Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to come into possession of this incredibly rare Nakashima/Origins/Widdicomb credenza. George Nakashima is mostly known for his stunning studio work, but he also designed furniture for both Knoll and Widdicomb, the latter for which he designed the "Origins" line. It would have been impossible to recreate in scale his amazing studio work, but you can definitely see he was the mastermind behind these gorgeous Widdicomb pieces. From its asymmetrical aspects to his signature over-hang influence, to the intense attention to detail, craftsmanship and materials, oh yeah, he's all 'up inside' these pieces. And although these were in production from the 1950s to the early 1960s, very few examples still exist from this 'Top of the Line' line.
It was structurally sound but desperately in need of a restoration to the outside of the cabinet. I've performed many complete restorations of some pretty high-end pieces during the last decade, including those by George Nelson, Florence Knoll, Jens Risom, Paul McCobb, Harvey Probber, as well as a very rare chair from George Mulhauser. (In fact, Mr. Mulhauser's son, Paul, contacted me personally, writing in an email "it appears that you did an excellent job on the restoration" -- an honor and a thrill for me indeed, that he took the time to reach out!) But I have to admit, I had to think twice about whether I wanted to take on a piece by the Godfather of it all, George Nakashima. And think I did...I knew I was completely capable of doing the credenza justice and it pained me so to see it in a compromised aesthetic state...so that was enough info for me. I'm a fix-it guy to the end and these modern pieces aren't supposed to be full of water stains, cigarette tar or chips and scratches from peoples' careless use and abuse. Nope, Modern means 'Crisp and Clean', period. Let's save 'old, disheveled and beat-up' for the real antiques, eh?
Luckily, the doors and the inside of the cabinet were in extremely fine condition so restoring those parts would not be necessary (although a painstaking cleaning was definitely needed and performed -- see all of those slats?). But the top and sides needed to be completely sanded down to bare wood (100% BY HAND, OF COURSE) in order to eradicate the decades of stains and scars. Again, I have to admit, I was a bit on-edge about being able to accurately match the new finish to the existing one on the doors, but again, that's what I do...I called on my extensive experience with natural oil finishes and was able to achieve 100% match both color and texture-wise. In fact, if I do say so myself, my completely hand-rubbed finish is more like his studio finishes than the shinier, machine-sprayed finish that came stock on this piece. So I guess I'm hoping that Mr. Nakashima would be happy that one of production works got a little extra special attention...I can definitely say that I called on every skill and resource available to me to restore this piece of history and I'm immensely proud to have had the opportunity and the time (30+ hours!) to do so.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Mike talks about...
THE BASICS OF DIY FURNITURE RESTORATION, IN AN ARTICLE FOR POPULAR MECHANICS MAGAZINE
Mike Talks About...
RESTORING A THREE-PIECE SOFA SET FOR THE AGES
Mike talks about...
THE CHALLENGES AND REWARDS OF CONVERTING AN OLD ELECTRIC CLOCK TO A BATTERY MOVEMENT, USING THE ORIGINAL HANDS (THAT'S THE FEAT).