Chest of Drawers

MPF Conservation is a full-service company specializing in conservation, restoration and preservation of furnishings of upholstered and non-upholstered objects, textiles and interior architectural elements; this page documents Chest of Drawers. Often they are accompanied by a mirror.

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 / reglue / amend broken parts, ESPECIALLY drawer skids and drawer bottoms which are often compromised after a century of use
  • Replicate missing parts
  • CHOOSE Finish Method below:
  • Historic varnish is amended with several coats of pure shellac and rubbed to patina or French polished 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 below.
After treatment above right and below in text with mirror.  

American Greek Revival Mahogany Chest of Drawers with Mirror circa 1900

The Mahogany chest of drawers shellac varnish originally was a deep cherry red, likely an early aniline dye infused into the shellac, or possibly a strong infusion of traditional vegetable based Dragon’s Blood mixed into the shellac. The top was badly damaged; the rest of the piece showed extreme crackling and spills of an unknown material which had also polluted the top.

Right, after treatment.

Details:

  • Prior to MPFC taking possession of the chest of drawers, someone had stripped a side panel and a drawer.
  • Not seen, compromised drawer skids and drawer bottoms were repaired or selectively replaced.
  • Numerous small breaks and cracks were repaired using traditional woodworking methods
  • MPFC selected grain-matched mahogany and created veneer to match and infill losses before final finish of properly matched brush coats of fresh shellac followed by a French polish.

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

American Walnut Vanity Chest of Drawers circa 1920

The top’s French polish was burned through in several areas with oil from a diffuser as well as perfume spills, detail shown right.

Details:

  • Impurities had to be completely removed before a new build-up was performed.
  • Multiple coats of infill shellac brought the degraded areas to level before final French polish.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.  

American Georgian Cherry Chest of Drawers circa 1820

Detail:

  • Case joinery, drawers, drawer skids and panel connections were repaired as necessary using traditional woodworking methods and materials.
  • Original varnish was cleaned and treated to a warm wax rub, then burnished.

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

Louis XIV Burled Walnut Marquetry Chest of Drawers circa 1690

A lovely piece, needing repairs and infill, then historic finish preservation. Fortunately, despite its many condition issues, almost no modern repairs were attempted previously, therefore the chest could be approached without the need to reverse poor repairs.

Past damage due to a prior pest infestation caused damages such as seen right, and dry rot also was present. Loose veneer and marquetry was present on the top.

For more on our treatment of this extremely damaged piece, see our blogpost on their piece:

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

Dutch Rococo Satinwood and Walnut Chest of Drawers circa 1750

Details:

  • Surfaces cleaned of accretions of degrading materials.
  • Missing or loose moldings repaired in proper positions.
  • Cabinet joinery, drawer joinery and dresser skids were repaired using traditional woodworking methods and materials,
  • Veneer losses infilled using same species veneer selected for color and grain, created in house.
  • Color losses and varnish losses were selectively infilled with resin varnish, and finally the entire chest was treated to an encaustic wax treatment and burnished to proper patina.

After treatment, right.

Note: Difference in color due to changes in room lighting and/or camera.

Before treatment, left, and after right.  

Two French mahogany Side Chests of Drawers created by “N.A.Lapie” circa 1760

Two Parisian side chests were crafted using mahogany and French walnut veneers with satinwood, basswood, and holly Boulle style cut historic veneer inlay marquetry. Cabinet frames were oak and pine.

The chests were once extremely colorful but the vegetable based dyes have faded. Missing veneer was recreated in our studio and placed into voids. Historic shellac treated.

Mason Monterey Chest of Drawers ca. 1930

Mason Monterey furniture was designed and built by Frank Mason, who founded the Mason Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles in 1919. When founded, it was a lamp manufacturing company. “Monterey” furniture was born in the 1920’s, evolving out of the Hollywood design studios depicting the film industry’s version of ranch furniture. The style is derived from Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Pennsylvania Dutch, California Mission and simple ranch furnishings.

This piece was chemically stripped by someone in the family; we restored it using oil paints as per client’s memories, paint embedded in cracks, and in keeping with our historical information on Mason’s style.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right and below.
Mason A-Frame Chair was from another client circa 1930.  

Mason Monterey Chest of Drawers ca. 1934

Mason Monterey furniture was designed and built by Frank Mason, who founded the Mason Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles in 1919. When founded, it was a lamp manufacturing company. “Monterey” furniture was born in the 1920’s, evolving out of the Hollywood design studios depicting the film industry’s version of ranch furniture. The style is derived from Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Pennsylvania Dutch, California Mission and simple ranch furnishings.

This piece sat in a garage for many years, broken in parts, and was covered with the pollutants from exhaust. It was rescued by our client who had fond memories of the chest. He wanted it restored. Carcass was reglued, drawer skids replaced, drawer framing repaired, and drawer bottoms were replaced.

We cleaned it thoroughly and infilled the missing parts of the cowboy (before image right). Note: this is not a decal, but was hand-painted in the Mason factory.

Additional chests of drawers shown above can be found in the Imperial Collection in Crater Lake National Park (above), and on the page on Hanley Farms.

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