From a delicate curved cabriole leg for a Queen Anne chair to a half round oak tambour for a Hoosier cabinet, antique furniture parts are often needed to restore a piece to its original beauty and condition. However, you don't have to be a carpenter yourself to be able to find the perfect replacement pieces to bring your favorite antique furniture back to life.
Different Furniture Styles for Perfecting the Restoration Process
An important aspect of correctly identifying antique furniture and furniture parts is knowing the different furniture periods and styles. The following are some of the main western furniture styles and the approximate dates that they appeared throughout history:
- Gothic - Although crudely constructed Gothic furniture is known since the 1300s, Gothic furniture, as it's known today, dates from the mid-1550s to approximately 1625.
- Louis XIV - 1640 to 1715
- Early Colonial - 1600s
- Louis XV (Rococo) - 1720 to 1760
- William and Mary - early 1700s
- Queen Anne - 1725 to 1755
- Chippendale - 1755 to 1780
- Sheraton - mid-1750s to early 1800s
- Germanic -1700s
- Windsor - 1700s
- Federal (Neo-Classicism) - 1780 to 1820
- Regency - 1811 to 1825
- Biedernier - 1815 to 1860
- Empire - (Classicism) and American Empire - 1820 to mid 1800s
- Shaker - 1800s
- Revival - 1800s
- Eastlake - mid 1850s to 1870s
- Victorian - 1830s to 1900
- Arts and Crafts - 1835 to early 1900s
- Art Nouveau - 1890 to 1920
Take on Restoration Efforts One Replacement Piece at a Time
When you think about the vast number of furniture pieces that were made during each of the different historical eras and geographical time periods, you realize the sheer volume of individual antique furniture parts is immense. While restoration isn't always a great idea for your antique furniture (improper restoration and removal of aged elements like patina can decrease the value in some cases), it can give a ramshackle piece of furniture new life.
Given the typical wear patterns associated with most furniture (high traffic and touch areas like arms, legs, backs, seats, and so on), you'll tend to have the same parts of furniture needing to be replaced across the board. A few of the major ones include the arms and legs, upholstery, handles/pulls/knobs, and trim.
Antique Furniture Replacement Tips: Arms and Legs
One of the most common pieces, and most vital, on antique furniture that need to be replaced are arms and legs. Over time, the joinery might come loose or the furniture could incur damage in storage or during use, resulting in a missing or broken arm/leg. While it's near impossible to track down an errant antique leg or arm to exactly match the one you're missing, you should be able to hunt down a similar reproduction to replace it.
For example, something you might need to replace could be a cabriole leg on your Chippendale chair. Depending on what your chair's leg's foot resembled (lion's paw, ball and claw, and so on), you could look for a similar reproduction leg to be a replacement. And if you can't find the exact match, you can always stain your replacements to better match the originals.
However, it's important to make sure that you're not doing any further damage to the already incomplete piece of furniture. If you can't affix your modern replacements on your own, contact a professional to have them help you do it properly the first time.
Antique Furniture Replacement Tips: Upholstery
One similarity that modern and antique furniture share with one another is the art of working textiles into their pieces. From padded arms and seat cushions to fully upholstered lounge chairs and sofas, antique furniture was frequently outfitted in the best fabrics available in any given period. However, if you're looking to reupholster an older piece, you should make sure to consider the replacements carefully.
- Choose natural textiles - For thousands of years, humans were incorporating natural textiles into their clothes, furniture, and more. Synthetic fibers weren't used until the 20th century, so if you want to use period accurate fabrics, then fully natural textiles like cotton, linen, and wool are the best options.
- Take weathering into account - With the number of people who sit in and move around antique furniture, it's no surprise that the furniture's upholstery is going to take quite the hit. This means that the colors and patterns can dull/fade over time, so if you want an accurate replacement, you'll want to see the hidden edges of the fabric for a color match.
Antique Furniture Replacement Tips: Handles, Pulls, and Knobs
When it comes to handles, pulls, and knobs, there are innumerable types that you can choose from. If you're feeling particularly creative, you don't have to stick to the same style of handle that originally came with the piece of furniture; rather, you can choose other antique or antique-inspired pieces to match your current aesthetics or needs. For example, sometimes knobs aren't as inclusive for all abilities as pull-handles are. Thus, you can update the furniture without sacrificing historic integrity.
