Fine Antique Restoration

Here at Fine Antique Restoration, we do Chinese and Japanese lacquer work, finishing of all styles and kinds of furniture repair.  Richard Morton, who began “fine Antique Restoration” has been in business for over thirty years and uses integrity and expertise in restoring heirloom museum pieces as well as contemporary furniture.  In every case the appropriate finishing material is chosen.  Fine Antique Restoration is expert at French Polishing for 18th century and 19th century antique work.  Marquetry and wood replacements are always matched to the original as closely as possible.  The restoration of antique furniture is always gratifying.  On many pieces we can see the work of the previous restorer.  By working on them, we feel part of a long lineage of finishers and wood workers.

Photo: Danielle Steele tray

Restoration of split through entire center of tray.

On contemporary woodwork, there is sometimes no call for French Polishing which is a labor intensive but meditative technique of hand applying shellac polish to a surface.

Photo: French Polished walnut bookcase on new construction by Mitch Berman.

"Rodman" Yacht with interior polyester finish

The piano finish for example often calls for use of “polyester” lacquer which is a hand drying catalyzed epoxy lacquer.  Generally the sheen after rubbing up is very high and can only be achieved with specialized equipment.

Most work we do is not hundereds of years old.  They generally are from 100 years old to completely new unfinished wood.  Some work however calls for a creative and esthetic handling with consideration to the tastes of the owner.  In the accompanying picture is a music cabinet owned by the Ms. Nemi Frost of San Francisco. 


The finish produced here on Nemi Frost's music cabinet is a version of a Japanese finish known as “Negoro” which involves sanding through from one colored lacquer to another.

As Richard lived and studied lacquer work in Japan, some work as in the accompanying picture of a “Ming Dynasty” table belonging to Mrs. Arlene Schnitzer and in some other lacquer bowls owned by Buddhist priests, we use a natural lacquer coming from the “Urushi” tree.

Pic of me with Schnitzer table

The lacquer is known as Urushi
 and relates to Sumac.   Pigments are mixed with Urushi to give it interesting and beautiful colorations.  Urushi can only be cured in conditions of 70-90 % humidity and about 80 degrees F. 

One of our specialty finishes is an aged lacquer on large tables.  We are often commissioned over the years to finish an art déco style table in “aged lacquer”.  This involves covering an art  paper with a proprietary formula of gesso, heating and cracking it by hand. 

This is followed by wetting the paper itself, holding the already crackled material.  The wet paper is then glued and shrunk over the top of the table giving it a beautiful organic pattern of cracks.  Subsequent to doing this , chinoiserie (a stylized painting using gold powder), is painted over the surface.  The final finish is luxurious and magnificent

This sample is one of the images designed and painted by Carolyn Morton.

In this picture of a cabinet designed and built by Mitch Berman in Larkspur Ca, the finish is done by creating a gray “ground” and spraying color over the surface to match an Italian antique finish. 

The subsequent random and softly modeled look is finished over with a  clean coat of stain lacquer, sanded and then waxed.  The cabinet in its living room setting is formidable.

In one of my favorite kitchens, a similar technique is used.  This kitchen belongs to Ms. Carol Spack of San Francisco. 

She has copied an effect from the French painter  Monet’s  residence and studio.  Calling it her “Monet kitchen”.   There are adjoining light blue and cream ceramic tiles.  The result is soft, beautiful and exciting. 

On occasion Fine Furniture Restoration is commissioned to do a whole room. 

In this photo of a walnut library done for a residence in Pacific Heights, a residential enclave in SF, all work is completely new through finished to look old.  The walnut wood here, has been finished with lacquer, colored with amber shellac , sanded and waxed. Although fairly labor intensive, the results were and are exactly right for the panels and traditional moldings.


A cleaning lady can create a fair deal of restoration work, when she inadvertently tries cleaning the patina from a silver leafed paper Japanese screen.  The solution for restoring this screen  was to re-silver leaf over the damage and recreate the pale color by rubbing the leaf with a fine abrasive.  We are very pleased with the results.

Occasionally many carved pieces are missing as in this photo of the restoration of a carved gilt mirror frame.  In this case the missing pieces  are created by taking a mold of their look alikes from another part of the frame.  The pieces are cast in a hard drying plaster, sculpted to fit, finished with gesso and gold leafed.

In the photos of an Edo period carved  wooden Buddha perhaps from the early 18th century, a missing foot was carved from pine and put in place with a finish to match the rest of the object.  The head was put back in place and a fixture made so that the standing figure could be placed into the stand and also be removed. The “mudra” or hand position was also repaired.  The results were gratifying and the work when once researched and decided on, went surprisingly fast.

At Fine Antique Restoration all work whether new or old or whether having a budget that is sparing or generous is pursued with diligence and care.  We take great pleasure in the customers obvious satisfaction and appreciation with the final product.  A fine finish and a good repair have a timeless quality and reflect peoples' appreciation for history and the beautiful colorations that crafted woods and finishes have.