Five Lessons From Our Workshop.

You don’t have to be a restorer to be interested in restoration and often learning the basics of something will help you understand and appreciate its value. We wanted to take this opportunity to teach our customers about the craftsmanship that goes into our restoration process with five key lessons from our workshop!

PROCESS: What steps go into restoring mid-century furniture?

The steps of restoration vary depending on each piece we work on but a standard process involves: 

  1. Hand picking furniture piece
  2. Detailed assessment 
  3. Wash
  4. Strip
  5. Joining clamping 
  6. Stopping and fine repairs 
  7. Upholstery
  8. Colouring 
  9. Polishing
  10. Finishing and quality control

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VENEER: What is a veneer and why was it used in almost all mid-century furniture? 

A veneer is a thin sliver of timber cut along the grain. The 'cathedral' is the beautiful arches of the timbers grain which are sought after and often exaggerated across a piece. Because it is cut into such thin slivers a veneer be repeated over one piece to for a uniformed finish.  

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Diagram via pinterest 

PATINA: What is patina and why should anybody care about it? 

Patina is the character which builds on a piece usually through use and the condition which it is kept. Patina is the life and story of a piece in physical form, it should never be dismissed and if possible preserved.  

LIFE: How much life can somebody expect out of a restored mid-century furniture suite? 

All dining suites and sofas are restored and repaired to original specifications which ensures the longest possible lifespan. Natural elements such as leather and upholstery of each piece are more susceptible to wear which is assessed, and possibly replaced in the most sympathetic way and presented in the best possible conditions. 

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MAINTENANCE: How do I best maintain my mid-century furniture? 

Because all of the pieces we sell are original mid-century we always recommend regular care. It is both easy and very effective in the long term to look after your furniture. For best results, we recommend that a leather product (used regularly) such a sofa is polished yearly to feed and condition the leather. Dining tables or wooden items used daily can be polished every 3 months and more occasional pieces can be polished once a year. We use Howards and Renapur products in our workshop, and sell both in our retail store.

Photography by Shara Hendersen


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The Art of Restoration - Honouring Design & Preserving History

For Modern Times the process of bringing amazing vintage pieces to our customer starts in Europe with annual trips to hand-select genuine designer pieces for shipment to Melbourne. Upon arrival at our Fitzroy warehouse it is then handed over to our highly skilled restoration team who really make the magic happen – beginning the tireless process of restoring pieces to their original condition.

We see the process of restoration as being highly sustainable, giving new life to something that could have been disregarded or disposed of. We value the integrity of each item and relish the opportunity to restore each piece to the original specification of the designer and continue to tell its story. 

Our team is lucky to work with, and in turn ‘learn from’ some of the greats!  Hans Wegner, Vico Magistretti, and Friso Kramer are just some of the designers responsible for the furniture we are lucky enough to restore. 

We sat down with our head restorer to discuss where his passion for restoration started and why he enjoys his role leading the restoration team at Modern Times ...

The Modern Times workshop where the magic happens!

You have been working in restoration for many years now and across many different mediums, what got you interested in restoration, and how did the pieces you worked on when you got started differ from what you work on today?

I established my love of restoration at quite a young age watching my father restore motorbikes and beach buggies, and I helped him until I felt confident enough to take on my own projects. From here I quickly built a love of furniture, firstly industrial and then antiques and mid-century furniture. What I love about my role now is that it is ever changing. Every piece presents a unique set of challenges requiring different approaches. Understanding the history and concept behind any designer piece is paramount to producing an excellent result. 


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Many traditional techniques and tools are still used.

Can you talk about some of the most memorable piece and or experiences? 

One of my most memorable restoration memories would have to be my first car being a 1961 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. I felt very proud and privileged to have transformed what was no less than wreck into a beautiful machine which i could enjoy with friends and family.  When I first started out in professional restoration at a friends family Antique shop I was lucky enough to work on a Spanish Casapanca from the 17th century, it was amazing to work on something so old which was still functioning and beautiful. This moment sparked my interest and I have since been fascinated in the way things are made., and the history of furniture making and design continues to be a passion.

Weaving is prevalent in mid-century furniture and is one of the skills you specialise in, how did you discover weaving and what do you love about the process of this craft?

