Picking Up the Pieces

Bringing new life to decorative objets.

Kimberley, Louise, Emily and Brigid.

In 1999, with just two weeks to go until the 200th anniversary celebration of George Washington’s death, Mount Vernon curators were scrambling: Some of Washington’s china service had degraded so much that it wasn’t in suitable shape to be displayed. The curators called McHugh’s Restorations, and the team renewed the china—a blue-edged plate with the eagle insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati—in time for the celebration, saving the day. Today, the Richmond business remains the only private restoration studio ever to work on objects off of Mount Vernon’s premises.

Thirty-five years after Louise and Desmond McHugh moved to Richmond from Philadelphia to open McHugh’s Restorations, the studio has built a strong reputation for restoring damaged decorative objets, both antique and modern. Its devoted customer base includes institutions like The Valentine museum and Washington & Lee University, as well as private collectors in the U.S. and abroad.

Kimberley McHugh Overman (daughter of Louise and Desmond) took over the business in 1983; sister Brigid McHugh Jones joined in 1998; and in the past year, Kimberly’s daughter Emily began working with her mother, aunt and grandmother. (Desmond passed away in 1999.) In addition to Washington’s china, McHugh’s has restored a variety of objects ranging from the priceless to the sentimental, including a plate that belonged to Abraham Lincoln while he lived in the White House and a 2,000-year-old figurine from a tomb in China. The goal is always the same: to preserve an object’s original beauty without altering its essence. “We work to put a damaged object together and make it stable,” says Kimberley, “but you should be able to reverse the repairs completely.” McHughsRestorations.com

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