French Provincial Furniture

My John Widdicomb Makeover

Meranda SnyderBombe chests are some of the uniquest furniture because of its distinctive curvy features and round design which are not commonly found in other furniture styles.  This furniture is often very rare or often quite expensive to purchase but every once in a while bombe sets are seen on ebay for extraordinary prices.  If you are willing to pay the shipping for a deal on the price you might do quite well. 

When I saw a listing for a bombe set in our local area I jumped on the sale.   A year before I found my set, I had kept a picture of a Widdicomb bombe end table in my favorites picture file and it happened to be that today I have the exact same set.  I debated what I wanted to do with the set for almost a year because we paid so much money for the set and I wanted something that was dramatic.  I was in the process of painting some other pieces in faux burl so I decided to do the same with this Widdicomb  chest.  I lightly sanded the original white manufacture finish, and faux paint it in burl wood.  Please do check out several of my other posts of how to faux finish burl wood.  I haven’t attempted chinoiserie finishes, so possibly that will be my next project when I attempt to paint the matching end tables.  See the pictures below, and be sure to comment on what you think. 

About Widdicomb Furniture:

Widdicomb furniture has been known for style and quality.  George Widdicomb immigrated from England and settled in Grand Rapids Michigan, and gathered around him twelve craftsmen with whom he set up a small cabinet shop. The business was put on hold until after the Civil War, when George was joined by his four sons, John, Harry, William and George, Jr. Ralph Widdicombe a nephew of Jon, was awarded first prize for his Modern bedroom suite at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Known for his classical designs influenced by European designs, Ralph Widdicombe introduced Louis XV Provincial designs, which were the first of their kind to be made in the United States. It started off the popularity for French Provincial that still continues.

In May of 2002, the John Widdicomb Company closed its Grand Rapids doors and now operates as a division of the renowned L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc., John Widdicomb is now manufactured in Manlius, New York. The John Widdicomb line includes nearly one hundred French, Italian, English, and Russian reproductions. The Widdicomb name has been internationally known for over one hundred forty-five years.


 Here are some lovely Widdicomb pieces that were found through the net.  You can see how beautiful their pieces resemble the genuine antique french pieces that are worth thousands. 


My piece to begin with was a plain white, nothing as fancy as the white washed dressers above.  You can see the same dresser shape is the same in most of the pieces.  Here is my Chest: 



In this picture I had already sanded, primed and painted my first color on the dresser when this picture was taken.  I had finished the sides and the top in the faux burl finish as you can see.  

Using a inexpensive chip brush I cut out (small) notches in the brush which will give you the small curvy intricate patterns you see in burl wood.  Using paint thinner, it is a matter of adding the oil paint and thinner in a small bowl and getting the right consistancy on your brush which gives you a translucent effect when you create the patterns with your brush.  The best tip is to go ahead and try it. You will not get it perfect the first couple of tries, but you will find what works after about 15 minutes.  Since it takes days for the oil paint to try you can make some corrections with your paint thinner compared to regular paint and glaze. 

Burl Finish

Winton Oil 200ml Burnt Umber, Klean-Strip ”Green” Lacquer Thinner, Quart, Wood Chip Brush — 4 Inch





In person you can see the lighter and darker areas created with the oil paint.  I am pleased with the finish except for the drip marks on the one area of the chest.  Overall, it looks tremendous for a fake finish. 


If you look close at the hardware in this picture you can see the regular handles and the additional ornaments I was beginning to ad.  Louis style key holes or escutcheon’s are very hard to find, so sometimes I make my own if I do not find the set I want elsewhere.

I used a product called “Oven Bake Clay” which doesn’t dry out in the air but rather hardens in the oven.  You can finish molding your pieces and leave them for weeks and they will not harden like regular clay.   

When my pieces have been baked, I finish them off by spray painting them gold and then apply “simple” gold leaf which looks like real brass.   My suggestions from ebay are below.  Even though I buy the sculpey clay  brand in black you could use any color because you are most likely to spray them gold or silver.  On ebay they are much cheaper than the prices in craft stores.

I begin making a mold of the item I want to duplicate.  I have found what works best for me is to warm up the clay only for a few moments in your hand, but not over doing it. by making it very soft and plyable.    If the clay is a bit harder it allows a better release of the item you are planning on duplicating. 

When you have your piece of clay evenly spread out on your suface, sprinkle on some baby powder which gives you an easier release of your item.  I use a sharp knife and start at the side of my piece and gently use my hands to release the item from the mold.     

Della Robbia Oven Bake Clay 4lb

Sculpey III Set of 10- Pearls and Pastels

Simple Leaf Leafing Sheets 5.5 Inch x5.5 Inch -Gold


Mold Shapes

 These are duplicates of the orginal dresser pulls made from the oven bake clay. 



The key holes were also made from clay which was then finished with gold leaf foil. 







Update- Here is what I did with the Bombe Nightstands.  I tried a french green color, but because we haven’t moved into our new home, and I don’t know our color scheme, I decided to sell them, so I went for the classic gloss black which goes with everyones interiors.  I changed the single handle to a double handle which is typically what you find on french bombe chests.  They turned out lovely~ 

4 comments to My John Widdicomb Makeover

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