“I get a lot of customers who are passing things along to their grandchildren,” says Richard Sisson of Chevy Chase Plating & Polishing. “We don’t really own these things; we’re just the keeper of them.”
Sisson is referring to priceless objects—Oriental rugs, oak grandfather clocks, silver wedding baskets—that often fall into disrepair as they’re passed down through generations.
Fortunately in Washington, with all of our fine museums, grand government buildings, and homes steeped in history, there has arisen a mini-industry of skilled repair professionals who can restore and preserve collectibles.
The 120 firms and individuals listed here can repair just about anything. They can take dents out of metal, rebind family Bibles, repair cracked ceramic vases, refinish leather, restore paintings, reweave infant christening gowns, and re-fuse broken mirrors.
Some craftspeople are called upon to repair objects more than a century old. Chris Nash at Nash Carpet One Floor & Home in Rockville recalls prying up the slats of a wood floor from a Civil War–era house when he came across a 1912 newspaper clipping that had been used as a water barrier.
“It was the front page from when the Titanic sank,” Nash says. “They didn’t throw things away back in those days; they used them for other things.”
Stained-glass conservators can re-lead a broken window. Pottery experts can restore an urn shattered into dozens of pieces—and leave behind no trace of cracks. Specialists in decorative finishes can hide water damage in wood.
Mary Landess of Restorations, a company based in Baltimore, warns against thinking of repairpeople as magicians, though. “It’s never going to look exactly like it was originally,” she says.
To Landess, a conservator is someone who strives to restore an item close to its original state while preserving the integrity of the original materials. Conservators—who are trained through classes or apprenticeships—bring an artistic mind and precise hand to their work.
The firms listed here received multiple recommendations from experts we surveyed, including architects, interior designers, repair- and craftspeople, museum curators, and owners of specialty and antiques shops.
Before hiring any home-repair contractor, it’s a good idea to do some homework. “Get references, check the Better Business Bureau, and have the person show you some of their other work,” says Donna McClain of Virginia Stained Glass Co. “We keep an album of what we’ve done.”
To keep precious items out of repair shops to begin with, experts suggest keeping objects out of direct sunlight, not dusting too much (that’s when items are most often broken), and—if you’re going to do a repair yourself—not using Krazy Glue, a glue gun, or cement. Elmer’s glue works best.
Antique Furniture and Decorations
For additional recommendations, see listings under Wood Furniture and Gilding.
Ayler’s Restoration, 4234 Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-897-9324. Restores antique furniture of all types but specializes in European pieces, particularly French.
Capital Antiques, 5122 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-966-4887. Restoration of antique furniture and art objects, mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries.
F.C. Vogt Company, 1831 W. Broad St., Richmond; 804-358-1651; vogtconservation.com. Eighteenth-century expert Rick Vogt and his staff have conserved furniture belonging to past presidents, including Madison and Monroe. The company does a lot of work in the Washington area; pickup and delivery available.
Georgetown Refinishing and Antique Restoration, 625 Cady Dr., Fort Washington; 301-248-7680; georgetownrefinishing.com. Bill Schoenbauer, Philippe Huret, and their staff work on a wide range of furniture from 16th-century to modern.
Heritage Restorations, 4233-F Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-493-4458. Stephen Rice, who apprenticed with a master restorer in Paris, conserves fine antique finishes and does structural repairs for professional and private clients.
Nick Greer Antique Conservator, 37627 Allder School Rd., Purcellville; 540-338-6607. Specializes in museum-quality 18th-century furniture but also works on some earlier and later pieces. The National Gallery of Art and Dumbarton Oaks are clients. Greer comes to Washington on Fridays for pickups and deliveries.
Peter Gutterman Antique Restorations, Damascus; 301-253-4407. Gutterman and Frank McIntyre conserve wooden antiques and restore historic finishes.
Schuettinger Conservation Services, 17 North Alley, New Market; 301-865-3009. Bruce Schuettinger opened his company, formerly Antique Restorations, in 1983. He conserves wood furniture and artifacts from the 17th through 20th centuries.
Books, Paintings, Photos, and Other Works on Paper
Albro Conservation, Arlington; 703-892-6738. Thomas Albro is the retired head of book conservation at the Library of Congress. He restores rare books and offers classes in bookbinding.
BCR Bookbinding, 717 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-534-9181. Owner Benjamin Flores restores soft- and hardcover books, magazines, newspapers, and letters. He specializes in antique books and Bibles and will custom-design display boxes to put around them.
Cleveland Conservation of Art on Paper, Beltsville; 301-210-3731; conservationofpaper.com. Rachel-Ray Cleveland conserves fine art on paper and archival documents. She has worked for the CIA, the Smithsonian, and numerous rare library collections.
Conservation of Art on Paper, 6044 Old Telegraph Rd., Alexandria; 703-960-4410. Christine Smith conserves drawings, watercolor paintings, historic documents, rare posters, and other paper artifacts. No photographs or books.
Figaro Gallery, Stafford; 703-491-1000; figarogallery.com. Mark Parker will do anything from repairing a ripped canvas to general cleaning. He restores any kind of print, graphic, or oil painting and has worked on original Picassos and Rembrandts.
Ingrid Rose, Northwest DC; 202-364-0599. Rose, in business 25 years, is a conservator who repairs and revitalizes almost any type of work on paper—documents, newsprint, watercolors, prints, and photographic prints. No oil paintings.