Provenance of mystery buffet??
herladyship92
November 25, 2013 in Design Dilemma
Houzz experts!! Need some advice on this family heirloom. It is a buffet from my grandmother I believe, she was from the Bay Area California, lived in Berkeley when I knew her. She lived from ~1897 to ~ 1977. I think she and my grandfather had this in their house possibly dating from 1930s or 1940s? Any of you experts able to tell me what type of wood it's made of, the style and possibly how old is this buffet? It is a well travelled piece having followed me from California to Chicago to Australia in good shape!! The label on the back says "cathedral mahogany". Thanks all!! ~HerLadyship
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Stacey at Dohiy.com
We have one that is VERY similar that we bought with a Duncan Phyfe-style dining set. It is mahogany (stained more red than yours), but I'm not sure of the maker. We were told it dated to the 1940s. If you do an image search for "duncan phyfe style buffet" you will see tons of similar ones. We love ours!
6 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 3:29PM
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glhen
I have one like this that I turned into a bathroom vanity, I love it! The drawers were cut out and re built around the sink plumbing. I have a dining room table to match.
3 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 3:48PM
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fredm51
This is a very nice piece, my mother had one but the veneer was a dark red/brown and very glossy. Mahogany does not normally have such nice grain but does not have many defects and finishes well. So what I am saying is that the veneers are nicer on this one than what you normally see. The late 40s or early 50s sound right. I would check with an expert and have little dings near the bottom darken and a coat of wax put on.
3 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 3:55PM
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herladyship92
Thanks so much for all those helpful comments guys!!!
3 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 4:01PM
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maggiemaxwell
The top is a bookmatched veneer and shows the mahogany "flame." Nicely done, and also nice grain matching on the drawer fronts. My guess is that this is prewar, based on the hardware. It also likely started out darker than this; it looks sun faded. You might check the underside of a drawer for maker's identification. Could be under the drawer or on the dust panels between the drawers. Very versatile piece, and I'll bet it weighs a ton!
4 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 6:32PM
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roosterdavis
The veneer work is really great. The wide flitches across the drawer fronts follow the lines of the top nicely. I don't particularly love the coloration but I agree with Maggie that it may have been sun faded a bit. Though it must have been a glorious window, because the fading is even all around. Agree with Stacey and fred about the age based on hardware. I'd put in the color as a bit of a clue to it's age. Blonde furniture was coming into vogue, but it's hard to do blonde mahogany. Nice piece.
2 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 7:41PM
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roosterdavis
Oh, by the way, Cathedral Mahogany is a description of the veneer. The long, pointed tips are referred to as flames or cathedrals.
4 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 7:42PM
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herladyship92
Thanks mucho!!
1 Like   November 25, 2013 at 7:52PM
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chookchook2
You are in Aussie?
2 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 9:16PM
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herladyship92
Yes in Newcastle. And that thing weighs a TON!!!
1 Like   November 25, 2013 at 9:38PM
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rosecafe
Are we all sure this is a veneered piece ? Could it not be solid mahogany. A veneered piece left in a sun exposed position would likely be showing signs of the veneer peeling. It's usual practice to match the grain in drawer fronts, door fronts, etc on any professionally made piece of furniture, any time prior to say the 1960s. Solid timbers, like Honduras Mahogany, was affordable back then. Cheaper copies after that date would be made of some composite board or pine with a 1/16 inch mahogany veneer. The top is solid for sure and the milled rail. Anyway, it's handsome piece of furniture with its bow fronted drawers and milled front rail. Still in use today and obviously been cared for over its' life. Worth keeping in the family: )
6 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 9:49PM
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chookchook2
I am too, herladyship, in vic
2 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 10:03PM
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roosterdavis
rose, I'm not sure that it's veneer, but the extensive use of bookmatching leads me to believe that it is. In order for it to be solid, you'd need a rough sawn board nearly 2" thick to get the lumber needed for the top alone. I would agree that the sun fading (if it is at all) would crack or distort hide glue, this piece dates to an age when hide glue would have been old fashioned. I do agree that it is more than likely a lumber core piece. A common practice is to edge band with solid to achieve a carved effect or edge band with veneer to get the grain continuity.
3 Likes   November 25, 2013 at 11:54PM
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rosecafe
Hi Rooster, I once built furniture from mahogany 2" thick. Boards up to 20 inches wide - a grueling 10,000 hour apprenticeship - solid construction was common place in the 60s. My ears are still ringing from the screech of the planners, four siders, spindle molders and and saws. Veneers were used for specialist pieces with fancy patterned paneling. All good pieces had grain matched fronts and tops, sometimes ends, that was part of the art, those drawer fronts for instance, look solid to me. The top certainly would be too. The paneled doors could be framed with inserts. To hold itself together for eighty years it certainly needs to be well built and with well glued joints. The owner should be able to throw light on these aspects and their weight description says, solid. Lets ask.......
