Mahogany Hall Entry Table
This gorgeous, carved mahogany accent table is in mint condition. The table is beautifully designed with four pedestal legs, a stunning carved neck, detailed scallop sleeve around its top and scroll design on the face of the table. It can be used for a lamp table, accent table, bouquet table and so much more. This lovely piece measures 20 in. wound and 26 in. height. A fabulous find! $85
This elegant, vintage, solid mahogany hall entry/foyer/living room table is in mint condition. The rich, vibrant mahogany tone has a satin finish that is stunning. The table has a soft curved design on the top, crested motif design around the table, and beautifully carved, curved legs with an elegant center support that adds to its beauty. It also comes with a protective cover to avoid spill marks or blemishes. It measures 28 in. squared and 30 in. high. A gorgeous addition to your home décor. $200
A gorgeous 1970s vintage, mahogany two-tone dresser and mirror in excellent condition. The oversized dresser stands on four octagon pedestal feet with additional back supports. It has a veneer overlay on the front cabinets, two-tone finish on the drawers and comes with original brass hardware. The mirror has a detailed chapel design and similar two-tone finish with a center overlay matching the cabinets. This stunning piece is a classic from the 70s era and a perfect addition for the discriminating buyer. The dresser measures 72 in. wide, 20 in. deep and 32 ½ in high. The mirror measures 57 in. wide and 36 in. high. A half-circle is missing on the left upper mirror design, but easily replaceable. A truly striking piece. $275
Vintage Bentwood Rocker Circa 1960s
This vintage, refinished Duncan Phyfe mahogany china cabinet is in excellent condition. The cabinet’s design has the clean, classic and timeless lines of Duncan Phyfe. The interior has the original mahogany toned finish while the outside has a slightly lighter tone with a beautiful inlay design and stunning exterior sheen. There are three interior grooved shelves for displaying dishes, a drawer and bottom cabinet for additional storage and this lovely piece comes with all of the original hardware. It measures 28 ½ in. wide, 14 ½ in. deep and 61 ½ in. high. A lovely addition to any interior home décor. $275
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If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of Duncan Phyfe furniture, now is your chance. Duncan Phyfe furniture dates back to the 1800s and numerous pieces have the distinction of residing throughout the White House.
This classic, vintage Duncan Phyfe mahogany dining set is in excellent condition. The table has a double pedestal curved into a vase with reeded legs and brass sabots, notable of Duncan Phyfe. The tabletops rich, mahogany sheen is stunning. It has a very unique collapsible, attached leaf, which stores below when not in use. There is one captain and 2 standard harped-backed style chairs that are upholstered in a classic, striped sateen fabric that adds to its good looks. The table measures 50 in. wide, 36 in. deep and 30 in. high. The leaf is 12 in. wide. The Captain chair measures 23 in. wide, 17 ½ deep and 35 in. high to the tip. The standard chairs measure 15 ½ in. wide, 16 in. deep and 35 in. high to the tip. This beautiful dining set is perfect for all occasions. $325
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Many consumers today hold the perception that all of the mahogany furniture in their current possession, ever owned by their parents, or fit to be owned, is constructed of solid mahogany. Such a perception is, at best, highly unlikely.
As a point of fact, most manufactured mahogany case pieces (tables, sideboards, chests, etc.) whether new or old, are made of mahogany veneer — a process purposely used by the manufacturers. The purpose of this paper, then, is to provide the discriminating buyer a perspective on the issue such that a contentious decision can be reached regarding the type merchandise sought.
For one, mahogany is an expensive wood. As mahogany only grows in tropical environs, the cost of the wood escalates over the cost of domestic woods given the additive expenses of shipping and importing. Add to this the higher cost of the more exotic and desirable variants of the wood (“flame” or “crotch”, “tiger-stripe”, or “ribbon” mahogany) which may be found in as little as 5% of any given tree, and the final price of the wood can become exorbitant.
Of more importance than the cost factor is the stability of mahogany. It isn’t. While a very strong wood, mahogany has the highest rate of absorption of humidity from the air of any wood used in the construction of furniture. On a scale of 1.00, the 45 different species of mahogany are said to have an average .83 absorption factor – after it has been kiln dried!
As mahogany absorbs moisture over time, it expands, shrinks, warps, and cracks. In older furniture such as English Georgian case pieces from the 1800’s, this process commonly results in fissures along grain lines on tops, doors, or sides. In American pieces of the late 1800’s, flat boards are typically warp in a U-shape. And the process manifests itself in American case pieces of the first half of the 20th Century as warped doors, or splits in seams where two mahogany planks are butted and glued together.
The stability problem of mahogany most frequently affects the planed (flat) surfaces found in case pieces. It is less of a problem in turned pieces such as chairs.
