Out with the new, in with the old!

At Balmain & Balmain, we’re all about making new furniture for our customers. There is no better feeling than puffing up the cushions on a beautiful new sofa, taking a step back, congratulating yourself on your exquisite taste and then succumbing to the enormous temptation to flump down into the seat.

We’ve seen it a thousand times in a thousand homes. Like eating a doughnut without licking your lips, it’s pointless to resist the lure of a new cushion. But if we all only bought new furniture (we won’t stand in your way…), the world would be a lot more dull. Yes it’s wonderful to have a new piece of furniture that perfects your sitting room, but don’t be too hasty to kick out the old.

We love old furniture for its patina, its character and, perhaps most importantly, for the emotional attachment we have to certain items. A good example is the chest of drawers given to my husband, Simon, by his father. We would never have gone out and bought something like that from new, but it was a much-loved family friend so we accepted, largely out of duty and deference to this old soldier (the chest of drawers, that is).

As you would expect from a loyal soldier, sadly it was a bit battle-scarred. Several lifetimes of use meant it was in pieces of varying sizes rather than one unified whole. We could have patched it up ourselves with some wood glue, but instead we chose to think of it as a new acquisition rather than a hand-me-down, so we committed a couple of hundred pounds to have it skilfully restored. The result is a transformed piece of furniture that retains its originality, which is set now to last several lifetimes more. Fit for parade, you could say.

There’s no magic trick to this — if you have old pieces of furniture that you think have seen better days, consider the benefit of light restoration work. Apart from the significant environmental benefits of recommissioning existing pieces, your dark old brown wardrobe in all probability is hiding beautifully lustrous, light wood under several generations of furniture polish. And it’s worth checking to see whether the dogs’ bed is, in fact, the most beautiful bergere sofa (we’ve seen that more than once). A professional furniture restorer or upholsterer will quickly find out the potential of an old piece and can advise you on how best to approach the project.

We are often called on to recover and reupholster Balmain & Balmain sofas and chairs sold to our customers 15-20 years ago. We’re happy to do so as only the most off-limits of drawing rooms can ensure that furniture is kept pristine where family life is involved: cats’ claws, children’s crayons, coffee cups, red wine and time all take their toll. But if the structure of the furniture underneath an aging, faded cover is solid — as it should be in well-made pieces — there’s no reason why an old sofa or chair should remain an aging wallflower. It could easily be the dazzlingly unique life and soul of the party once more.

So, by all means, give us a call if you want to buy new, but please don’t throw out the old until you’ve given it a long hard look.

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