4 Likes   November 26, 2013 at 3:58AM
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tsudhonimh
Very nice, typical of the 1930s-early 50s classics based on Federal period designs.
2 Likes   November 26, 2013 at 5:27AM
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herladyship92
I suspect that the top is a solid piece of timber as it seems very thick and the drawer fronts are also; however I know some of the front pieces are veneer because one piece has pulled away. This climate is very extreme with some very dry and some very humid periods. Unfortunately the humidity has caused some of the drawers to warp slightly so they don't close anymore. Is there a way to fix that? Do you have to strategically sand the sticky spots?? Thanks for any advice. I really appreciate all the info from you experts!! HerLadyship
1 Like   November 26, 2013 at 12:42PM
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yoboseiyo
i think it's probably veneer over solid wood of a lesser grade.
it's a federal design, i think. if it had spindly legs, it'd be french provincal.

it's GORGEOUS, though.
2 Likes   November 26, 2013 at 12:58PM
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roosterdavis
rose, I spent time in a millwork shop myself. I'm not saying the top isn't solid. I'd be surprised is all. If it is, then the piece is just that much nicer. Now the drawer fronts I'm pretty sure are veneer. Curved front with an identical match on the bottom drawer? You'd need to resaw a piece that can only be described as a slab. I think we can all agree that the construction is top notch on this one.
5 Likes   November 26, 2013 at 2:02PM
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PRO
JudyG Designs
Any stamp inside the drawers? It is so 40’s 50’s bow front…maybe Drexel. Did it ever have a cabinet top?
2 Likes   November 26, 2013 at 2:35PM
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printesa
Could you do a close-up of the top's edge, especially at the transition from curved to straight line? There should be partial endgrain.
2 Likes   November 26, 2013 at 3:34PM
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herladyship92
Have not searched inside the drawers etc for a makers mark but I can do that. I will try to post a photo as you describe! Thx! hL
1 Like   November 27, 2013 at 1:18AM
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herladyship92
Here is the edge of the top. Looking at this I think it's veneer!
0 Likes   November 27, 2013 at 1:28AM
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rosecafe
Rooster, herladyship says solid top and drawers, veneered door panels. I'd accept that as correct. Solid doors would be too heavy on their hinges and they'd be hanging out of true andnot closing properly. The warped drawer fronts ( pretty normal for an old piece made from solid Mahogany) will have pulled the drawer sides out of true, so they'll be sticking on a top edge one side, a bottom edge the other. This could be the case with all the drawers. Rather than touch the drawer fronts, just carefully plane back, those outer edges of the drawer sides that are showing wear ( i.e. where they're scraping on the inner sides of the cabinet) then rub a little candle wax on the outside of the drawer sides. That should see them run easier. The drawer fronts look o.k. Leave them alone - job done : ) N.B. herladyship, of course you can always get a second opinion.
2 Likes   November 27, 2013 at 2:10AM
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Sigrid
To figure out if the top is veneered, looked at the grain patterns on the edge of the front and the side. The drawer fronts are probably attached to the sides of the drawers with dovetails. The type of dove tail will tell you more about the age of the piece. The first question is, are they machine or hand-made?
1 Like   November 27, 2013 at 6:20AM
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printesa
It looks like solid piece for the top. Could you post a photo of the side edge? That should show endgrain clearly.
1 Like   November 27, 2013 at 6:52AM
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printesa
The curvature of the piece seems shallow so it is a bit difficult to see the sidegrain, but from looking at it, it looks like the top and the side do match up; that's why I'd say that it is solid.
1 Like   November 27, 2013 at 6:53AM
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PRO
Interiors by Design, Terri Marcus, ASID, RID
Definitely looks Duncan Phyfe. There should be marking on bottom of drawer, back of chest, or pull drawers out sometimes there is a plate with name. Could be Drexel knock off of Duncan Phyfe if it is from the 50's. Beautiful piece. Any indication on back that there is a way to secure a top? I just sold a piece similar but it had a top with original wavy glass. The center drawer was not a drawer it folded down as a desk with cubbies inside. It is beautiful.
1 Like   November 28, 2013 at 8:15PM
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herladyship92
Thank you!! I will make a thorough inspection for a makers mark. I cannot see any obvious signs that it had a top attached. Cheers! hL
0 Likes   November 28, 2013 at 10:45PM
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mmr2012
Hi --- I'm not terribly sure about the details of the furniture, but I can give you a possible provence since your Grandmother lived in the Bay Area. We a similar piece in our dining room which is referred to as a sideboard (who knew, and it goes by many names, including buffet). My Mother-in-Law kept an inventory of all their furniture and this is listed as having been purchased from W.J. Sloane's in San Francisco in the late 1930's. And yes, it weighs a ton!
