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A Classically Trained Maître Ébéniste In Pound Ridge

Willy Godziemba-Maliszewski, Master Cabinetmaker at London Joiners, works with his sons Harry, left, and Jamie.
Willy Godziemba-Maliszewski, Master Cabinetmaker at London Joiners, works with his sons Harry, left, and Jamie. Photo Credit:

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. -- I recently visited London Joiners and its proprietor Willy Godziemba-Maliszewski, Master Cabinetmaker or Maître Ébéniste as he is officially recognized.

In looking around his workshop where he and his sons Harry and Jamie assist with client projects, Willy explains how there is a difference between conservation and restoration, the latter requiring replacement of a piece of wood whereas conservation involves the careful cleaning of original parts or surfaces resulting in the same intended finish.

With restoration Willy explains, “If a piece is missing, I have antique tools to replicate a missing part. I use wood that is as old as the piece and I have a collection of antique veneers and woods taken from unsalvageable furniture. I don’t believe in stripping the finish unless absolutely necessary. I must determine what the original finish is and see if it can be built up on the existing finish.”

What Willy and his sons do best is what few artisans can accomplish in the design and construction of classically inspired furniture. One example was an impressive looking Biedermeier style cabinet just receiving the finishing touches before delivery to the client. As part of its design is Swiss pear wood with Asian burl, finished with more than 400 feet of Nigerian mahogany used for the edging. Willy points out this project had been one of the most complicated jobs he has ever worked on.

Located in Pound Ridge since 1981, Willy has immensely enjoyed having London Joiners provide quality work to his customers. When entering his workshop, one can see the many acknowledgement letters received from customers including President Bill Clinton.

“With the exception of the President,” said Willy, “I always respect the privacy of my clients and never share their information with anyone.”

Born in Scotland, Willy began his career in woodworking while studying history in England and is proud his two sons are continuing the family business. He compares what he does to that of a chef who works the range of a large kitchen tasting everybody’s work. When asked if ready to retire, Willy adds “I’m planning to be around for a long time”.

At London Joiners, there is a special emphasis on French polishing, gold leaf and veneer. Willy also confirms that as a result of his craftsmanship, he has clients who are local and as far away as British Columbia in Canada and Germany.

Another talent Willy retains is being able to recognize the difference between an old piece of furniture and one that is authentic, including being able to tell if a 19th Century band saw was used in the production.

London Joiners, Ltd. is located at 23 Westchester Avenue in Pound Ridge and their phone is (914) 764-4216.

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