Ask Jennifer Adams: Refinishing furniture - should you or shouldn't you?

Q: My husband and I moved into a new house for our growing family - our third child is due in just two months. My aunt just gave me a complete, stained-wood bedroom set, which we need. She says it's antique and we should keep it the way it is to keep its value and protect it, but with kids, pets, and life, how can I protect it? Can I just use it now, let it get scratched because it will, and refinish it later? - Q.
A: For starters, congratulations on your baby and the new house.

You didn't say whether you love this furniture. Regardless, well-made hand-me-downs sure are an inexpensive way to furnish your house, perhaps until you find furnishings you truly love.

Refinishing the set will probably lessen its value, but unless you are a collector or plan to sell the furniture later, who cares? Glass, marble, or stone tops cut to fit each piece will help protect the wood finish and will create a customized look.

Do you know for sure that it's a true antique? Does your aunt have documentation? A lot of furniture isn't particularly valuable, even if it is more than than 50 years old. If this furniture is a super-expensive heirloom treasure, I probably wouldn't use it in my house or would put it in less-used rooms. Homes are for living, not protecting.

It would be worth a little investigation, however, just so you know what you have. Look for manufacturer markings on the back of the furniture or inside the drawers. Look online for similar items. Depending on what you find, you could choose to have the bedroom set appraised to sell or donated to a museum. Or just enjoy it. If your aunt is that worried, perhaps she's not really ready to let it go.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Jennifer Adams is a designer, author, and TV personality.

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