2005 Guide to Home Repair: Wicker

Donna Keller and Dennis Moon's interest in wicker began in 1978 when Keller's grandmother gave them some wicker furniture from the 1920s. It needed restoration, and Keller and Moon taught themselves to do the work.

Reweaving History: Donna Keller and Dennis Moon, Wicker Place Antiques

At the time, Keller worked for the Central Intelligence Agency after serving in the Air Force as a Soviet analyst. When she met Moon, he was "a frustrated, overworked IBM engineer who had no life outside the lab," Keller says. "Once we got married, we hardly ever saw each other."

Restoring her grandmother's wicker furniture gave them new life. They somehow found time to begin a small business, Wicker Place Antiques in Manassas. "I'd work four 12-hour shifts" at the CIA, Keller says. "By the time I would finish, I'd come to the shop and there'd be this pile of messages."

Keller and Moon, who eventually left their day jobs, specialize in restoring antique wicker and other woven furniture, but they work on newer pieces, too. "Just about anything that is woven, we can re-weave it," Keller says. That includes caning, rush, splint reed, bamboo, and rattan. Moon does structural repairs and carpentry; Keller handles cleaning, painting, refinishing, and most of the reweaving.

Well-made wicker can last a long time. Keller recently worked on a loveseat that was 120 years old.

"On newer pieces the frames are not always as durable," she says, so repairing inexpensive wicker doesn't always make sense. "It's the same amount of work for antiques or for cheap pieces."

Homeowner advice: Wicker is low-maintenance as far as furniture goes. "Old wicker has survived very nicely on semi-enclosed porches," Keller says. "Just throw a canvas cover on it." She advises not covering wicker with plastic–because plastic traps moisture–and not storing wicker in an attic or basement, where temperatures can be more extreme.

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