I was taught by a master, firstly learning a traditional ’rushing' and then went on to learn both caning and weaving with Danish cord. Weaving is mostly a study of technique and repetition, I find the process very mediative, it is a skill which I have developed over time. I enjoy researching the patterns and process' of master weavers to then apply new techniques always considering the constraints of the design. Weaving is not a hard process but it does require patience, and it doesn’t hurt to know a few tricks which only come with experience!

Traditional Danish papercording.

You work with a huge range of designer furniture and must learn a lot from the different techniques of each designer. Which designer gets you most excited?

Hans Wegner stands out to me as a master of design. Wegner’s design signature is 'form and function', a use of solid timbers, and he often incorporated weaving into his pieces.

Design trends are always changing and it feels like new product is constantly being pumped onto the market. Why should somebody buy a restored piece over a brand new piece? 

A restored piece is part of a story which you can find out about, be inspired by, and then become a part of. Restored furniture has a character which is irreplaceable and should never be dismissed. It is this story which gives a piece desirability and value. Each piece tells a story of the designers thought process and is a reflection of a movement. The designer pieces that we work on are highly collectable and will always hold if not increase in value. 


photography by Shara Hendersen


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A Guide To Small Space Living

Small space living does not have to be about making compromises. With a carefully selected furniture and lighting, apartment living in the inner city can provide a fantastic quality of life. Check out our tips for making your inner city pad feel more spacious and a joy to come home to.

A Restrained Colour Palette

Choose a colour palette that creates a sense of uniformity across the entire apartment. With open plan kitchen, living and dining, restraint in your colour choices encourages the eye to absorb the room as one larger space. The additional of accent colours, textural finishes such as metal and stone, and a fresh injection of greenery will add personality and a sense of homeliness.

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Nine Smith St Apartment by Neometro. Furnished by Modern Times. Image Credit: Shannon McGrath

Open Lines of Sight

Furniture that is raised off the ground on legs creates an open line of sight, making the space appear largerand lighter. Similarly, furniture with open backs, such as dining chairs, work in the same way, to enhance the feeling of space and movement.

Mid-Century Modern

Scandinavian mid-century furniture is often lightweight and therefore easy to move, ideal for modern daysmall space living. The aesthetic is minimal and refined, not clunky or heavy, perfect for the flexibility that is often needed when living in a small space, such as using an occasional chair at the dining table.

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Nine Smith St Apartment by Neometro. Furnished by Modern Times. Image Credit: Shannon McGrath

Maximise Every Inch

A study nook maximizes limited space while also providing a dedicated home for work, reducing clutterand providing another platform for personal mementoes, art and objects. Choose a desk chair that compliments the rest of the apartment so it can serve double-duty as an easily accessible extra seat when guests arrive.

Dining That Flows

Opt for a round dining table to facilitate flow and movement throughout the living space. Rectangular tables can be restrictive in a small space as straight lines leave little room for movement. Additionally, around table enhances interaction between dinner guests, ensuring everyone faces the centre and is therefore never left out of the conversation – the recipe for a great dinner party.

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Nine Smith St Apartment by Neometro. Furnished by Modern Times. Image Credit: Shannon McGrath

Open Plan Zoning

Large-scale artwork is ideal for creating zones in an open plan setting. The artwork can act as a focal point to draw your eye to its size and scale, creating the illusion of a much larger space. Rugs can work in a similar manner, defining zones while adding style, texture and warmth.

Bring The Outside In

When living within a limited space, your balcony should be viewed as an extension of your living room.Create the illusion of one large space rather than two divided areas by carrying the theme of your furniture outside and bringing plants in. Many vintage pieces are versatile enough to work indoors oroutdoors. This adds to the continuity of the home and allows you to rotate furniture to keep things fresh.

Breathing Space

Opting for a low sofa creates the impression of a higher ceiling, which is important in a small space. Pulling furniture away from the walls makes the room look more open and airy, and allows the furniture to act as a room divider. When considering the size of your furniture, don’t forget to allow for breathing space so you’re not tripping over the coffee table on the way to the kitchen.

The Importance of Lighting

Think vertically. When floor space is limited, play up the height of the ceiling. Installing a simple pendant light draws the eye upwards, taking in the full scale of the space. With endless choices, your pendant lightcan be a striking talking point or a subtle silhouette. Floor and table lamps are also great for adding visualinterest in shape, colour and material.

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Nine Smith St Apartment by Neometro. Furnished by Modern Times. Image Credit: Shannon McGrath




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Daybed Dreaming!

