Louis XV Polychrome Commode Ca. 1730

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Above, the commode before treatment;
note the faux “drawers” on the front which are really hiding the door.
Below, the underside of the commode.

This well loved Venetian poly-chrome commode was created in the classical Louis XV Style.  It has been in service for three centuries and weathered multiple risings of the Adriatic tides (Aqua Alta), which filled courtyards, pathways, shops and homes of the citizens of Venice before receding back to the seas traditional elevations.  The Aqua Alta left the citizens homes and furnishings with brine and water-logged decorative objects.  Survival of the citizens prized possessions depended much upon the preparedness of the owners of the objects.

To that end, this cabinet supports that theme in that its owner introduced two iron eyelets early on in the cabinets journey into the upper cabinet outside back, shown right, securing the cabinet to hooks placed in the wall behind the commode which prevented the cabinet from floating away during these periodic floods.

Demure in stature. the commode sustained splits and selective losses from contraction of its wooden substrates in its legs and lower cabinet structure which was necessary to address.  As this post will show, several areas of internal loss from dry-rot required strategic fills in order the prevent the cabinets legs from structural failure and cracks in the solid plank front door required stabilization through the introduction of internal butterfly key-locks in order to prevent the door from separating and falling from the cabinet.

The historic cabinet contained was crafted from three distinct wood species: European Beech, Birch and Pine.  All fresh wood introduced during the restoration matched the original wood species within each amended and repaired component.

Hand painted classical elements adorned the cabinet front which was typical of its period while also reflecting the Venetian decorative mindset for that period in history.  What set this piece apart from many painted French pieces of this era was the painted faux marble top which we selectively infilled within badly worn faux mineral vein impressions and badly worn gold leaf edge molding which bordered three sides of the cabinet top.

The underside of the commode
was rough hewn wood with a large
knot in the center, above, which
contrasted with the once-beautiful painted exterior.

The entire carcass had serious splits
or cracks that went nearly through
various parts of the commode,
and the ones in the door were repaired.

However, the large cracks on the sides were in our opinion not repairable.  To try to repair these on this 300-year-old cabinet would have caused more damage.  We chose, instead, to allow this “old lady” to be able to be old, shown her cracks, and make her stable and beautiful again.

The first thing we discovered about
the commode was that it leaned
(shown first image in the slideshow top
and left, with the level).
The door wanted to slam shut when opened.

We was decided not to fix the lean.

To fix it a piece of wood would have
to be placed on the bottom of the legs to
lift the left-facing side, shown right.

  This was ill advised, because we
would have to drill into the slender legs
to attach the wooden lift, and as
you will see, the legs also had splits.

The commode was hand-carved and hand-made.  Evidence of this is easily seen in the chatter marks on the back of the legs, shown left.

The door hinge is an eyelet hinge, original to the commode, shown below.

On the back at the top of the commode are two eyelets on each side, shown below.
After researching these oddities, we discovered they were commonly installed to hold pieces like this in place during the Venetian Aqua Alta.


We began with the door, and it needed several reparations.


The lock was not operating properly.  The lock-box was hidden behind the wallpaper, which was not original to the commode but had been applied decades before.

The commode was turned on its side, and we began by removing
the wallpaper and removing the lock-box, shown above.

Because the lock-box did not work properly, Mitchell disassembled the lock-box.
He cleaned it, lubricated it, and made it operational again.

The walls of the cavity for the box were then repaired, rebuilt
and the lock was reinstalled, shown above.


The door splits were repaired using keylocks, shown above, strategically placed to stop the door from splitting.

Six keylock mortise were carefully excised to fit the keylocks.  The keylocks were glued in place with warm hide glue.  The second to the last image shows them painted.

We decided to save the wallpaper to the best of our ability.  We lifted a good deal of ink from the shelf, final image above.

The faux drawers were separating from the door, right, and these were glued, clamped to cure, then secured from the back to ensure they stayed put.


All the legs had issues, but the back legs had serious fissures that continued
up into the commode body and would eventually cause failure.

First, Mitchell created jigs to be used when gluing the repairs on the legs, above.


As an example, showing the rear right-facing leg reparation.
Above you can see the length of the crack,
and the knot-like fissure in the top of the leg.

Below, the reparation, including the fill for the knot,
which came close to penetrating the leg
but did not go through the painted front.

The second rear-facing leg was repaired in the
same manner, shown below during treatment.


The Left-facing front leg was cracked, shown above.

The crack was repaired using gap-filling glue,
shown below, using a thin shim to fill the void.

All repairs were glued, clamped, and set to cure for 48 hours.


