Meet the Designer: Christophe Pourny, Expert Furniture Restorer

BY CARLEY LINTZ ON APRIL 20TH, 2016

Do you have an heirloom table you’ve always wanted to restore? Or a flea market find that needs some TLC? Before you reach for that can of shellac, you might want take a page out of expert furniture restorer Christophe Pourny’s book, “The Furniture Bible” (Artisan Books, 2014).

Growing up in his parents’ antique store in southern France, Pourny’s love and appreciation for antiques practically began at birth. Since moving to New York 20 years ago, he has collaborated with countless celebrities and interior designers, and worked on restoration projects at City Hall and Gracie Mansion.

His book, ‘The Furniture Bible,” is a guide for anyone who wants to bring new life to old furniture with do-it-yourself restoration. Recently, Pourny sat down to give us the inside scoop on “The Furniture Bible,” common restoration mistakes and how to incorporate antiques into your home décor.

Q: What was the inspiration for creating “The Furniture Bible” and what do you want readers to take away from reading it?

A: What I wanted to do initially with the book was write something that gave people the desire to get into restoration and antiques. All of the books on the subject are trade books for professionals and are very clinical.

This book had to be beautiful, it had to be enticing and it had to have accurate, useful information. I also wanted to give some history about the piece of furniture, why it looks this way, and why it’s finished this way, so people could have idea of where their piece of furniture is coming from.

Q: What is your advice for first-time restorers? Are there any common mistakes they should try to avoid?

A: Usually people either want to do too much or they don’t want to do anything. Doing too much is like, ‘I’m going to take this piece, strip it down to a raw piece of furniture and start everything over.’ That’s the wrong thing to do because antiques typically have a very forgiving finish that can just be cleaned and upgraded.

Or people decide to do absolutely nothing for years because they think you’re not supposed to touch antiques. Antiques have to be taken care of. If they’re still with us it’s because people took of care of them, maintained them. So it’s one extreme or the other.

Q: What are some best practices for antique furniture preservation so it lasts for years to come?

It’s mostly common sense. Light, humidity, heat and chemicals are usually the things you want to keep away from your antiques.

With chemicals that means don’t put anything on antiques that were not made at the time the piece was made – that includes Pledge, spray dust cleaners and all the varnishes. There’s no need to use those things. You can just dry dust a piece of furniture and that’s totally fine.

Q: Going shopping for antiques at a flea market or yard sale can be an overwhelming task, especially for beginners. Are there specific criteria that make a piece worth restoring?

A: I think any piece you find that you like and that you’re willing to put a bit of effort and time into, is worth it. It’s worth it because it’s unique and because you found it. You’ll always be rewarded tenfold for taking a piece, giving it tender loving care and bringing it back to life.

Q: So once you find a piece you love and restore it to it’s former glory, how do you recommend decorating with antique furniture?

A: The relation with antiques has really changed recently. It used to be that people felt the need to decorate an entire room with antiques of the same style and time period. So the chairs, side table, everything would be from late 18th century France or something like that.

Nowadays, people are really thinking about the antique as almost a piece of art or an accent piece. I think that mixing modern or contemporary furniture with one or two pieces of antiques makes them look even better. So I think it’s a great tool for design.

 

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