As you have probably heard over and over again on Antiques Roadshow, "Never remove the original finish/decoration from antique furniture". However, in the real world, the decision is more nuanced than that. In this case, I was given three mid-nineteenth century chairs. They had seen hard use, but retained some of the original decoration.
The problem is, they are not particularly attractive or significant examples, and while somewhat charming, they were essentially "factory products", akin to Victorian "cottage furniture". Not really usable as is, and good candidates for re-decoration. Fortunately, the one with the worst structural issues was also the one retaining the most decoration. I have decided to clean and slightly refurbish this one, keeping as a document of the original decoration.
The other two have gone onto the stripping table. They will be readied for reassembly and painting over the winter (when they will have recovered from this summer's extreme humidity). Will follow up with progress at that time.