The Alabama Housewife

​Southern Humorist, Storyteller and Writer

Week Ten



Generally, pieces that are less than 100 years old are not truly antiques. If you’re uncertain about the age of a piece you are considering, a good place to start your investigation is looking at the drawers. If the dovetailing on the corners is perfectly joined, it is likely they were machine cut and not made by hand. Keep an eye out for modern screws, perfectly cut joints, or the smell of fresh stain or paint. Antique hardware is often a bit less uniform, and anything overly matched or glossy is a dead giveaway of a reproduction.


Part of the charm of an antique item is the character seen in its age. Don’t make the mistake of stripping off the finish with harsh chemicals or over-polishing with the wrong products. You should be careful to avoid silicone-based cleaners and polishes when cleaning, and always dust with a soft, lint-free cloth to help maintain the shine. If you have something that needs some extra TLC, try to focus on restoration rather than refinishing if at all possible.


Too much sunlight can be bad for our skin, and it can be equally damaging to certain antique finishes. Try to keep your antique pieces out of direct sunlight, and avoid placing items directly over or underneath heating and air vents. Too much moisture in the air is also an enemy of antiques, as it can cause glued joints to become loose and can even contribute to the growth of mold if the humidity is too high.


It is a myth that furniture dries out due to a lack of oil. In addition, some furniture oils can build up over time and actually attract dust. A thin coat of paste wax is a safe way to maintain the finish of antique wood without destroying the patina. Hot, dry rooms are generally the culprit for overly dry wood, and the best remedy is to keep antique furniture out of overheated, dusty areas. If you must store older pieces for long periods of time, take care not to keep them in attic spaces where heat and lack of circulation can cause damage.


Don’t be afraid to use antiques in a more modern setting, or in a new and fun way that may vary from their original use. A lovely sideboard or hutch accented with a contemporary lamp, or even a dining table paired with more current chairs, can quickly liven up a space. You might also try using a sideboard or console as a spot for your television, or repurpose a secretary as a bar cabinet. The key is choosing items that suit your personal style and space.


If you have a piece that has an overly deteriorated finish, it is best to seek professional help. Expert furniture restoration services can advise you on the best methods to clean and care for older pieces that may be showing more severe signs of wear. They can also offer solutions for pieces that need intense restoration.

Beautiful antiques come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Large and small budgets alike can always find something special, and whether you collect old English breadboards or have a house full precious pieces, there is one thing you can always count on—your antique pieces will never go out of style.