Luxurious and light-hearted is how we would first describe this room! With an unmistakable glamorous pink palette, this room was ultimately inspired by the Cleopatra Daybed! Originally designed in 1953 by Andre Cordemeijer for Auping (Netherlands) this piece has a wealth of character and history.

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Modern Times owners, Amy and Joel sourced a handful of Cleopatra Daybed frames on a recent trip to Denmark, and wanted to bring the design back to Australia to share it with everyone!

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Above: Andre Cordemeijer, designer of the Cleopatra Daybed

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The fantastic thing about this piece is that you have the opportunity to create your own story through our selection of upholstery options. There is a variety of fabrics offered! Pink, check, wool, linen, green, navy, grey – there are several amazing options and variations you can choose from. Check out our Pinterest page for some daybed inspo!

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Above: Cleopatra Daybed Advertisement 1950s

For further informatin on the The Cleopatra Daybed, you can either drop by the store, email or call (03) 9913 8598.


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20th Century Design Legends

As you know, the vintage furniture we specialise in at Modern Times is usually of the Danish, Dutch or Italian variety but that doesn’t mean we limit ourselves! We currently have some pieces by icons of French and German origin so I thought what a great time to shine the light on two legends of twentieth century design – Maison Jansen and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

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Shot by Brooke Holm. Styled by us! Falcon Chair by Sigurd Ressell, Drinks Trolley by Artemide, Palm Lamp by Maison Jansen, 'Nevada', Photograph by Brooke Holm, 'Animals' Painting by Esther Olsson, The Barcelona Couch by Mies van der Rohe, French Lucite and Brass Side Table, Rugs by Pampa

Maison Jansen

Maison Jansen was one of the world’s first truly international interior design firms and arguably the top design firm of the twentieth century. They were founded in Paris in 1880 and by the turn of the century their services were in demand by aristocracy and royalty across Europe. From here the firm continued to expand, opening up offices and ateliers in South America, North America, Europe, and Africa. The Maison Jansen style was luxurious and dramatic with a touch of the exotic but mainly drew on traditional European design.

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Coco Chanel's 1930's Paris apartment by Maison Jansen

The furniture they manufactured, often one-off commissions, was mainly 18th century reproductions but Maison Jansen were not afraid to incorporate contemporary trends including Modernism and Art Deco into their interiors and custom designs.

Maison Jansen pieces are highly collectable and their interior projects that remain are preserved for posterity. The firm’s most notable project was The White House during the Kennedy years.

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The Maison Jansen Palm Lamp, designed in the 1970’s, was produced in many iterations and it’s blingy brass with dramatic and opulent form oozes 1970’s hollywood glamour. Shop Maison Jansen Palm Lamp here.


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe was an esteemed German architect, in fact he is credited as a pioneer of modern architecture! He designed numerous buildings including the famous Farnsworth House (1945) and the German Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Barcelona (1929) which both embodied his rigorous modernist principles. Mies summed up his design philosophy with his favourite sayings - ‘less is more’ and ‘god is in the details’.


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The Farnsworth House designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1945. Image via Beth Bullock

Mies, like many architects of the time, designed furniture that also followed these new principles of modernist design, doing away with the ornate decoration of the previous eras which were seen as excessive and a waste of effort and material.

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The Barcelona Couch originally in Harry Seidler's MLC Building, Sydney

The Barcelona Chair is Mies’ best known furniture design, originally designed for the Barcelona Pavillion in 1929, and a true icon of modernist design. The beautiful Barcelona Couch was added to the collection the following year both of which have been produced to his exacting specifications ever since.

The Barcelona Couch that we currently have in our collection came out of the Sydney MLC Building, an important building designed by our own proponent of Modernist design, Harry Seidler, in the late 1970s.  The condition is excellent, testament to the enduring quality of the original design. Shop The Barcelona Couch here


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The Best Christmas Gift Ever | Orders Close Soon!

We really love to mix up a little bit of the old with a little bit of the new. In the new camp we have the supreme talent of local furniture makers; Alex Rains of the 'Lex' range and Adam Markowitz of cross-breed 'Fred' table fame.

We know so many of you have been lusting after one these tactile, hand-crafted tables made from Australian Timber. Don't miss out on getting yours in time for the holidays! Think of it as the Best Christmas Gift Ever! 

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The Lex Table Designed by Alex Rains. Available made to order at Modern Times!

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Corner Detail of the Lex Dining Table By Alex Rains. Available at Modern Times!

