Remarkably, no piece of wood in the interior of The Elizabeth Murphy House was painted. Moreover, most wood surfaces are undisturbed from the moment they were set in place by the carpenters a hundred-years ago.
We understand from an old-school cabinetmaker that the birch was originally rubbed with a steel wool and a vinegar solution to release the wood’s tannins to create a dark tone, and then covered with two coats of amber shellac to make it glow.
We’ve been able to replicate the technique where there was wear and tear with good results. Here in the kitchen, for example, the knobs have returned to as-designed (they were 70s cheapies) and finished to match.