I have seen many pieces of furniture that have been overly refinished. The goal of refinishing should be to return the piece to its original look. There are many good pieces of furniture that have been painted, pickled or refinished improperly which can never be saved.
Several years ago I attended a lecture/cocktail party with Leigh and Leslie Keno of Antiques Roadshow fame at the Atlanta History Center. During their lecture, they apologized for the impression they gave on the show that no furniture should be refinished.
Here is a good rule of thumb. If the piece is machine made and refinishing it will make it more attractive, salable, or useable, do it. If it is a handmade, period piece, consult a conservator. There is a difference between conserving/restoring a piece and refinishing it.
Too many times I have seen on the program, and in person, a piece that went down to 1/10th of its value since it was refinished instead of leaving it in its original condition.
If the item is a family piece, cost is not as much a factor as if you are planning to resale. Good restoration on true period antiques, whether it be on furniture, art, porcelain, or glass, should be reversible. Be sure to err on the side of caution, let an expert look at your antique BEFORE you do anything to it.
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