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A Passion for Restoration

A Passion for Restoration


As a Restorer, I feel honoured and privileged to be able to spend time lovingly working on the many beautiful objects that Onsite Gallery sources from around the world. I started out studying Fine Art, qualifying as a Textile Designer. I then moved into Styling which, after many years, evolved into restoration. Joining the Onsite Gallery team many years ago has allowed me to explore these creative skills in wonderful ways.

The way I approach my work is not at all academic in nature, in fact it’s very intuitive and has much to do with creating a connection with an object before I begin working on it. This is not work to me, it’s a passion. When a new piece arrives in the workshop, I often intuitively sense what lies waiting to be revealed of its innate beauty and patiently allow the piece to speak to me.

This can be a painstaking process, requiring many hours of observing, using my physical senses of sight and touch to understand what the object requires from me. If it doesn’t speak to me, I will leave it for a while as the process of restoration needs to feel special. Once I understand what I need to do to bring an item back to life, only then may I begin to form a restoration plan in my mind.

Due to age and neglect, the original beauty and detail of an object may be hidden under decades of grime, wear and tear. Often all I can do initially is begin carefully cleaning, until that “special” feeling connection emerges. Once I develop that kind of deep affinity with an object, I can begin revealing its original form and appearance. As I repeatedly run my hands up and down the lines, frames and surfaces (particularly when working with wood) bit-by-bit the partial story that I sensed when I started, reveals a more complete story through the stages of restoration.

It can be particularly exciting when restoring leather armchairs & Chesterfields, to discover little treasures that belonged to the owner of the chair, that had slipped out of site below the seating. I have discovered many magical items like little lead/tin soldiers and School Reports from long long ago; a French news clipping dated 1956 about the village where the piece originated; pretty hairclips, many dainty embroidery scissors and even old coins. All these long lost items may help with dating a piece.

In an ideal world, I would have weeks to uncover the true character of the beautiful objects I restore. They are often so very special either because of their background, origin, the age/era of manufacture, intricate details included by master craftsmen, or when they are the product of a well-known designer from the 1960’s or 70’s; objects don’t need to be 300 years old to feel special.

The Onsite Restoration team feels honoured to have the opportunity to do this work and we give each object as much dedicated, professional attention and appreciation as possible before the pieces are moved to the Gallery upstairs. Our desire is that the end result looks and feels harmonious and authentic.

Author: Philien Webster

Onsite Gallery, Cape Town

Philien working her restoration magic on a piece of antique tapestry..


These photos tell a visual story of  the intricate restoration project completed recently on a beautiful Chinese Table that Onsite acquired in the UK…

This was the terrible condition of the Chinese Table when we acquired it:




After many many hours of lovingly working to restore the table, this was the result:




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