Deep cuts under the body appeared to be original to the commode.
These were another weak link which we infilled with hard wood.


Each color had to be matched.  The tricky part was imagining the color correctly after it dried.  Further, the topcoat had to be taken into account when mixing paints.

I save my mixing sheets in a notebook because while not all my mixes are correct for a project, they are good references for other possible paint colors.

Note from Kate:  The more I mix and am familiar with a specific medium, in this case oils, the better I am at coming to the correct color quickly.  Even so, I have tubes of rejected paints that didn’t make the cut.  I sometimes use them in other projects or in my own experiments in oil painting.

Mason Monterey’s Smokey Maple glaze
was a base of asphaltum diluted
with ®Galkyd, and this is the same
glaze, though more diluted,
used as a topcoat on the commode.

Once the colors were properly mixed
to the right recipe, they were made
in a large amounts and placed
in a tube.

The tops of the tubes were
colored with the oil paint in them.

Note from Kate: I am beginning to find that pigments are often associated with an era, and this commode is very close to the Mason Monterey palette. Even the blues, which are rarely shown in Monterey, is a good match to the Mason Blue.

Notes were taken of all the mixes, both on the mix sheets, and then in a notebook, shown above left.  On cardboard strips (close to the color of wood) the paints colors are also kept in a string of all project colors mixed, above right.

Below, the palette created during painting.  Original colors were sometimes tweaked slightly, and these too are shown next to the tube colors.


Above the commode completed.

Above, details of the side before and after.

The top, above, before and after treatment; details shown below.

The interior of the door, before and after treatment.

 dkatiepowell@aol.com / mitchellrpowell@aol.com
503.970.2509 / 541.531.2383
©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
Notify us if you repost, and use our url + copyright in reference.

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Embellished Pillows

Several pillows were made to accompany our client’s family furniture after the design presentation:  below, images from the production process.  Pillows can make the look!   These pillows and bolsters are all hand-stitched other than the basic forms.


The cylinder bolsters were created from
the striped silk used on the long
French Louis XVI Neoclassical Sofa circa 1760
shown above.  The two matching bolsters were
created to add comfort to the open wooden
arm ends and help make the long sofa more comfortable and inviting.

The stuffed form was created, and the silk wrapped the form and was hand-stitched.
Going through the embroidered areas required muscle and pliers to
push and pull the needle through the layers.

We also discovered an anomaly in the silk pattern, and this is discussed below in the video.  We had not checked the fabric for this aspect, as we’ve never had a good house have this kind of glitch, and unfortunately we had the last bit of fabric or we would have ordered more.  In any case, we had to use what we had as we could get no more of the silk.

Creating the ends, below.

Careful hand-stitching to gather the silk
on the bolster ends, above!

In all cases, trims needed to be kept from unraveling during the application.
A casein-based glue is added to the areas that are prone to unraveling, shown right.

One completed bolster, below.


The rust shot silk taffeta was used in several pillows and cut all at once, shown left.  It was used as the back and the flange on several pillows.  This pillow incorporated the upholstery showcover from the two French Louis XIV Settees circa 1700, shown above.

Layers of passementerie one on top of another made these very difficult pillows to sew, especially as no forms could be used to stabilize the pillows as the forms would emboss the silk permanently.

Layers shown one on top of another in stills, above, and in the video, below.

If you love passementerie details, these pillows are beautiful, shown up close, last image above, and in the image below of the pillow top ready to be made into a pillow!

Note the beauty the layers of passementerie add in the
before and after of the pillow top, below.


The ivory knotted eyelash silk taffeta made its way into several pillows, and the one below is the fanciest, using dangling beads all around.  Because of the layers, this one was pinned, then basted, for each layer of passementerie.

Notes are added to each process photo, below,
if you run your mouse over the image.

The top of the pillow completed, below, and ready to become a pillow!

Many pillow images,  below!

To see many images of sofas and loveseats, go here.
For pages on pillow ideas, go here.
To see our post on the design process, go here.

 dkatiepowell@aol.com / mitchellrpowell@aol.com
503.970.2509 / 541.531.2383
©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
Notify us if you repost, and use our url + copyright in reference.

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CW Parker Carousel, Chariot Benches

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(Swipe to see the cats discovering the pony!)

“Whoa… who put this here?” Savitri.
“Hey, there’s a critter in the studio!”  Gibbs…
“He’s not a cat….But he’s a cheery fella!  Just my size!”

It is a shame the C.W.Parker Carousel restoration was put on hold.
We have loads of information and hope to eventually share it with you.

Lions and tigers and bears and ponies!

