type of furniture often does not hold up very well over time, which means that serious joint problems occur fairly frequently. In addition, the veneer used to make mid-century modern furniture was often unusually thin, and can respond poorly to refinishing techniques used on other furniture styles. Finally, the upholstery techniques used on this style of furniture have unique characteristics that must be considered. These characteristics include a reliance on foam filling instead of down, use of less filling than in other styles, and use of covering materials and surface patterns not typically found in other furniture styles.
Restoring Scratched Furniture
At Rahn’s Furniture Restoration, we repair wood scratches in mid-century modern furniture using the same techniques we rely on to repair other furniture styles. Scratches in plastic, Lucite or Plexiglas can often be removed in a similar process, which includes wet buffing with fine grits of sandpaper and the application of a polish that restores the proper shininess. In some cases, restoration may require complete replacement of the damaged synthetic material.
Restoring Damaged Joints
When you bring your mid-century modern furniture to Rahn’s Furniture Restoration, we’ll check the health of all wood joints and look for signs of looseness or weakness. After completing this assessment, we’ll clean and re-glue any damaged joints we find. Instead of using the relatively weak glues that cause so many problems in this type of furniture, we use stronger modern glues that will last for decades to come.
Restoring Damaged Veneer
During the restoration process, the experts at Rahn’s Furniture Restoration carefully assess the veneer on your mid-century modern furniture. After identifying any issues, we proceed with caution in order to keep this typically thin veneer intact while performing the required repairs (including such things as re-gluing and patching of damaged surfaces). We apply the same level of caution and skill while refinishing the repaired surfaces. A protective coat of clear varnish can help keep veneered surfaces safe from future damage.
The foam upholstery used in mid-century modern furniture can collapse over time. After carefully removing the covering material, our highly skilled professionals will identify and replace any damaged foam. Addition of a new, crush-resistant Dacron shell will help reduce the chance of future problems with cushion compression. If you prefer, we can also wrap a foam upholstery core in down for added comfort. The finished product will still retain the crisp lines that distinguish this style of furniture.
In addition to traditional fabrics, materials used for upholstery coverings in mid-century modern furniture include leather, mohair and a kind of vinyl called Naugahyde. During restoration, we give these materials special consideration. We start by assessing the type and condition of the covering material. If replacement is necessary, we’ll take every possible step to find an exact match for the material, as well as for any patterns or textures on the surface. If you have leather furniture from the era, we may recommend a synthetic replacement product that has better long-term performance characteristics than leather.
The Restoration Experts
For more than 40 years, Rahn’s Furniture Restoration has served as Southern California’s home for expert restoration of mid-century modern furniture, as well as older and newer furniture styles. Throughout our decades of operation, we have continually featured the same reliable blend of encyclopedic repair and refinishing knowledge, dedicated refurbishing facilities, and exemplary customer service. When you bring your valuable pieces to us, you can rest assured that they will receive the very best care during the restoration process. You can also expect that the end products you receive will meet your high standards for excellence and value. Contact us today to arrange an assessment of your furniture restoration needs.