Conservation and Restoration of Fine Furniture and Objects
Dresser on caster wheels with towel rack
Mother Cabrini dresser after conservation
Dresser after treatment

Mother Cabrini dresser; detail before conservation
Detail before treatment; cross sanding and heavy over-painting are visible

Mother Cabrini dresser; detail after conservation
Detail after restoration; undesired markings are no longer evident

Dresser detail before veneer restoration
Top surface before treatment

Dresser top after restoration
Top surface after infilling and stabilizing veneer then restoring finish in a manner close as possible to the original

Mother Cabrini dresser during treatment
Mother Cabrini dresser; during structural repair
Dresser during partial disassembly; joinery stabilization using reinforcement brackets

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Dresser on caster wheels with towel rack
Artifact used by Mother Cabrini
Poplar/ Birch


Mother Cabini’s dresser arrived at Bernacki & Associates in remarkably poor condition. The whole piece was structurally unstable with all joints and panels loosening from frame. Veneer at its top was badly cracked. The dresser drawers were warped, separating, and mottled with splits significant enough to reveal slivers of light. Not only had time had taken its toll on the historic relic, prior attempts at restoration exacerbated the situation. Rather than seamlessly integrated, structural repair was noticeable to the naked eye. Even worse, previous efforts to refinish the dresser and towel rack via cross sanding with low grit sandpaper left the entire dresser with permanent damage - line indentations embedded against the grain of the wood. Low quality finish and inconsistent sheen both magnified these indentations and tinted the piece an unappealing shade of orange.


The first imperative was to stabilize the structure. Injections of glue and installation of reinforcement brackets made for a sturdy interior. Lifting veneer was reattached, losses in-filled, and splits repaired throughout the structure. Next, the finish was corrected. Bernacki & Associates produced a finish sample for final approval . After gently removing the top layers of problematic finish, all surfaces were lightly sanded, minimizing the appearance of prior damage. Staining was carefully controlled to further limit exposure of the indentations then shaded for a consistent appearance. After a clear coat with satin, semi-open grain and nitrocellulose lacquer, the salvation of Mother Cabrini’s dresser was finally complete.

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