Below are the benches that came into the studio for assessment
and eventually would have been properly conserved.
In all cases, we proposed going back to oil paint instead acrylic.
Oil is much more durable and has a beautiful depth to the paint.


Click the images to read the detailed comments under the images:


The Lion Bench (our name) has two giant lion heads on either side,
with flourishes of greenery, yellow flowers, and gold swirls.  It sits on a deep red base and is anchored at each end by a deep red flourish.

Unfortunately, at some point the seats themselves were ruined by
improper upholstery; no one in the days these were created would have done
such a shoddy job using foams.  The seats were stripped of their fiber pods,
and they were modified, as originally they would have been comfortable to sit on, extending another few inches forward.  One can imagine a thoroughly modern post-Victorian mother sitting on this delightful bench seat while keeping an eye on her children.

Now one has to Hang On to keep
from slipping off the front edge!

The case for upholstering the benches properly is simple:
foam will deteriorate faster than a traditional buildup, and as it does so
the showcover wears out faster.  If these benches are restored improperly again, they will cost more in the long run due to constant reupholsterings.

The carvings on both sides are in good condition but need repainting.

Jantzen Beach Lady going for a ride
on the single seat Lion Bench!


Click the images to read the detailed comments under the images:

The Double Bench Chariot has copper wheels, a carved Native American head at the front, and angels at the back with pink wings.  Green flourishes and golden swirls decorate the sides.

We believe the opposite sides which faced the center of the carousel
were once carved like the front, and lost their carvings.
Our research says scenes were once painted on the outside back of the benches.
We believe in the restoration the scenes should be recreated, even if not historical, for the effect.  Of course, carving the opposite side would be grand, but if it is too expensive, perhaps painted images as an homage could take its place.

And as in the single bench, the upholstery was botched in the same way,
but can be brought back to a proper and comfortable seat!

We hope this project is eventually revived
and the carousel is treated properly!

To keep abreast of all our posts, follow us here or
on Instagram (@mpfconservation) or on Facebook!


Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, painted furniture, painted objects, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jerry Lamb” Wingback Ca. 2010

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Our client purchased the wingback chair designed by Jerry Lamb, a Portland Oregon antique dealer and interior designer.

We were to do a full restoration, down to the frame, with a goal of improving upon its comfort level.  We also were to use both traditional and modern methods in the execution of its upholstery buildup.

Therefore, this chair is an upholstery hybrid.

We changed the showcover to a lively colorful dragon motif trapunto from Kravet.

While waiting for restoration, it was a frequent favorite of the studio cats; Savitri shown in a regal pose, above right.  BTW, our cats submit to nail clippings every Wednesday evening, and before our cats are allowed around upholstery projects we make sure our clients have no allergies; ours have cats.


Above, we began our excavation by turning the chair upside down and removing the old dustcover, exposing the webbing.  Furniture is excavated in the reverse order it was upholstered.

Two items were found under the dustcover; we do not know their significance.

As we removed the outside back, two items were noted.

The previous upholsterer used ®Ply-grip on the contoured edges instead of hand-stitching; we will hand-stitch the back into place.

Also, fabric remnants were used as dustmembranes.

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Excavation images, above.  Right, a detail of the original stuffing buildup (all prefabricated materials) when we first loosened the front seat apron, revealing the layers of synthetic buildup for the first time.

Mitchell took images and notes of what was used and how the original buildup was performed.


The alder legs were quite chingered, examples in the first two images above.

We scuffed the original finish (third and fourth images).

Mitchell created a shellac infused with a dye to balance the losses without changing the nature of the intended finish choice, which was a semi-transparent stain.  The final coats were a platina shellac.

Leg after finish process, final image above.


The chair frame is repaired and ready to begin the buildup, above right.

In all cases throughout the project, we repaired tack and other holes
as necessary using hard picks and PVA glue or hide glue.

Turning the chair over, we began with new 11 lb jute webbing, above, basket-woven and tacked into the underside of the frame.

The chair was turned over, left, for the seat buildup.

In the images above, the springs are set in before the tie-down for design consideration.  We replaced the front springs, using a taller, and higher gauge spring than the original.  We wanted the center of gravity to drop back and in, rather than slipping forward and out, as it did previously.

We reused the rear original seat springs.

Mitchell used a double four-way tie using linen waxed spring twine, steps shown above:

  • Lashed springs to the seat webbing using linen twine;
  • Tie vertical springs;
  • Tie horizontal springs.

Shown right, the springs from underneath,  tied to the webbing.

The hessian spring topper was tacked to the frame.  Because the chair is a modern chair, we used manufactured edgeroll as might have been used in a good upholstery project from this period. Note the positioning of the seat edgeroll cantilevered in order to achieve more significant depth in the seat.

