Restoring Antique Cabinets and Credenzas

MPF Conservation specializes in antique furniture restoration, furniture repair, antique upholstered furniture, and traditional woodworking.  This page discusses various types of cabinets, credenzas, and linen presses.

Right, an American Roycroft White Oak
Arts & Crafts Server circa 1900.

Cabinets can be utilized for many uses, from food service cabinets and preparation stations to bedside cabinets.

In all cases below, we perform the following details using traditional techniques as needed:

  • Disassemble as necessary
  • Inspect parts for viability
  • Clean all parts as needed
  • Repair / re-glue / amend broken parts
  • Replicate missing parts
  • CHOOSE Finish Method below:
  • Historic varnish is amended with several coats of pure shellac and rubbed to patina or French OR
  • Historically accurate varnish coating with combinations of gums, tree resins, oils, waxes and natural earth pigments is applied  OR
  • Historic painted finish is repaired and amended as needed

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right.  
Note, the marble top is on in these images above, off during treatment, below.

Bombe in the Style of Louis XV circa 1720

The Bombe had severe scratches and abrasions across the front and sides, shown above and details, below. A horizontal crack ran across the two front doors at the apex of the convex curved steam bent doors from decades before.

The marble table top was in excellent condition, shown top.


  • It was decided not to repair the cracks, but rather to inject a museum approved consolident into the substrate which would fill the void and stabilize the crack.
  • Marble top was removed and polished.
  • Ormalu was removed, repaired as needed, polished, and replaced.
  • Finish was infilled and amended, then French polished.

To see a short blog post on reparation, go to:

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.
Far left, the cabinet with the sagging silk taffeta moire; center, the cabinet after treatment.
Note the back of the cabinet (after far right) with linen strips.

Italian Polychrome Corner Cupboard circa 1750

Our client fell in love with the Italian corner cabinet on a trip to New Orleans. The corner unit consisted of two parts, the legs and table “base” as the bottom, with the top shelving unit which detached.

Once back in Oregon, the restoration needed was extensive, both structural (image right) and cosmetic.

Someone had upholstered the interior shelves during the early twentieth century in a silk taffeta moire which was rotten and sagging, shown above and below during removal.

Once the fabric was excavated, a yellow vine-pattern paper circa late nineteenth century was revealed, below center. The vintage paper was pretty and evocative of country kitchens but was damaged to a point where it could not be saved. This too was removed.

At that point MPFC was able to begin to repair first the structural issues, and finally infill the damaged polychrome finish. After a discussion with our client, we chose to paint the interior of the cabinet in a pale yellow and topcoat it in a smokey maple glaze which felt compatible and appeared as if it belonged to the Italian cabinet’s age.

Follow us on the MPF Conservation Blog to be informed of our documentation of this project when posted.

Before treatment detail of the crest, left, and after infill treatment, right:
all bare wood was infilled to match surrounding areas.

Before, above left, and after treatment, above right.

Italian Polychrome Louis XVI (Style) Cabinet circa 19th Century

Our client fell in love with the Italian cabinet in an antique shop in New Orleans.

The painted cabinet was charming, example of a detail from one of the doors, shown left, and the painted finish was worth preserving. However, the damaged painted finish was challenging. The wood base was birch, which can offer challenges in painted pieces, especially if the piece is living in an area with high humidity mixed with extreme seasons temperature shifts, and it had lived in New Orleans for a lifetime.

The birch was topped with a gesso coat. The finish was in extremely poor condition, with large chunks of paint lifting and extreme craquelure.

Our first step was to secure all lifting paint. Large chips were secured with an adhesive. For small chips, we used Gamblin’s Galkyd Lite (an oil painting medium). When used, it thins and shows no color shift, but safely secures small chips that are lifting. It also provides a coat that covers and protects a painted finish.

We discussed how to approach the cabinet with our client.

We agreed the cabinet top was very deteriorated, and needed to be sturdy so items could be set on it. MPFC suggested a painted medallion to cover the damage in the center, and then we repaired the area around the medallion, shown above.

The sides, however, were properly infilled to match the surrounding areas, being careful to allow the piece to look worn.

Many large voids, areas where the white lead undercoat shown through, were painted in a manner to appear as if the painted finish was well-appointed but old, shown right. Sometimes we simply painted the white holes in the paint with an adjacent color, and no decoration. Sometimes we added the decorative paint.

MPF Conservation worked with our client so we stayed within her budget for the piece, while bringing it up to standards.

The lovely Italian cabinet has held up nicely at the top of our client’s stairs, shown below.

Before treatment, above, and after treatment below.  

American Polychrome Radio Cabinet circa 1920

This rare cabinet created in the Italian style is one of the first of a genre of radios known as the vacuum tube amplified receivers. Radio receiver technology moved from crystal amplification and became an in-home fixture for information and entertainment.

It was in excellent condition but had sustained a break, shown top. MPFC repaired the break, performed minor infill, and polished the cabinet.

Beautiful marquetry and deep color enhance this beautiful radio cabinet!

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right.  

