Pick the Best of the Midcentury

Pick the Best of the Midcentury

Adrienne Faulkner knew that the set of three midcentury-style wooden Asian doors would be perfect for the entrance to her master bedroom. She knew, too, that they needed work.

As with most midcentury modern furniture - furniture that first hit American homes in the 1950s and is known for its clean lines, light colors and simplicity - the wooden doors needed some TLC.

Midcentury modern furniture has become so popular in recent years that most major furniture-makers are creating brand new pieces that echo the style.

Still, many furniture buyers want original pieces. And while it's easy to find old chairs, sofas and tables dating from the 1950s and 1960s, it's harder to determine which pieces are worth buying and restoring.

Faulkner, CEO of interior and architectural design firm Faulkner Design Group in Dallas, decided the doors were worth it. Even then, rescuing them wasn't an easy task. It took two months, 11 sandings and four coats of stain.

Daniel Braskie, manager of Quaboag Antiques in Palmer, Massachusetts, says that learning which pieces are better than others takes time and research.

"If you look at enough, you can [determine the] quality," Braski says. "You might not know the designer, but if you are looking at two lounge chairs side by side, you can take an educated guess as to which one is higher quality."

Chairs or tables made out of solid teak wood, walnut or rosewood are of a higher quality than those made out of birch. Leather upholstery is better than fabric, he says.

Then there's the construction of the piece. Look for cushions on sofas that are still springy, Braski recommends. Make sure the arms or legs of chairs don't wobble. If the piece feels sturdy, that's a sign that care went into its construction.

Braski says that the best way to restore these pieces is to use vinegar and oil to remove dirt, grime and build-up. But for some tasks - Braski points to damaged Danish cord seats - it's best to hire a professional.

Some people may be tempted to sand the flat surfaces of furniture down to bare wood. This can be a challenge: Many pieces of midcentury modern furniture are made out of birch with color added to make the wood look like walnut or some other more expensive material. After it's sanded down, it's hard to match the color of the wood, Braski says.

Braski expects the popularity of midcentury modern furniture to stay strong. "People want what their grandparents had," he says. "This era is antique to today's young buying market."


Copyright © CTW Features