People who delve into the renovation of, well, anything, do so for one of three reasons. One, renovation is their profession. Two, they have a love of anything old and the sight of which in a decrepit condition is abhorrent. Or three, they love a challenge. Individuals who engage in renovating old furniture fall into the third category. Here is why.
To renovate or not to renovate
Renovation is not restoration. To restore something is to return it to its original condition. To renovate anything is to embark on a perilous journey; one that straddles two worlds. The first world is the world into which the item being renovated was born. The second world is the world into which the piece will be reborn; the world of now. We will use a side table for our example. From the Edwardian period.
Renovating an Edwardian side table presents a challenge to any artisan or hobbyist. This is not to say Edwardian furniture presents a difficult canvas; rather – and particularly to the untrained eye – there is only so much one can do to renovate a table. Therein lies the challenge.
Austere, practical or merely utilitarian
One of the characteristics of Edwardian furniture was cabriole legs. These are curved legs with sculpted feet below which are circular pads. Nothing too remarkable. Depending on one’s taste, furniture from this period may be austere or practical or simply utilitarian. An Edwardian side table can be plain enough to seamlessly integrate into nearly any living room. It is at home in a living room rich in warm colours. Or, when properly position, it can blend into a room furnished with more modern pieces. Which begs the question: why renovate?
It is juxtaposition
Using a living room decked out in warm colours as our canvas, we introduce our plain Edwardian side table. It fits in unobtrusively as is. But our goal is not to be conventional; our goal is to be eclectic. Rather than renovate the other furniture in the room (some of which is old), we decide to renovate the side table, if for no other reason than to turn it into a conversation piece. We swap out the cabriole legs with their distinctive sculpted feet and replace them with straight, perhaps slightly beveled legs. And since we are primarily doing this as a challenge – both to conventional and innate aesthetics – we elect not to secret away the table in an un-trafficked corner of our living room in warm colours but we display it prominently as if to say to our visitors, “Oh, yes we did. And it’s staying right there.”
In the end, taste is all that matters. As we said, people renovate old furniture for a variety of reasons, but, ultimately, everyone is an aesthete. Even individuals who happily integrate old and new, restored and renovated, IKEA and Chippendale do so with an eye to please their inner sense of beauty.