How to Store Antique Furniture

Written by: Editorial Team - Published: Jul 16, 2024


Antique furniture is a delight to behold and often has strong sentimental value, but sometimes, the need to place it in storage for a bit is unavoidable. While storing delicate antiques does come with the risk of damaging them, proper storage can help reduce environmental hazards and ensure your furniture stays strong and beautiful for years to come.

Key Point Module

  • 1 Prepare your furniture by fully disassembling items that can be safely taken apart and then cleaning and oiling each item using appropriate products.
  • 2 Keep your items covered with cloth and raised off the floor to help prevent scratches, moisture damage and dust and debris buildup.
  • 3 Consider a temperature-controlled storage area to help reduce stress caused by frequent temperature changes or high humidity days, and keep furniture out of direct sunlight.
  • 4 Choose a storage unit that is large enough that you don’t have to stack your furniture or cram it tightly together, which can cause damage over time.

Preparing for Storage

Whether you’re getting ready for short-term storage during a move or planning on keeping your items stored for months or years, proper preparation helps ensure everything makes it through in one piece. If your antique furniture can be disassembled without damaging it, break it down into separate pieces. In addition to making it easier to move and giving you more packing options, it helps reduce stress on the joints and connection points, which are often the first to break down. Collect the hardware in small, sealed baggies, and keep them by each piece for easy reassembly.

Next, clean your furniture with the appropriate materials. This is usually mild soap and water or a specialty cleaner. For upholstered pieces, vacuum the crevices and consider steam cleaning. Once you’ve finished this, treat any wood or metal surfaces with a polish designed for use on that material. This helps lock in moisture and provides a protective layer for wood, and it slows oxidation and tarnishing on metal.

Cover It Up

Almost all types of antique furniture fare better in storage when they are covered. There are a variety of specially made furniture pads and covers available on the market for this, but most do equally well in blankets and other fabrics you can find around your house. Plastic covers are generally not a good choice for covering up antique furniture because they tend to cause condensation which can damage the furniture. If you do use a plastic cover, ensure that it’s loose enough to provide plenty of air flow.

Even fabric covers should be wrapped fairly loosely to give your furniture room to breathe. Covers that are wrapped too tightly can also damage upholstery by leaving indentations and may put stress on wooden items.

If you have glass items, such as mirrors or removable table inserts, traditional packing materials are usually best. Foam padding or Bubble Wrap helps reduce the chance of breakage, and a heavy-duty cardboard box can help keep everything in place. Be sure to mark the exterior with Fragile stickers and other warnings.

As you pack, be sure you’re not taping your covers or other packing materials directly to the surface of the furniture. It can leave behind a hard-to-remove residue and may even permanently damage some finishes.

Choose Your Unit Carefully

Not all storage spaces are created equal, particularly when it comes to temperature and humidity. While some furniture is hardy enough to withstand natural environmental fluctuations, many antiques are delicate enough that those changes can cause warping and cracking. For that reason, experts often recommend choosing a climate-controlled unit, particularly if you live in an area with very hot summers or cold winters. High humidity can also encourage mildew in upholstered items and warping in wood, so if you do choose a unit without temperature control, you may still want to look for one with humidity-control options.

Sunlight can cause fading and deterioration as well, so a fully enclosed unit is a good choice for long-term storage. If your storage space has windows, be sure to position your furniture out of direct sunlight.

Pack to Perfection

While it may be tempting to stack your furniture tightly together to save space, that’s a good way to damage your valuable antiques. Antique furniture isn’t typically designed to support heavy items for long periods of time, so even though your wooden table may seem like it can hold heavy boxes, the pressure may cause it to crack and warp over time. Sofas may be damaged by standing on end, so it’s best to place them horizontally as they were designed to be. You can use bookshelves to store smaller items, but be sure the items aren’t too heavy.

It’s also a good idea to avoid placing items directly on the floor of your storage unit, particularly if the unit has an external entrance or if it isn’t climate-controlled. A simple layer of cardboard or furniture pads can provide decent protection from scratches and moisture, but pallets or blocks provide better air flow and keep your items safe from flood damage.

Take Precautions

Antique furniture often has significant monetary and sentimental value, so losing it can be devastating. When you’re considering a storage unit, keep an eye on security measures. Controlled access, video cameras and on-site managers are a good place to start. For more valuable items, consider facilities with individual door alarms and other high-tech measures.

Insurance is also important. This may be automatically included in some homeowners or renters insurance policies, or you may need to purchase a separate policy. Create a list of the items in your storage unit, and take pictures of them before putting them in storage to help if you need to make a claim.

Check In Regularly

Although long-term storage is typically fairly safe, sometimes unforeseen damage may occur. It’s a good idea to check on your furniture at least every few months if possible. Look under the covers to check for any visible damage or changes that may indicate long-term problems. If your furniture is going to be in storage for years, you may need to occasionally clean and polish more delicate items to keep them in good condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does wood furniture need to be stored in a climate-controlled area?

If you live in a mild, temperate climate, you may be able to store your wood furniture in an area without climate control. However, temperature fluctuations and humidity changes cause wood to expand and contract, which can cause cracking and warping. Most experts recommend climate-controlled storage for wood furniture.

Will furniture warp in a storage unit?

If properly stored, furniture will generally not warp in a storage unit.

How should smaller items, such as antique lamps, be stored?

Smaller items can be stored in cardboard boxes with sufficient padding, and those boxes can generally be safely stacked. Place the heaviest boxes on the bottom, and make sure there’s no sign of crumpling that might indicate a future collapse.