Restoration of antique furniture in Basel

Restoration of antique furniture in Basel - Help'n'Trade
Picture from: Peter Herrmann on Unsplash

Our goal at Help’n’Trade is to bring attention to small local businesses. We went on a search and wanted to present something special. A profession that has an old tradition, that triggers a nostalgic feeling, but at the same time makes you curious…. Restoration of antique furniture. What is behind it, how is the profession practiced at all?

Mr. Luchsinger, the owner of “Hans Luchsinger Antiques” was kind enough to let us take a look behind the scenes of the restoration of antique furniture.

Hans Luchsinger runs a furniture restoration workshop. He repairs antique furniture, but also deals with appraisal and trade of antique furniture. In addition, he repairs, refreshes and assembles antique components.

What was the career path to restoration of antique furniture?

Mr. Luchsinger always liked to work with wood. He completed an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker from 1968 to 1972. During his apprenticeship, he discovered his interest in restoring antique furniture through an experienced professional colleague; since then, he has been passionate about the art of furniture restoration. After his apprenticeship in central Switzerland, he moved to Lausanne where he worked in a restoration company. After another job in Basel, Mr. Luchsinger started his own business in 1977.

How does the carpentry work on an antique furniture differs from ordinary furniture?

Nowadays, modern furniture is made almost exclusively by machines. Antique furniture on the other hand, is mainly worked on manually. The old construction methods, the knowledge of how the wood works and how to use the old techniques are also required in the antique furniture restoration. Additionally, antique furniture is usually made of solid wood, often covered with veneer. The furniture made nowadays, is made of various new materials, which also make it more stable over time. The antique furniture, is often not as stable as the modern ones and the wood tends to change its shape, which can also lead to damage if untreated.

What is the definition of an antique furniture?

An antique furniture was made in the time when the corresponding style was modern. All obviously later made furniture in the same imitated style is called period furniture and has only a little value.

Can you recognize antique furniture at first sight?

You can determine through expertise the approximate age, origin, and sometimes in the case of special furniture, the master carpenter as well.

The condition of the furniture also tells a lot. In the past, there was less heating in the homes in the winter. Because the air humidity is differs between summer and winter, the wood expands or contracts accordingly. This can cause damage to antique furniture. Depending on how the furniture was treated, these are larger or smaller damages that also tell their story.

What are the first steps in the restoration process?

First, the piece of furniture is inspected, determined what is missing, what damage is present, what needs to be done and what the customer wants. Then comes the cost estimate and depending on the agreement, the appropriate work is then carried out. There are repairs that are absolutely necessary to stabilize the furniture, respectively to make it usable again. For example, the chairs should not wobble or drawers should slide quickly and easily. Additional work is done to restore the furniture to its former glory.

How long do repairs to a piece of antique furniture?

It always depends on the individual piece: The broken armrest of a chair can be repaired in two to three hours; for an elaborate piece of furniture, up to 200 hours may be required, depending on the effort involved.

How to estimate the age and value of antique furniture?

Experience and expertise for antique furniture is of course a required to recognize what you see. The visual impression counts for a lot. What style elements are there, how is the piece of furniture constructed? Were these materials and constructions used in the time? How were they used in this furniture piece?

As for the pricing, it depends on the individual piece of furniture. Whether it is a simple “peasant” furniture or a “stately” piece. The utility of the furniture, which differs significantly from the past, also plays a role in the value. For example, beds used to be smaller, which makes them not too desirable today, while an ostentatious antique chest of drawers is still in demand. Furthermore, preference for a particular style also plays a role, which changes depending on the era. Prices therefore vary greatly, depending on the piece of furniture between a few hundred to several thousand francs.

Does restoration increase the value or price of antique furniture?

The market for antique furniture is relatively small. Young people prefer modern furniture. Therefore, the demand for antiques is currently rather low. Often antique furniture is inherited and then resold. This leads to a larger supply than demand. Restoration increases the selling price only to a limited extent, but the furniture becomes reusable and may gain value over time again, depending on demand.

Where to buy the best antique furniture nowadays?

A reputable dealer is always a good address. Through many years of experience and specific expertise, the clientele can be guaranteed optimal and personal advice. High quality pieces are in stock or can be procured. Often, antique furniture is also sold through auction houses. There you also have the certainty that the presented furniture is really antique, because it has already been inspected and appraised by experts. Sometimes you can also find antique works of art in second-hand stores. However, there appropriate furniture usually remain only briefly, because dealers are often informed in advance about interesting pieces.

Is it advisable to start your career now as a restorer of antique furniture?

Large furniture stores have made the furniture disposable. After the war until the 1990s, there was a great demand for antique furniture. Everyone wanted to have old furniture. Accordingly, the profession was in great demand. Today the market is relatively small and therefore the profession has become more difficult. The time needed for a restoration is high, often not all hours of work can be charged. With a reliable customer base, a regular income can be generated. However, newcomers to the profession must have the will to persevere, build their own network and name for themselves.

What was the most interesting piece of furniture that Mr. Luchsinger restored?

Mr. Luchsinger had the opportunity to restore a large baroque buffet from 1710 that belonged to a local guild. This is now borrowed to the historical museum in Basel. The second major work was the removal, restoration and installation of a large coffered ceiling from 1670, which is now back in its original location in a city palace in the heart of Basel.

… furthermore

If you want to get the expertise of Mr. Luchsinger, or you have a piece of furniture at home that needs restoration, it is best to contact Mr. Luchsinger directly:

Tel. Nr.: +41 61 601 88 18
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Authors of the article

Artikel done by:
Sabrina Schärli

Interview done by:
Stefan Kuruc

Pictures from:
Hans Luchsinger