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Repaired Furniture Has Its Own Style

Most Mexicans prefer to restore furniture rather than buy new, which means steady work for woodworkers and blacksmiths.

In Mexico, it’s customary to repair furniture to extend its useful life, instead of throwing it away.

“This is the fifth time that I have repaired and rewoven my rocking chair,” said Roberto Segovia Hernández, a family man from Veracruz, Mexico. “The seat and the back weavings have a certain useful life, as plastic loses its firmness and resistance over time. Fixing it costs me 600 pesos ($30) and lasts me about a year.”

Repairing, of course, is almost always cheaper than buying new.

“Buying a new one would be near 3,000 pesos ($150.) I do not see any maintenance as an expense since I relax on that chair. My son has tried to convince me to buy a recliner, yet those are more expensive than any rocking chair,” said Segovia Hernández.

Woodworking, which calls for training in a variety of skills, is essential for restoring furniture. (Dominik Scythe/Unsplash)

The best-qualified people to restore classic furniture utility are carpenters, who still utilize classic techniques to carve wood or, if needed, fix any damage that the furniture may have incurred.

The same happens with blacksmiths, who analyze metal furniture and have visual guides in the form of old photographs to recreate a used piece to optimal condition. They typically have years of experience under their belt.

“We, as carpenters, have received stunning old furniture which many times deteriorates due to humidity, wear-and-tear, or damage caused by the owners,” said Marco Antonio Suárez Tello, a carpenter and owner of a workshop in Boca del Rio, Veracruz.

Carpentry workshops are where most old wooden furniture is repaired or restored. (Adam Patterson/Unsplash)

“Fortunately, many of the items can be fixed and maintain their shape and designs. The first thing that we look for is the presence of moths, as, if the insect is present, the wood needs additional treatment to reverse any damage it could have,” said Suarez Tello.

That step is just the beginning.

“We then see if the wood itself needs any repair and sand it if needed. All damaged parts are replaced and varnished. Repair costs depend on the size of the items and their condition. For this reason, we always say to the client how much it will cost before we start working on it, so that they decide whether to give it to us or not,” he said.

These days, vintage style has become popular in interior decoration trends, which means many older pieces of furniture have earned a second lease on life.

Thus, furniture restoration has become fashionable. Interior decorators use antique furniture bought in second-hand antique stores, bazaars and flea markets, such as La Lagunilla in Mexico City.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez; edited by Matthew B. Hall)