The hessian was stitched using a Holbein Stitch.

No springs were used previously in the inside back.

We set light gauge coil spring into the inside back in order to establish comfort.

Because of the exaggerated hourglass shape of the inside back, it was not possible to set an additional line of coil springs into the extremities, therefore, light gauge cushion springs were adapted to fill the voids of the contours in the extremities.

Additionally, a prefabricate jute-filled thick edgeroll was secured to the extremities in order to fill the excessive voids inherent in the hourglass-shaped design.

Below, a hessian spring topper covers the springs, then is secured to the hessian using a Holbien stitch.



Patterns were taken at intervals along the process.

Patterns shown below for cutting the pincore latex.

Note the stretchers glued to the latex to be used as pulls, last image below.


Layers of seat buildup, above:

  • coir, lashed into place around edges;
  • center of organic cotton;
  • hair added and stitched into place overlapping the coir edge;
  • topper of pincore latex;
  • front contour of cotton;
  • layer of white cotton muslin.

The chair was set onto its back, left, for buildup on the inside back, below.

As with the seat:

  • coir is again lashed into place around edges;
  • center of organic cotton to ensure the lumbar and dorsal spine can drop into a more comfortable position;
  • hair added and stitched across the intire inside back;
  • topper of pincore latex;
  • cotton topper;
  • layer of white cotton muslin.

Each inside arm was built as follows:

  • A foundational layer of jute webbing and hessian topper attached to the frame;
  • A roll of teased coir was lashed to the hessian;
  • A latex rubber slab was installed along the arm top frame as a filler to rectify disparate elevations and ensure elbow comfort;
  • A jute-filled hessian-covered prefabricated edgeroll was attached to the front arm contour;
  • A tracing was taken of the armfront on a transparency to be used for both the muslin ticking and the showcover;
  • A sheet of pincore latex was added;
  • A layer of needled cotton batting was placed on the contoured arm front;
  • A layer of staple cotton was placed over the top of the entire arm;
  • and prior to the showcover a cotton muslin ticking protected the internals.


The Tibetan inspired Dragon trapunto from Kravet, shown above, sits in a staggered “grid” of roughly 18-inches apart in a field of Tibetan-inspired clouds with sprinklings of organic floral/leaf patterns.   To place this pattern on an undulating frame form as the showcover was a challenge.

Three things Mitchell kept in mind when placing the Dragon motif:

  1. To ensure elevation balance, easily seen in the front apron, right;
  2. To create what appeared a natural flow for the motif over the components of the chair; and
  3. To ensure the centralized motif of the Dragon was featured whenever possible and artistically balanced.

We also thought about the motif patterns the person sitting might see around them on the chair, versus the person sitting across from the chair or approaching the chair.

Yaman oversees and makes the deciding calls on placement, above left.  Little shop panthers know everything!

We began with the seat.  A topper of cotton batting, right, is always laid between the muslin topper and the showcover on all parts for the longevity of the showcover fabric.


The showcover pattern was cut for the seat to cascade down the front apron and wrap the corners, laying the Dragon in the center of the front and on each corner, shown above.  On the seat itself are two Dragons flanking the sides, and this will play into the arms later on in the process.

The showcover fabric was cut for the inside and outside back, shown below, and the side arms.  The cut showcover fabric was overcast, above right.

Stretchers were placed on each of the various pattern parts, example above right.

Edging was cut from orange silk velvet Scalamandre Colony fabric, shown right, and sewn around 10/32 cotton cording.

Transparent patterns were taken off each arm, above.

As with each part, the showcover pattern was cut from the arm pattern, pinned and hand-stitched onto the front, images one and two above.  Care was taken to center a Dragon on the top of each arm so that it is seen when a person is sitting in the chair, shown below.

The orange cording was placed, pinned and hand-stitched to the front, image three above.

The showcover for the body of the arm was cut, pinned into place, and hand-stitched then pulled through using stretchers just to the point where the trapunto still had loft and body but laid properly.

Left, the right-facing arm completed.

Note:  These steps were used for each part of the chair’s body, shown below.  The parts were not shown in true order, as it was not just a matter of doing this part then that part, as they were intertwined.  For the sake of simplicity, we will show the parts as if they were done in one layered process.

Chair inside back, above.

The steps of the inside of each wing shown above.

The front apron is built with additional cotton batting, above and right.

The steps of the outside of each wing, shown above.

The outside back, above. Final edging hand-stitched, right.

The chair is finally flipped over to add the dustcover to the bottom, above.

The chair is completed, right and below.

After treatment, from overhead, above.

A few images of the chair after treatment above.

