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 WegnerVico 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.

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photography by Shara Hendersen

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