The most fun part of the adventure was that it just didn’t want to stop.
Expert craftsman Niko Dilo just couldn’t keep from flipping through his iPhone, sharing photos of the many masterfully restored antiques and reproductions: so many examples of striking transformations, from decay and damage to elegance restored and ravages-of-time defied.
The third-generation owner of Calendonian, Inc., Barrie Heath, chuckled. “Niko’s very proud of the work we do here,” quickly adding, “And so am I.”
This family business was founded in 1941 by Barrie’s maternal grandmother, Ethel Harris, as an antiques and second-hand furniture store. After WWII’s conclusion, Barrie’s father and two uncles came into the business, evolving it into antiques and reproductions (copies of period antique furniture) made and imported from England, as well as accessories, paintings, and the whole gamut of decorative objects to accent the furniture.
Barrie and his team continue to buy elegant, high-end English furniture that’s in good shape and restore it to pristine condition for resale. That involves closing up any cracks in the surface, replacing missing veneers, repairing/updating the insides of pieces, and replacing drawer runners as needed. Barrie showing a restored piece from the 18th century with drawers that now slide smoothly and look as good as they did 240 years ago. They work diligently to preserve the old-finish look that’s mellowed and aged on its own, particularly with English pieces. This includes restoring the hardware (handles, etc.) and even the locks many pieces include. Niko, a 19-year employee at Caldonian, has created many a new key for centuries-old locks, showing me an example lock (vintage ca. 1780) restored with key to match.
Accurate, professional restoration requires an extensive knowledge of the construction methods of each period of furniture being restored - a knowledge set that also helps Caledonian accurately estimate when and where individual pieces were built, and ensures that they employ the same techniques during restoration that were used to build the original. They use a special brand of glue that keeps a high veneer, and which also is a “reversible glue” which allows any joints secured by this glue to be taken apart later if needed (via steaming or water injection) to enable easy future repairs. (An established best practice for repairing antiques is that anything that’s done to a piece should be reversible.)
Ten years ago Caledonian relocated from its previous location on the North Shore to Barrie’s hometown of Barrington, when the onset of the recession dovetailed with a decline in interest in traditional furniture and the crash of the housing market. With people staying in their homes and moving much less frequently, the impact on furniture sales was significant, requiring a refocus of Caledonian’s business to ensure its continued success in a changing market. “In our new business model, we’ve organized a very low overhead operation that allows us to offer high quality and service at a true value for our customers,” Barrie said. “Our antiques represent really good value today; they’re often less expensive than reproductions.”
“It’s a fun business, because every piece is different,” Barrie added. “We come into work every day not knowing what road restoring our next piece will take us down.”
For online shopping convenience Caledonian maintains an internet presence, posting new offerings to its Facebook page (Caledonian Furniture and Antiques), as well at their website (CaledonianInc.com) including their currently available pieces with descriptions and pricing.
Caledonian, 202 James Street, Barrington; 847.381.0569; hours Tues—Sat 10 a.m.—4 p.m and Mondays by appointment; a call first is recommended. Web: CaledonianInc.com; Facebook: @Caledonian Furniture and Antiques.
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Foundations of Caldonian’s Culture:
1. Expertise in our field.
2. Integrity in all we do.
3. Value for our customers.