By Marilyn A. Busch
Driving down Putnam Pike almost hidden from view is a gravel driveway marked by a hand-painted wooden sign that reads Stan Waskiel Jr. Restoration of Furniture, Antiques and Pianos. Just up that well-worn driveway, stands a beautifully restored 1835 home alongside a post and beam barn that serves as the business office, workshop and on the day of my visit – informal showroom. It is here in his sunny, white walled (and impeccably clean) workspace where Stan Waskiel, Jr. masterfully restores and refinishes cherished wooden furniture and antiques back to their original beauty and luster.
“A lot of our clients come to us not just to repair their furniture,” Stan said, “but to repair their memories.”
Stan and his wife Robin originally purchased the 624 Putnam Pike property with a plan for a top-to-bottom renovation and then a quick sale. The barn alone took a year to properly restore from a gutted shell to a historically detailed but modern climate-controlled workshop. After investing so much of themselves in the renovation, the couple soon realized that they had fallen in love with the location and decided to keep the home for themselves. Ironically, this meant that Stan was relocating only a little over a mile from the house in which he grew up.
“My folks lived in a 1950 ranch on Willow Road until they sold their house 10 years ago,” he said. “After graduating high school in 1984, I never thought I’d be back. I moved here at the ripe old age of three.” It was also around that young age that Stan started showing an interest in the family’s business. Founded in 1956 by his father, Stan Waskiel, Sr., the furniture restorer dealt mainly in estate sales and antiques, but was well known for skilled furniture repair and restoration.
“There’s a picture of me when I was 3 years old, sitting on a workbench, and Dad had me staining a bed…” he said with a laugh, “I was covered head to toe in brown walnut…sanding, staining… at 3 years old!”
Throughout his teen years, his interest in the history of furniture continued to grow.
“I was always a book fiend,” he said. “I would be sitting there with 10 books open trying to find out ‘Why is this piece Victorian? What makes this one Mission?’ or ‘How do I know that this piece is from 1790 or 1810?’ While my father loved the art of selling, I loved the building part of it. “
Stan took over the restoration arm of the family business at 22, while also attending Rhode Island College. In the years that followed, father and son worked together and with Stan’s extensive knowledge of historical refinishing they soon added more museum restoration clients to their already flourishing roster of residential and commercial clients.
With a boundless enthusiasm and an extensive knowledge of antiques and wood furnishings, it is apparent that Stan Waskiel, Jr. truly knows (and loves) the furniture restoration business inside and out.
And furniture? The workshop is filled from floor to the rafters with all sorts of wooden furniture in all shapes and sizes: dozens of beloved family pieces, from china closets and dining room sets to deacon benches, cedar chests and heirlooms that families throughout the state have brought to Stan to re-glue, repair or remove scratches and water rings.
In addition to repairs, he loves to tackle a custom request. Among the many treasures currently in his workshop are custom wood inlaid cruiser bicycles, a Radio Flyer wagon, a Victorian child’s highchair, and a custom ordered crib shaped like a bright blue Model A hotrod.
There’s the bright red horse drawn sleigh that had been in Smithfield since 1853, a restoration project that Waskiel took on at the request of Tom Winfield, a funeral director and a state representative. Many Smithfield residents would recognize Stan’s finished restoration from where it sits in the front lawn of Anderson Winfield Funeral Home in winter months.
Refinishing and repairing pianos has always been a trademark of the Waskiel business. One piano, an 1896 Steinway, was rescued from a school dumpster when the building was being shut down. “The principal saw our advertising – our logo has always been the grand piano – and contacted us. It was missing legs, one lyre, part of the front was gone…it wasn’t even playable since the kids had just been ripping handfuls of strings out of it.” He picked up the pieces and spent the next year or so gathering parts and eventually restoring it to its former glory – and value.
Waskiel has refinished many of the oldest pianos in the Newport mansions to their original luster. While Stan utilizes period correct techniques and materials, he often combines them with newer finishes and technology to ensure longevity. The finishing touch on the restored Steinway was a clear polyurethane finish, a modern addition to the mix that will keep the wood pristine for generations to come.
Quite the rarity in this day and age, Stan also makes house calls. In addition to residential customers, many of his clients corporations and universities and local government offices with fine finished wood office décor. Waskiel will come in after hours to repair and touch up the boardrooms and executive offices before the workday begins. Five years ago, he “adopted” Woonsocket’s non-profit Stadium Theater and in addition to being a theater sponsor he regularly attends to the health of its Steinway pianos.
His clients are universally pleased with the final product, offering up unqualified recommendations. One described his work as “impeccable”, adding that “Stan will always give you a straight answer and assessment for any project. He is a joy to work with.” Another past client had her mother’s mid-century modern dining room set refinished “in record time,” adding, “Everything is perfect and it looks like new. I would recommend him for any type of furniture.” Another recent patron recommended Waskiel furniture restoration for repair work, citing not only Stan’s years of expertise, but “the conscientious care he shows to all he works on, [his] personal touch and attention to details.”
Stan Waskiel Jr. Restoration of Furniture, Antiques and Pianos is located at 624 Putnam Pike, Greenville. For more information about restoration and refinishing services or custom designed project ideas, Stan can be reached at (401) 949-8094 or online at www.waskielfurniture.com.