American Stickley Arts & Crafts White Oak Serving Hutch Ca. 1910

This family heirloom was badly damaged from years of celebrations and held many good memories. Hot foods and wax candles had caused staining and grain damage to the oak veneer and the overall presence was a dull grey palor. There were chips and gouges on the top and sides.


  • Repaired drawers and drawer skids
  • Repaired the outside back panel
  • Reglued cabinet joinery
  • Repaired hinging bores

The color shift in the after iamges is partly due to our cameras and lighting, and partly due to the deepening of the finish as it was repaired.

The companion drum dining table shown left can be found on the Dining Tables page.

French Lorraine French Walnut Serving Cupboard circa 1680

Before treatment, above left, and after treatment right.  The color shift is due to lighting.  

Below, before, above, and after below.  

The French Walnut Serving Cupboard was a sentimental piece for our client as a couple.

The badly damaged top and split oak timbered rear framing were of particular concern relative to the survival of the historic piece. This and several other issues were addressed. Follow us on our blog to be informed of our full documentation of this project.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right.    

American Ashwood Kentucky Livery Cabinet circa 1840

This Southern ashwood cabinet piece lived most of its life in Kentucky, and was part of the estate of United States Vice President John C. Breckenridge, in office 1857-1861. The cabinet was used for a century or more as a kitchen dry goods storage cabinet. In the 1990’s it was used as an entertainment center prior to coming to us. Thankfully the interior was unmolested and the cabinet could be returned to its original design intent.


  • Dry rot
  • Missing crown molding
  • Hinging issues
  • The screened circular “port” hole on the sides was to allow air to circulate and to keep pests out.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right.

Before, left, and after, right.

American Kentucky Cherry Wood Corner Cabinet circa 1820

The provenance on this beautiful Kentucky Cherry wood corner cabinet shows that it was made in Thomas Lincoln’s Shop. The cabinet was moved, and several things were done incorrectly, and finally, the corner was clipped and broken. Two hundred years of care and no damage; one careless white-glove move and it is broken. Thankfully all the pieces were collected by the owner, and we were able to puzzle them together again, and infill.

Thought this cabinet did not have detrimental issues due to the plastic wrap, never use plastic wrap against an object’s surface! Most plastics will ruin your object by cutting into the shellac.

Below, after treatment in studio.

George II Caribbean Mahogany Linen Press circa 1750

This was a cherished French polished family piece with a lovely historic varnish intact. It had not been tampered with poor repairs.


  • Repaired drawers and drawer skids.
  • Repaired bracket feet and their supports.
  • Repaired the outside back of the bottom chest of drawers which had splits.
  • Cleaned the surfaces, polished, and waxed the press.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right.  
The marble top was removed and polished.

French Chinoiserie Louis XVI Revival Mahogany Side Cabinet circa 1900

Mahogany inlaid with satinwood, Brazilwood, and holly depicts Chinese figures and linear detailing. Forged brass decorative elements created in the French Empire style had aged beautifully over a century.


  • The shellac varnish over the detailed marquetry was murky due to multiple applications of boiled linseed oil. This was cleaned ad rubbed out with felt blocks immersed in mineral spirits and powdered mica abrasives, which clarified the finish and revealed definition to the marquetry. After the cabinet was treated with paste wax and rubbed to the proper patina
  • Marble top was removed and polished.
  • Ormalu was removed, repaired as needed, selectively polished and sealed with wax, then replaced, shown below.
  • We could find no maker’s stamp, but found this “Made in France” stamp, right, a common embossing required for imports during the McKinley and Roosevelt administrations.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment right; after treatment details below.  

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.

Italian Satinwood Renaissance Drawer Cabinet circa 1600

The moral of this story is do not let puppies around rare antiques! Not the puppy’s fault; puppy’s do what they do until they are through teething and trained! It is lucky the puppy did not get a nail in his mouth, as the hand-forged rose-headed nails are holding the trim and feet in place.

This beautiful Italian polychrome drawer chest was likely created between 1580 and 1630. The chest is unusual in that the side and front panels, front drawers, as well as front center drawer is crafted from Ceylon and/or Eastern Indian Satinwood, European Black Walnut solid planked decorative top, and European (old growth) pine secondary woods (drawer interiors, drawer skids, floor, drawer separators, drawer pull tenons, outside back planking). Most subsequent cabinets of this type are created from walnut.

The inset front and side panels were originally dyed in a transparent avocado green with a light coat of asphaltum over the top. The dyes were covered over, but the historic finish was never stripped. The dyes degraded and as more oil and asphaltum was placed over the top until they simply disappeared. Evidence of the color was found around where molding edges meet the panels.

The chewing was on the front feet and lower trim; shown above; our project involved recreating the chewed areas and finishing them so that the repair was seamless. Our work, below; even distressed to look several hundred years old.

Above and below, after treatment.

Additional cabinets and credenzas can be found in the Imperial collection in Crater Lake National Park, in Hanley Farms, and on the page featuring the Berkey and Gay collection.

If you are interested in other wooden objects, see below: