In 1967, as a teenager in Baltimore, Jim Lauer discovered his love of antique furniture. Working every afternoon for several local antique dealers, he was paid to complete basic repairs to slot machines, carnival equipment, movie machines, and other equipment. Over the next two years, word of Jim’s skills traveled, and he was sought out and acquired jobs from numerous antique dealers. As the work became more complicated, Jim’s skills grew. He was hired by Fiorelli’s, a well-known establishment in Baltimore, to repair, restore or refinish damaged furniture, which was later sold at full price.
While at Fiorelli’s, Jim used his time well, learning a great deal about technique and the language of the trade, from the refinisher and the workers. He mastered the skill of removing old upholstery and measuring for new fabric, which allows the upholsterer to install it in a manner that is pleasing to the eye. Patterns must be aligned and matched, and stitching must be precise, to achieve an end result that looks smooth and natural. This is a skill that takes patience and precision in order to create a consistently perfect result.
It soon became obvious that Jim had a natural talent for this type of work, and in 1969, Lauer Furniture Restoration was created and Jim began working for himself. Jim loved his work, but more than that, he loved the timeless designs and superior construction of old, handmade antique furniture.
Jim had grown up watching his father, William E.Lauer create amazing things. William worked full time for the Research Institute for Advanced Science. When the United States’ space program was in its infancy, he made timers and other parts for the early, unmanned rockets. He was always in the basement working on something. He built grandfather clocks from scratch, and every single component was handmade, all the way down to the gears that made it work. He designed and built scientific instruments as well: a film balance, which measures the thickness of oil as it spreads on water’s surface, and a light spectrometer to measure certain variables in the electromagnetic spectrum. He seemed to have been born with precision in his hands and laser focus in his mind – traits that Jim was becoming known for as well.
In 1972, Jim married Nana Gail Merkle. Gail, a born artist, has a natural eye for color, shape and cohesion. She worked in the business, part time, for many years. In the beginning, her role was mainly consulting with customers regarding the necessary repairs to their furniture. Through the years, however, Gail learned about the confluence of skill and workmanship and love in old, beautiful handmade furniture. She started to see woodwork and finishing as its own art form, and to notice the beauty and nuances in wood colors and grain patterns. She was able to understand why a furniture maker chose the materials he used. This was a connection to a past, filled with art and history.
Soon, Gail began doing touch ups, a skill that demands an eye for color and pattern matching, a skill that came naturally to her. As an artist, Gail has an uncanny subconscious connection between her eyes and hands. She has replicated some of the most beautiful canvas oil paintings one can imagine and from her own imagination, has created many others. Although oil painting is one of her strongest talents, Gail’s main focus is on classical drawing. Over the years, she has studied under such names as David Turnbaugh, Dr. Morris Green, Fritz Briggs and also at Schuler’s School of Fine Art. Additionally, she’s done work for Samuel Kirk & Sons – a famous silversmith in Baltimore, Maryland. At present, Gail teaches drawing for the Rappahannock Art League in Virginia and conducts private lessons in classical drawing at her art studio, also located in Virginia. Gail is also in charge of all of Lauer’s caning, rushing, and upholstery jobs.
As might be expected, Jim and Gail became inundated with antique jobs and outgrew their original space. In 1997, they built a new shop in Virginia. The Virginia shop is much larger than the shop in the Baltimore location, however, furniture repair is handled at both locations.
Jim and Gail’s daughter, Julie, is also an artist. She and her husband, Mike, are completing repair jobs at the Lauer’s shop in Bel Air, Maryland. Mike has always been a very detail-oriented craftsman. Most of his work has been devoted to remodeling and carpentry, but after marrying into the Lauer family, he was introduced to the beauty of handmade antique furniture. Mike has learned much from Jim about repair and restoration and continues to work alongside of him.
The Lauer family has been trusted to repair and restore pieces from local museums. They have always been trusted by insurance companies and auction houses for delivering high quality work at fair prices. They were recently contracted by Christie’s of New York, to restore a bedroom set purchased by singer/songwriter/performer, Beyonce.
Lauer Furniture Restoration now has a total of three shops: Bel Air and Baltimore, Maryland, and Heathsville, Virginia. Though the shops are miles apart, they are all 100% family-operated and maintained by the family’s dedication to high quality workmanship, the type of work rarely duplicated anymore. Antiques are filled with history and every piece looked at closely, reveals subtle hints of how and why it was made – sometimes even revealing the original maker. We love sitting back and picturing the origin of a particular piece and what was happening in history at that time. All of these old furniture pieces have a story to tell and that’s what makes them so special to us. Feel assured, that the true, family value of your furniture is well understood and you’ll see that reflected in all of our work.