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The Fred Table Designed by Adam Markowitz. Made to order from Modern Times!
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Leg Detail of the Fred Table by Adam Markowitz. Available to order from Modern Times! 

To customise your very own Fred or Lex Dining table for your place pop in for a chat or email us anytime! 

Orders for Pre-Christmas Delivery Close 2nd November! 

Furniture, Modern Times News

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Fred Wins Vivid

Exciting news! Fred has won the Concept Award in the 2014 VIVID design competition - judged recently at Furnitex.

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Who's Fred? He's a table designed by Adam Markowitz exclusively for Modern Times. We've been really excited to collaborate with Adam, having closely followed his Markowitzdesign studio projects since he returned from studying at the Royal Academy, Copenhagen. 

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The beautiful detail and joinery which attracted the judges attention at VIVID

With his practice now based in Melbourne, Adam continues to focus on "the intimate connection between design and fabrication," looking at the intersection between modern digital processes and traditional craftsmanship. He describes Fred as "a mongrel. A cross-breed." In fact, Fred is named after one of the Children of Princess Mary (who originates from Adam's spiritual home state of Tasmania) and Prince Frederik of Denmark. In short, he's "a royal of mixed blood."

We asked Adam to tell us some more about the inspiration behind the piece: 

"We decided that a table would be our first collaborative project, as it can be visually striking whilst being of reasonably straight-forward construction. I set about designing something that was at once evocative of the training I had recently received whilst studying at the Royal Academy in Denmark - I had the ghost of my Danish professor in my ear: "What is this piece for? What is it doing? Can you take it away?". However while I wanted it to feel at home amongst Modern Times's mid-century pieces, I also wanted to introduce elements that were more contemporary - stronger lines, more assertive angles - and a celebration of joinery and materials that is more reminiscent of my time at the furniture school in Hobart."

Fred's award was presented yesterday by Jan Henderson, co-editor at (inside) magazine. The judges described him as

"quite elegant and sophisticated with very fine detail. The Fred table celebrates the beauty of natural, sustainably sourced Australian timber (Tasmanian Oak and Jarrah) combined with a modern and classic Danish design"

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Designed, constructed and finished within a 3 km radius of Modern Times, Fred is a true local! Visit him in the store or check him out in our online store. Congratulations Adam!

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Design, Furniture

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Lease Extended! Modern Times Relaunch

It’s time to celebrate! We’ve been offered a lease extension so we are hanging around in Smith St for a few more months at least. Yay!

We think this calls for a party! Join us this Thursday between 6 – 8pm. We’ve got a brand new shipment of vintage finds from Denmark along with new artworks and homewares. Whilst you check out our new wares enjoy a glass of wine kindly supplied by Dromana Estate and listen to the soulful tunes of DJ Ari. We’d love to see you there!

Here is a sneak peek of the beautiful new pieces we have in store…

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Stunning, simple pieces in oak speak for themselves. Pictured here we have Kai Kristiansen Dining Chair Model 42 (we have a number available both in teak and oak) and the unassuming oak RY26 sideboard by Hans Wegner. The bright colours of Julian Martins artwork look so fresh with this combination too!

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We are excited to welcome Amanda Dziedzic to the fold with her beautiful glass bonsais. Stunning grouped or as a special stand alone piece – the colours are divine! New works from popular Arts Project artists, Warren O’Brien and Julian Martin. Aaaand, how about the phenomenal grain on this Ib Kofod Larsen sideboard!! Whoa!

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We have plenty of new sofas to choose from including this classic style in a faded camel leather. Cushions by Igloo Home are inspired by 1950′s stonewall designs and complement the mid-century style perfectly. New artworks by Ellie Malin need no introduction! Simply beautiful as always. Holding the setting together is another of our beautiful new sideboards, a H.W Klein sideboard in rosewood.

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Hans Wegner Plank Chair teams perfectly with oak daybed by Borge Mogensen and get crafty with the many varieties of handy sewing tables. Handpainted clock hand by Sandra Eterovic, original artwork by Eleanor Voterakis.

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H.W Klein recliners seem to call out for a cigar and a whiskey and Luscious Jungle brings life to mounted antlers. Screenprint by Ghostpatrol, original painting by Ruth Howard.

This is just a sample of the new pieces we have in store and we will have more pieces coming in over the next few months too. See our homepage too for more gorgeous pics of the new stock. Also stay tuned for our new website with WEBSTORE coming soon! We really hope to see you this Thursday night.

Modern Times News, Furniture

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