How to safely store antique furniture

How to safely store antique furniture
Antique furniture can be a sound investment, as it tends to increase in value over time if it’s treated well and kept in good condition. But if vintage furniture doesn’t quite fit your home decor, or won’t fit into your new home if you’re downsizing or moving in with a partner, you may be considering how to store it safely for the future.

Here are some tips for safely storing your antique or vintage furniture so that it will stay safe and sound until you decide to use it or sell it.

1. Preparation is vital for safe antique storage

Storing any furniture requires a bit of preparation to make sure there’s nothing lurking in the crevices, such as crumbs or creepy crawlies, that could later cause damage. Antique furniture is no different in this regard, but unlike modern furniture, you’ll need to take extra care to avoid accidentally removing any patina or lacquer.

Firstly, give your antique furniture a good clean. Use a soft cloth dipped in warm water with a touch of washing-up liquid and wipe down all the visible, hard surfaces. If your furniture is upholstered, consider having it professionally cleaned or use a suitable upholstery cleaner.

Make sure any detergent is gently removed with a damp cloth, and allow it to dry completely.

If you notice any holes or damage, even tiny pinprick holes, have your furniture examined by an antiques expert to check for infestation.

2. Condition your antique furniture for storage

Vintage furniture is usually made from hardwood, which can dry out and crack if left unconditioned. You’ll need to do a bit of research to find which product is best to use for your particular piece of furniture, but as a rule, beeswax is safe to apply to most hardwoods, and will stop it from drying out. 

Leather items need to be oiled or treated with beeswax, and any metal parts need to be fully dry and any spots of rust treated before they spread.

3. Choose where to store your antique furniture

You might simply be putting your furniture into your loft, or a garage/shed, or you might choose to keep it in a self storage unit. Wherever you plan to store it, bear in mind:

If you keep your antique furniture in your garage or shed, it’s at risk of theft. If your items are valuable, consider renting a secure, indoor self storage unit instead. Safestore stores are covered by 24-hour CCTV and some are staffed by 24-hour security guards; they’re all fitted with fire safety systems and alarms.

Antique furniture can struggle if it’s not protected against the elements. Fluctuations in temperature throughout the year can cause damage, so an external storage space such as a shed, garage or metal container won’t be suitable for most delicate items including fabric, leather or lacquered wood.

Wherever you keep your antique furniture, be mindful of the risk of fire, theft or flood. Check that your home insurance would cover valuable antique furniture kept in the loft or shed/garage, and if you choose to store it in a self storage unit, make sure you take out adequate insurance to protect against those risks, however unlikely they may be. Take photographs of your items, and get an up to date valuation of your items before storing them (and at regular intervals of, say, 5 years) so that the insurance will always adequately compensate you for any loss.

Very large or bulky items can be difficult to manoeuvre into tight spaces. Avoid damaging legs or corners by storing your vintage furniture in a storage unit large enough to accommodate it, and avoid stacking other items on top of it. If you’re storing your furniture in a self storage unit, choose a store that’s easy for you to get to at times convenient to you. Safestore stores are available all over the country close to major rail and road networks and most are open 24 hours a day, all year round.

4. If transporting your antique furniture, package it carefully

If you’re moving your antique furniture into storage away from your home, wrap it carefully to cushion it from damage during transportation. 

Don’t use bubblewrap or any type of plastic, as this will allow moisture to build up and can cause rot and mould to develop. Instead, use fabrics such as an old pair of curtains or old bedding.

5. Store antique furniture in the best position

Mirrors and paintings should be stored in an upright position, and furniture on legs should be stored as they’re designed to stand - but place the legs or base on bricks to elevate them from the floor, to allow air to flow freely and avoid rot.

Your antique furniture has lasted a long time already. Following the advice above will help it to last another lifetime, and might prove to be a tidy little nest egg for the future. 

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