Because of these factors, most mahogany case pieces are made of mahogany veneer.
The first use of veneers – thin pieces of wood or other materials glued over something else – has been attributed to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The use of veneer construction has expanded tremendously since then. Columbus’ ship is said to have had veneered pieces aboard (a fact which did not contribute to the ship’s sinking during its second voyage to the New World).
With respect to American mahogany furniture made during the first half of the 20th Century, manufacturers would place the mahogany veneer over a solid hardwood core constructed of a wood which did not have the stability problem to the degree of mahogany. Typical woods used for this purpose were fruitwood or gumwood and, to a lesser extent, poplar. At a higher cost, the better manufacturers, such as Landstrom, placed their veneer over a solid core of red oak – a wood with the least humidity absorption factor of all woods used.
So, given an unchecked stability factor alone, many consider veneered pieces by such manufacturers as Kittinger, Kindel, and the original Century Furniture Company – some of the highest quality furniture in the history of mankind – to be far superior to any solid mahogany furniture ever made.
Did the high cost and stability problem of solid mahogany have an impact on manufacturers? Absolutely. Of those manufacturers who specialized in all solid mahogany furniture during the first half of the 1900’s, not a single one is in existence today. Each and every one of them closed their doors and declared bankruptcy rather than convert to mahogany veneer construction.
Anyone who ever visited Grandmother’s house, a 1930’s bungalow, remembers that when it rained outside the humidity inside the house was near 100%. Developments in heating and air systems since the 1960’s have changed that situation. Today, heat pumps, gas pacs, and forced air systems regulate the humidity in the home to about 40% year-’round.
The good news here is that through these modern technological conveniences the stability problem of mahogany is checked. As long as your solid mahogany pieces are kept in environments where temperature and low humidity remain constant year-’round, they will not experience the warping, cracking, or splitting consequences of the stability problem. And older pieces which have already experienced some of these problems will experience no further degradation. However, if these pieces are ever removed from such a controlled environment, the stability issue will become a problem (again).
Unfortunately, the development of controlled environments has not changed the way mahogany furniture is made. Because of the historical problems associated with solid mahogany (not the least of which is the wood being more expensive than ever), there exists only one large scale manufacturer of solid mahogany furniture today: Henkel-Harris. Everyone else uses mahogany veneer on their case pieces.
New Versus Old
The issue facing the discriminating consumer purchasing mahogany furniture today, then, is not whether the furniture is mahogany veneer or solid mahogany. The issue is whether the furniture is new or old. Or more precisely, what is used as the core beneath a mahogany veneer surface.
In most cases, mahogany veneer furniture manufactured in the first half of the 1900’s will have a hardwood core of some type. (In a few instances, lesser quality manufacturers used plywood.)
This furniture has already lasted through 50 years or more of normal use; may be refinished any number of times; appreciates in value over time; and will still outlive our grandchildren.
Virtually all of today’s manufacturers place mahogany veneer over compressed particle board. (In a few instances, some use plywood.) It is extraordinarily difficult to ever refinish this furniture (particle board absorbs chemical strippers and permanently swells, while sand stripping runs a high risk of veneer damage); depreciates in value over time; and may not survive the next handling by movers without turning back into sawdust.
As a final note, no discussion of solid mahogany furniture is complete without mentioning imported furniture. Over the last 10 years, a tremendous market has unfolded in America for solid mahogany furniture manufactured in Indonesia. Given the natural growth of the wood in that country and an extremely low labor cost, this furniture can be acquired for a mere fraction of the cost of American-made mahogany-veneered particle board. However, in furniture as in any other commodity, one “gets what they pay for.”
An estimated 80% of the mahogany furniture manufactured in Indonesia has not been kiln-dried. As a result, this “green wood” shrinks, cracks, and splits as it dries over a period of three to 10 years. Even a controlled environment will not stop this process. Additionally, Indonesian solid mahogany furniture is popularly finished with a formaldehyde compound (illegal in America) which “burns” into the wood to give it a hand-rubbed appearance. These pieces cannot be refinished.
For the uneducated buyer, this process tends to disappoint and disillusion them on the quality of (well-made) mahogany furniture. While some educated consumers are willing to accept the knowledge that they are going to roast marshmallows with the furniture in a matter of time, with the intent of replacing it with the same merchandise inexpensively.
The success with which Indonesian mahogany has sold in America has prompted importers to pursue other foreign markets in recent years. While the verdict is still out on the quality of wood and construction of these products, it bears note to point out that mahogany does not grow in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Egypt, Turkey, or any Eastern Europe country.
Given this information, what conclusions can the discriminating consumer reach regarding mahogany furniture?
Reference: Begun in 1995, Vintage House is a family-owned business which offers high quality antique and vintage furniture and refinishing services from its Eastside warehouse facility in Greer, SC.