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Those of you who live in larger metropolitan areas are very fortunate to have access to large warehouse facilities which offer the best conditions for receiving and storing art, antiques, and designer furnishings. They also provide the best packing, shipping and installation with well-trained personnel. There are many of us who live in smaller communities who must rely on storage and services which may not be ideal for our inventories. This can result in those facilities being operated by management with inexperience and or inadequate knowledge of the elements which can cause damage to our fine collections. It is our responsibility to continuously inspect our stored items.

Recently I visited my warehouse where I have many of the larger wooden pieces of my inventory stored and to my surprise I found mold / mildew growing on the corner of a Regence Period oak buffet and the leg of a Louis XIV Period walnut table. Pointing this out to the warehouse manager resulted in a heated discussion about whether the “sighting” was truly mold/mildew or dust. I quickly reminded him this was not the first occasion we engaged in this discussion of what I thought was mold/mildew on certain items. He could no longer argue after he was reminded of an earlier visit when I noticed what appeared to be mold on a piece that was going out for delivery. During that encounter the manager quickly defended his position siting that they did not have a problem with mold/mildew in the warehouse. Provoked by the tone of the discussion, I inspected the inventory and found one other problem. I pointed out the hazards of mold/mildew growth to furniture and the ways to avoid the situation. Management had the pieces cleaned to my satisfaction and I expected this incident to never happen again. Apparently my “discussion” fell on deaf ears and it is my fault for trusting this firm for so many years both in Birmingham and Charleston to do the right thing with their business.

Fortunately, I have discovered in Charleston a new facility where a young man and his wife seem eager to learn what it will take to earn the business of those of us in the trade. He has a properly conditioned well-built building located in a better area with loading docks and the willingness and ability to earn my trust. I am pleased that finally there is a new alternative to storage in this community and will relocate my things next week. The two pieces with mold/mildew are going to be professionally cleaned and waxed by my restorer.

Hopefully my experience will encourage many of you to check into the locations where you may have items stored. Designers should drop in and see the facilities and check out any furnishings which are received and stored for their clients. Dealers of art and the decorative arts who need extra storage for their inventories need to be aware that some storage facilities have cut costs with climate control. Take measures to review these facilities with an unannounced visit. Those who have self-storage units should certainly be aware of the risk you are taking with anything which is fine or precious.

About the Author

Mary Helen McCoy

Mary Helen McCoy

Mary Helen McCoy is a woman with a mission – that is, to deliver to her clients the ultimate in period furniture and decorative arts. Her firm is considered one of the nation’s premier sou...