That being said, you do want to try to stick with handles, pulls, and knobs that are period accurate and made of the right materials. When looking at replacement grips to purchase, you should consider a few things:
- The width of the screw holes - You should pay attention to the exact width between the screw holes if you're considering handles or pulls as you don't want to make any extra holes into the wood as this can damage the piece's value.
- Authentic materials - True antique handles, pulls, and knobs are going to be made out of genuine materials like cast iron, brass, bronze, wood, porcelain, and crystal. If you find these 'authentic' parts made out of plastic for sale, run for the hills.
- Matching period aesthetics and standards- You'll want to do a little research before jumping into picking parts like these, as most often you'll want to use period accurate replacements. For instance, 19th century door knobs were significantly smaller than those of today, and modern replacements might not account for these once common standards.
Antique Furniture Replacement Tips: Trim
If you're looking to replace trim on your antique furniture or around your historic home, you're in for a more difficult venture. Authentic antique wood trim is quite difficult to find in copious amounts, and tends to only be suited for door frames, cabinets, and the like. Thus, if you're looking to replace the scroll, fan, or other such decorative trim on your antique furniture, then looking for antique-inspired modern replacements is your best option.
Where to Find Antique Furniture Parts
Finding replacement parts for an antique piece of furniture that's original is often quite difficult. However, there're businesses that specialize in furniture parts and replacement hardware for antique furniture including:
- Antique hardware stores
- Architectural artifact companies
- Antique stores
Another source for replacement parts for antique furniture are the pieces made and sold by talented craftspeople of today. Often these pieces are handmade using the same methods and techniques that were used centuries ago, and more closely resemble the lost antique parts than mass-produced modern reproductions do.
Digital and Brick-and-Mortar Shops
If you're on the hunt for a specific replacement part, here are some businesses that offer parts for antique furniture. Several of the companies distinguish between parts that're considered suitable for restoration and those that're considered only as replacement parts, so make sure that you read each item's listing carefully before buying anything.
- Van Dyke's Restorers - Van Dyke's Restorers offers a wide assortment of replacement parts for antique and vintage furniture.
- Kennedy Hardware - Kennedy Hardware specializes in hardware for antique furniture and parts for Hoosier cabinets.
- Antique Furniture Repair and Refinishing - Antique Furniture Repair and Refinishing, located in Genoa, Ohio, offers replacement parts and complete repair of wooden furniture.
- Classic Furniture Services - Classic Furniture, located in Franklin, Massachusetts, provides complete restoration services and repairs.
- Toledo Architectural Artifacts - Toledo Architectural Artifacts carries authentic pieces for antique furniture of all types, including salvage, hardware, and more.
- Robinson's Antiques - Robinson's Antiques is an online business that specializes in original antique hardware.
- McLean's Refinishing - McLean's Refinishing, located in Bogart, Georgia, offers repair and refinishing services for antique furniture. The company has a stock of old stock parts, and access to reproduction and replacement parts, and they can custom make a part if needed.
- House of Antique Hardware - Since 1999, House of Antique Hardware has been creating reproductions of antique hardware from colonial to mid-century modern styles.
Salvage Yards and Shops
If you really want to keep your pieces as historically accurate as possible, you can try looking through what any nearby salvage yards and shops might sell. These businesses are dedicated to taking old wood from estates, shops, furniture, and so on, and reselling it for the cost of the materials. You might even find a new piece or two of furniture you weren't expecting to stumble on whilst there. House Beautiful has a detailed compilation of at least one salvage store per state, and Old House Online has another comprehensive list of even more salvage shops across the United States that you can browse through to help you track down the nearest shop to your location.
Restore Your Antique Furniture to Its Former Glory
Falling in love with a piece of antique furniture that's missing a thing or two doesn't have to be the end of the world. Tons of beautiful antiques have been restored using furniture parts that've been repaired, restored, or handmade by skilled craftsmen, and once you know the right places to go, you can take a big step towards taking on these restoration projects yourself.