Collection Care




By April Hann Lanford

Handling Furniture

By April Hann Lanford

Improper handling poses one of the greatest risks to the damage of an item.

Whenever handling a three-dimensional object or a piece of furniture it is important to identify if there are areas of damage or weakness.  Keeping an eye for areas of instability and understanding the construction of a piece can all play an important role in how the work is handled, packed, and/or transported.

Structural Considerations 


Always check for loose, broken, and unstable components.  Back splats, arms, legs, etc.

Loose and compromised components should be identified and noted.

Never handle a chair by the arms, or back, as that could cause further instability.

Always carry a chair by holding the bottom of the seat.


Prior to handling, confirm that any drop leaves are secured, or extension leaves are removed.

Always lift a table by the legs or by the apron.  Never lift a table from the top, as it could cause the top to detach. 

It is always recommended to lift a table rather than sliding it since the lateral movement can cause insecurity to the legs.

Larger Items

Whether it be a chest of drawers, sideboard, china cabinet, armoire, secretary, etc, it is important to never assume that these items are only constructed as one piece.  Especially with antiques, they have likely been moved several times over the years. Even before the advent of moving trucks and freight elevators.

Larger furniture is often designed to be disassembled in components to facilitate moving and handling.

Look for crown moulding or connection points between a chest of drawers and the glass front of a cabinet.

Dining tables typically have extensions and leaves.

When moving larger pieces, it is also recommended to secure or remove items that are loose or that can safely be removed.  It is best to remove loose shelving and drawers before handling them. Not only is it safer, but the reduction of weight also makes it easier to handle and move.

Remember to document where the components go to ensure that they can be properly reinstalled in the future.

Even larger pieces should always be lifted when moved, rather than slid across a surface.  Sliding across the floor can put additional pressure on the feet, legs, and their adjacent joints, potentially causing instability.


Decorative Surfaces


A common issue when moving fine furniture is damage to its veneer.  Over time you will find that the decorative veneer and inlay start to delaminate and pull away from the piece. Before handling, it is always imperative to note any areas of lifting and loss.

Avoid applying any pressure to areas of lifting.

If any detached sections of veneer are found, try to identify their original placement, and then place them in a labeled envelope or bag and store it in a drawer within the piece. 


Look for areas of detached or broken moulding.  If safe to do so, resecure the moulding prior to moving. 

Always retain any original elements, and store them with the piece for future treatment.


Loose hardware should be secured prior to handling.  If the piece is handled otherwise, the movement could create friction between the hardware and the wooden surface, causing damage.


Gold Leaf and Painted Finishes

Review gilded and painted finishes for areas of loss, flaking, cracks, etc.

Often areas of loss denote that the adjacent areas are also weak and could be further compromised. 

Avoid touching these weak areas.  If detached elements are found, place them in a labeled envelope or bag, and keep them with the piece.  

Never put tape on the surface of a gilded or painted frame. Even a small piece of scotch tape can cause irreversible damage to a stable gilded surface.

These are a few key best practices to keep in mind when handling furniture. If you have had an item or collection that has been compromised from fire, moisture, impact, or elevated levels of humidity, a specialist should be contacted immediately as it adds further complexity to how items should be handled.

If you have any questions about handling or care of your collection, please contact us at:



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Additional Reading

Our collection of educational articles about custom framing, collection care and emergency response are updated regularly.

Topics are written top help familiarize our clients with the materials and techiniques that are recommended for fine framing.


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