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The Makeover Master: Christophe Pourny's Tips on Reviving Wood Furniture

Christophe Pourny is an expert at breathing new life into old furniture. Here, he presents three time-tested methods—tung-oil quench, light ebonizing, and ciré rempli—for revitalizing some of our favorite vintage wooden pieces.

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Photography by: Ryan Liebe

As a child growing up in Fayence, a village near Cannes in the south of France, Christophe Pourny didn’t play with the latest talking bears or the shiniest toy cars. “My parents’ antiques store was in our house, so as kids, my sisters and I were essentially always playing with old stuff,” he recalls. “They had such magical things for kids—old military uniforms, real clogs, antique toys, bonnets and camisoles for my sisters. There was nothing, no room, that was off-limits.” That he is now a renowned furniture restorer, known for discovering heirlooms in the rough and transforming them into new treasures, comes as a surprise to no one—except maybe himself. “I was the only one in my family who said, ‘I will never ever enter this field.’ And yet I’m the only one of my siblings to go into the business,” he notes. Today, the French expat, along with his partner, Jason Jobson, works out of a spacious studio in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. They employ five restorers, each with skills that complement Pourny’s own. “There are so many techniques. One person can’t possibly know how to do them all,” he says. That’s one of the reasons he chose to write The Furniture Bible (Artisan, 2014), parts of which are excerpted on the following pages. It’s a comprehensive but accessible guide to restoration that lays out everything you need to know about making over wooden furniture. In the foreword for the book, Martha, a frequent client, writes that Pourny gives us “a compelling reason to look at our own furniture in a new way.” That is, to look at it through the lens of the Old World: When repairing was always far preferable to discarding—and age was something to celebrate.

Restoring Beauty

“A good restorer is someone who is conservative in technique and natural in product,” Pourny says, explaining his old-world methods. “It’s not fair to ‘freeze’ a piece with spray lacquers or epoxy glue.” Instead, he relies on natural, reversible products like tung oil, linseed oil, and beeswax.

Refreshing an Antique Stand
Reviving a Midcentury-Modern Wooden Nightstand
Reinventing an Old Wooden Dresser
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