The master restorer and conservator is known for enhancing the natural beauty of furniture from the last four centuries, including pieces found at the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Madrid's Royal Palace. His expertise and knowledge is sought out by renowned collectors, dealers and art fairs.
On a recent trip to Miguel Saco Restoration Inc. in Manhattan, an array of furnishings was in various stages of restoration, including a 19th-century Duncan Phyfe sofa and a 1950s Carlo Mollino table.
Saco and his team of highly skilled artisans perform a wide range of museum-quality work, from the simplest cosmetic touch-ups and refinishing to caning, inlay, veneering, upholstery and recreation of missing parts.
"The best restored pieces look untouched," Saco said. "For collectors, we always want to maintain pieces in good condition. . It's like in Chinese medicine. The important thing is to keep the patient in good health before they get sick."
Saco deals with high-end furniture that can run into the millions, such as the rare Reginald Lewis Queen Anne compass-seat stool that wound up in his shop for minor conservation after it sold for $5.2 million at a 2008 auction.
While Saco has clients as far away as Moscow and Sao Paulo, he says most buyers of high-end antique and fine furniture come from the U.S. Twentieth-century pieces are especially hot, and his shop frequently handles pieces by Eileen Gray, Jean Royere, Jean-Michel Frank and Jean Prouve.
"He respects the fact that if you over-refinish, it affects the value," industrialist and art collector Peter Brant said of the work Saco has done for him.
Some of Saco's restored pieces have found their way to various museums including the Detroit Institute of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the White House.
An 18th-century table restored for the esteemed late American antiques dealer Israel Sack in the 1990s is at the Met. Sack highly endorsed the sensitive conservation, stating "Mr. Saco miraculously reset the veneer, conservatively lifted the varnish preserving the original patina and replaced missing elements."
Saco also works as a consultant, advising clients on their collections. And he sits on the vetting committee for 20th-century furniture at New York's Winter Antiques Show, ensuring the quality of the items meets the high standard of the refined fair, which opens Friday.
Wherever they buy, Saco advises potential buyers to do their homework: Check the condition; research as much about the piece as they can; find out if it's an important piece by the manufacturer or designer; and enlist the advice of an expert if they are unsure of a piece's value.