Caring For Antiques

At French Metro Antiques we strive to lovingly maintain, restore or, when necessary, replace what the artisan craftsman created. We intend to stay true to the work of the master. 

Caring for French antique furniture requires respect. When you own anything made over one hundred years ago, you are often working with "one-of-a-kind." Each piece of furniture has a history. The influence of king, court and style of that period was a matter of pleasing the patron that commissioned the work. Naturally, Paris and Parisian style had a tremendous bearing on what the far flung nobility and gentry in the provinces took back to their own regions and their own courts. Regional styles would often reflect elements of the period while staying true to the origins of the traditional regional motif. 

The court was the seat of money and power. Wherever the king went, the court would follow. Therefore, being "in fashion" became an odd mix of cultural exchange and lavish one-upmanship and a call to competitive artistic excellence. Function and form were elevated into an art form that trickled down to all levels of French society. Our goal at French Metro Antiques is to respect and preserve the handwork of these skilled craftsmen. 

A Word About Caring for Wood

Like all things of any age, the older the antique, the more that time and the subtle curing of the wood itself become factors. Changes in humidity and the "weather tightness" of the American home require that you introduce moisture at certain times of the year. Wood will naturally expand and contract with the seasons, but central heating and air conditioning tend to dry out panels and joints. So beware of radical extremes in dryness, heat and humidity as negative factors in the preservation of your antique furniture. 

A Word About Finishes

The French used varnish, French polishes and waxes to bring up highlights and protect wood surfaces against water, wear and tear. Varnishes and more modern hard shell finishes offer the most water resistance, but they also yellow over time and look more "plastic" in the bargain. We prefer and recommend wax finishes as a more natural solution. Nothing compares to a hand rubbed wax finish for warmth and ease of maintenance. In our shop we use DuGay wax products almost exclusively. DuGay's selection of tinted waxes ranges from clear to extremely dark chocolate brown. Feel free to contact us for advice regarding the care of your French antique furniture. 

Quick tips for care and maintenance:

  • Regular waxing of your French antiques will preserve their luster. Application is easy. Use a soft cloth to apply French paste wax to open surfaces. For detail work such as carving, a toothbrush can be used to get into nooks and crannies. Once you apply the wax, let it set for 10 to 15 minutes. A good hair shoe brush helps to work or burn in the wax evenly across the surface. Finally, a vigorous buff with a soft cloth rag or fleece mitt burnishes the surface to a warm glow. Regular waxing (two or three times a year) adds depth to the finish. If you have guests coming on short notice, a quick buff "once over" will bring up enough of the residual wax coating to revive the luster while removing the dust from the surface. Wax is also a very forgiving finish. It is great for "touch up" of minor surface scratches or abrasions.
  • For dusting, we recommend using Endust sprayed directly on a dust cloth or mitt or a Swiffer. We do not recommend products such as Behold or Pledge. These products can trap dirt and cause a buildup on the already French paste waxed surface.
  • For water spots on paste waxed surfaces, French paste wax may be applied with triple 0 steel wool. Gently work wax over the water spot in the direction of the grain until the spot fades. Do not rub too vigorously as this will remove the wood finish.
  • Avoid direct sunlight on wood pieces as this can cause fading or cracking. We have also found that placement of an antique piece directly above or behind a heat register can produce negative consequences. Introduction of humidity to wood pieces prevents cracking. This can be done through a humidifier on your HVAC system. Another solution is to place a saturated sponge in a shallow bowl of water, and place the bowl inside the antique piece. This releases moisture and helps the piece to equalize so that the extremes of dry heat shrinkage are somewhat offset.
  • Moving antiques should be done by professionals. If you do choose to move a piece, we recommend first removing all drawers, doors, shelves, and cornices when possible. Plastic furniture sliders may be placed on the bottom of feet for easy moving from one end of the room to the other.
  • Place felt on the bottom of any accessories you may display on top of your wood pieces to prevent scratching.