When we’re shopping for our homes, we want our furniture to be uniqueand affordable, which often means trips to flea markets and thrift shops. While we love a good deal, it can be hard to know whether you can actually fix that broken chair, or if the veneer on that dresser is too far gone. Christophe Pourny is a lifelong furniture restorer whose clients include celebrities like Uma Thurman and Martha Stewart. He’s sharing his expertise with everyone through his book, The Furniture Bible. We’re chatting with Christophe and getting the low-down on finding great pieces and keeping your furniture in good shape.

Biggest Mistake People Make With Furniture

Christophe shares that overzealous use of cleaning product is responsible for many mistakes, and that most old furniture doesn’t need spray polish. He says, “Leave them alone and instead pay attention to dry heat, excessive humidity or sunlight.”

 Furniture You Should Snap Up

If you’re looking for under the-radar funiture, he tells us, “I think Victorian furniture has a bad connotation, but the upholstered pieces are comfortable beyond expectations.” Since a lot of Victorian furniture is not so valuable and rare, he suggests taking design liberties like painting them, changing the finish or even getting rid of excessive ornamentation.

How to Restore Furniture at Home

Christophe recommends stocking your home with a drawer containing white cotton rags; a good, clear 100% Beeswax polish paste; fine sanding paper; steel wool; bristle brushes and a couple of shoe polish tins to cover nicks and scratches. He also suggests adding some denatured alcohol for cleaning and a good Tung oil polish product if you can keep them safely. He tells us, “Olive oil and baby powder mixed into a paste can remove surface dirt and light scratches from wood finishes. A piece of walnut can be rubbed on furniture to cover scratches — gently rub it on a nick or scratch, and it should fade. A mixture of Comet and water can remove stains from marble.”

Score Bargain Furniture Deals

Christophe tells us, “The first thing that comes to mind is to visit flea market and estate sales,” though he warns us that it can be tricky because trained amateurs know how, where and when to find the hidden treasure, plus it’s time consuming. He recommends second-tier auctions houses, but not Sotheby’s and Christies. Instead, check out your local auctions houses, because they sell nearly everything brought to them. He says, “You can visit the lots before, get advice and info from the auctioneer and once the bidding starts, everybody has the same chance. You are only limited by how high you are willing to go.”

Do you have any pressing furniture care questions? Let us know in the comments below!

(Images via Christophe Pourny, James Wade/Artisan Books.)