A 360-degree view slideshow, below, plus a cascade of details which allow you to see the superior pattern matching care Mitchell takes in our upholstery projects, one of which is shown right.  Note the Dragon’s foot on the outside back which is an extension of the side panel!

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Details, below.

A slideshow of the entire process from start to completion, below.

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 dkatiepowell@aol.com / mitchellrpowell@aol.com
503.970.2509 / 541.531.2383
©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
Notify us if you repost, and use our url + copyright in reference.

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 4 Upholstery

Our armchair, affectionately known as the “lollipop” chair, was made circa 1880.  George Jakob Hunzinger (born 1835 in Tuttingen, Germany), was a progressive designer out of New York who was often influenced in his designs by machinery; their geometry and patterns of repetition in their elements.   This is a Hunzinger original, a family piece, which has weathered more than a century of continuous use.

Note:  Mitchell muses about the process in several areas; these parts are italicized.

To begin, go to:
Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 1 Excavation;
Huntzinger “Lillipop” Chair, 2 Frame Reparation;
Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 3 Finish.

This is the last post on the Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 4 Upholstery.

Our finish treatment was completed on the frame right, in our last post.


Hunzinger’s original design allowed for the convenience of crafting the upholstery without the burden of working around the fixed points of the inside-back and interior arm frame. Unfortunately, the damage caused by previous unskilled repairs ended all possibility of recrafting the traditional upholstery with the decorative spindled back unit separated from the seat.  MPFC had to devise strategies to make it possible to perform all the steps required during a traditional upholstery build-up.

Ultimately, after restoring the fiber filled seat pod, it was still challenging to easily tack the show-cover onto the side rails using traditional means (tack hammer and tacks) and so it was decided to secure the leather show-cover to the restored tacking margins using wide chisel pointed upholstery staples shot from a long nosed stapler.

Relative to this upholstery conservation/restoration project our decision was to make certain that the seat build-up could perform as it was originally intended while at the same time preserving/encasing the levels of the original stuffings within the restored set and in that way future generations, when uncovering the seat internals, can see and identify the historic pod.  To that end we begin the documentation of the phase of this multi pronged conservation effort. We will begin with:


The historic seat pod was cleaned of dirt and debris using a vacuum  with the suction level set low. To insure large particles and artifacts did not slip through during vacuuming cheese cloth was attached to the  extraction wand.  The cleaned fiber pod was set aside for re-installation, during the upholstery phase,  after the frame and finish issues were treated and resolved. (below).


The  seat hair and cotton batting secondary build-up (above) were inspected after vacuuming.  It was decided that the two levels of cotton batting, each representing different times when the seat was reupholstered, were far too damaged to be used as future pod toppers, but the horse mane pod secondary topper could be hand blocked and teased then amended with fresh horsehair when it was reinstalled.


Fresh four inch wide jute webbing was applied in the same configuration and position as the original webbing. We were able to establish the original width and position of the spring webbing during the woodworking restoration phase.

MPFC has created a tack and previous repair plotting system which we use on historic objects which maps and delineates the succession  of upholstery, in this case. We plotted the tacking positions using clear sheet vinyl over the tacking margins both seat top and bottom.  We identified all tack holes by identifying their positions using various colors of a Sharpie marker set upon the surface of a heavy mill clear vinyl.  When the vinyl was removed from the tacking surfaces and set onto a white board the transparency allowed us to not only discern the positions of foundational and show cover tacks, but also to detect patterns in the tacking groupings which then allowed us to interpret the patterns as positions and width of webbing and clear understanding as to how many upholsterings had taken place.

Additional data gleaned from the tacking surfaces were the style of tacks and fiber trapped beneath the tacks. This allowed us to determine the time frames when the chair was originally upholstered, reupholstered, and what types of show covers had been installed.

The original positioning and width of the tacking pattern also allowed us to determine what the original designer and upholsterer intended relative to the sit of the sprung-up seat, which also determined the intended center of seating gravity and the intended comfort level of the sit.


Seat springs were temporarily clinched into into place over the webbing prior to lashing the springs to the webbing. Once the springs were lashed with twine to the webbing the metal clinches were removed.

Mitchell decided to use a “Number 4” configuration with his lashings, departing from the Holbein configuration.


An eight-way double course spring tie was utilized to achieve a stable seat. The second generation springs were reused in spite of their slight distortion from years of listing within the degrading seat primarily because they were of a light gauge no longer available in the height and diameter required for the modest seat footprint. Therefore, the spring-tie we chose included double knotted and overlapping courses of twines around all edge springs forming fulcrums to insure the old springs could not revert to their previous distortions.