1 Like   December 1, 2013 at 6:22AM
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PRO
patricia sarnataro
Looks like mahogany.... Could be nice to change the pulls ....
1 Like   December 1, 2013 at 6:28AM
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johsmi
It is probably mid-20th century in a some what Federal style. The pulls are different. Just keep checking buffets on line until you find one closest to yours. Because the flames on the top sides mirror each other I think it's a veneer. There is nothing wrong with veneer as some of the most valued old pieces are veneered. I couldn't tell you the wood but if the label says mahogany then that is no doubt what it is. Most of us are used to seeing that really dreadful dark red stained mahogany. I have a old messed up dark red mahogany table that I sanded and it is about this color now. Hang in there, some expert may sign on and tell you exactly what you have. You can cover some of the scratches at the base with brown shoe polish. Do enjoy Grandma's piece.
1 Like   December 1, 2013 at 7:07AM
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Karen Nothacker
I have a very similar buffet, along with table and chairs. I bought it from neighbors retiring to a double-wide mobile home in 1975. They owned it for 40 years before selling to me. Mine is solid mahogany with mahogany veneers. Mine is substantially darker than your picture, but I have been told that wood can be "bleached out" if placed where full sun can hit it.
1 Like   December 1, 2013 at 8:41AM
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druesig
Before planing any drawers, I usually treat the drawer rails and the drawer slides with silicone (such as Armorall, but there are others). I haven't had to plane or sand a drawer for over 30 yrs. I have some Art Deco dressers because my daughter was ready to throw them out. The drawers were 'giving her trouble'. After I treated them, she was a little angry and wanted the dressers back!!! I've also treated my mom's 1948 mahogany bedroom dressers. The drawers slide with one hand now!! Even the 4' wide one... This buffet is just beautiful!!!! Try treating the drawers before sanding...I'm just sayin'
1 Like   December 1, 2013 at 8:46AM
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beesknees2260
Had one similar to one in picture. Wish I had it back. It had some damage but was so pretty decorated for Christmas time buffet. Ours had oval drawer pulls.
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 9:13AM
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maryjane54
I bought an identical piece in ottawa last year. Found it in kigigi!
mine was made by a Canadian company called Gibbard's, a very high quality company. they used mahogany as well as other species. Your's is in very good condition. I think it is probably from the 1940's.
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 12:20PM
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noiwh8
This is veneered mahogany and was probably manufactured by the same folks as mine, in Grand Rapids Michigan, from 1925 to 1930's. I'll post mine in a minute. I bought mine in San Francisco, so it might have come from the same furniture store as yours! Mine has a tag from the original manufacturer. Not a well known name like Baker, just a small manufacturer I couldn't find any information on, but the tag says Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was a furniture making town before the depression.
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 4:02PM
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noiwh8
First batch of photos
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 4:07PM
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noiwh8
Second batch of photos
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 4:08PM
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noah53
Looks just like the one I purchased a few years ago which was the buffet of a Duncan Phyfe dining room set. Popular in the 40's. It is now beautifully redone and serves as our television "stand" in our bedroom. Perfect height, and far more beautiful than a new piece.
3 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 6:57PM
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Diane Kaskel
This looks a great deal like the one we bought at an antique store in Texas in 1971. It was mahogany & part of it at least was veneer--particularly the rounded drawer fronts. We enjoyed it for years but gave it to a family member in need of furniture several years ago. Hang on to it especially since it is a family piece. I love having pieces from family or something we have purchased that has a story or some kind of history behind it.
DKK
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 8:43PM
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roosterdavis
That china cabinet is a beautifully made piece. Are the pulls on the lower half a recent addition? Or was the brass refinished? They don't quite jive with the top pulls. All in all though, a real beauty.
2 Likes   December 1, 2013 at 9:09PM
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herladyship92
Thanks noiwh8, yours looks much fancier than mine!!! Reluctantly I have to part with it as I don't have the space to keep it. I am very sad about this!! ~ hL
1 Like   December 2, 2013 at 1:43AM
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PRO
Interiors by Design, Terri Marcus, ASID, RID
The breakfront I just sold looks very similar. The wood working on the glass was a little more spread out. Beautiful piece.
1 Like   December 2, 2013 at 7:09PM
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miniappleman
Great piece. Parents had matching buffet and break front from Duncan Phyfe along worth the dining room table. Had to let the buffet go, no room, when we sold the house after they passed. Was the place for settings for every holiday during the year. As others noted, the set was a much darker red/brown finish. Minor difference was key holes also in the side doors.
1 Like   December 2, 2013 at 8:31PM
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