Before emigrating to Brooklyn, French furniture restorer Christophe Pourny trained among the best, first in his father’s Provençal workshop and then as an apprentice to his uncle Pierre Madel, who had a legendary antiques shop in Paris. This month Pourny releases his first book, The Furniture Bible (Artisan, $35). An exhaustive guide to every aspect of the craft, from construction and repair to collecting and conserving valued pieces, Pourny’s book will serve brave DIYers as well as design aficionados wishing to hone their connoisseurship.

The book opens with a short history of furniture styles from medieval to midcentury modern, and then moves into richly illustrated and useful sections on finishes, techniques, tools, and care. Who knew, for example, you could reuse horsehair stuffing (it’s not only expensive to replace but also key to consistency if you’re redoing one piece from a pair)? Or that cheap gold varnish will make a piece end up looking like a radiator? Or that if you want oak to have a lovely Mission-era patina, use ammonia?

Techniques from ciré rempli to ceruse are defined and detailed, and Pourny is appropriately cautionary about which projects require practice. For example, to those attempting the shellac-based French polish, he says, “You will invariably fail at this process, but it is the only way to learn.”

Even for those who decide to leave restoration and repair to professionals, Pourny’s book will help them become better—and eventually better-satisfied—clients by giving them a vocabulary for the end product they desire.


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