It's been three years since I first began revamping furniture with my dad as a side business. Together, we've refurbished and restored nearly 250 pieces of vintage and retro furniture.
We source pieces from all over the place – sometimes we even have people give them to us or we get calls about deceased estate sales and buy bulk lots (I sometimes get awesome clothes too!). We're also very lucky that Dad is in the paint business, so I can choose any colour I want to freshen pieces up and we have constructed a paint-mixing station in the garage.
More recently, my partner, Matt, has started helping us which lets us work on up to three pieces at a time. It's become a real family craft session!
In Australia, a common item most families had in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s was the buffet cabinet – we find them everywhere! Some are in good condition, while in others the glass is cracked, or simply in need of a lot of TLC. These old buffets are the perfect height, size and shape to house a modern flat screen TV. IKEA has realised this too with their new range of mid-century-styled TV units.
A common problem we have found with this era of furniture is that a lot of it is made out of chipboard, so if it’s been stored in a damp space the chipboard swells and its incredibly difficult to mend. We tend to avoid pieces like this, unless they are free and we can harvest handles and trimmings from them to use on good pieces.
Brown be gone!
I always want to paint anything hideous Laminex brown a different colour. Laminex needs to be in really good condition if you want to paint it: no cracks and holes, just a nice even surface.
Step 2: Make sure the surface is clean from dust. Tape up the glass and anything you don’t want painted.
Step 3: Buy some Etch Primer in a can, spray an even coat on (make sure you wear a mask) and leave to dry.
Step 4: Pick your colour! You are then free to roll, brush or spray any colour you want. Gloss enamel in a can always looks the most professional and it’s much easier to clean than chalk paint, or house paint. Easy peasey!
Retro tiki bars have always proven very popular. Over the summer months, we restore on average one every weekend and they are quickly snapped up by eager buyers. Tiki bars are all unique; some have lights built into them and others have an underwater display of real sea horses vacuum-sealed into the plastic. How innovative and creative they were! It sure makes the furniture of today seem boring and disposable by comparison.
I've copped negative comments from the online vintage community in the past for using the term “revamp” because it appears to some that I am damaging vintage pieces by painting them. On the contrary, I like to think I am saving them. A lot of pieces would have been thrown away if I didn't show them some love.
I like original furniture, but we also customise cars to non-original standards, so the furniture we do is going to be bright and have the shine like one of our customised classic cars. My motto is, if the vintage piece is in perfect original condition, don’t touch it and enjoy it as is. If it's worse for wear, sand it back, pick your colour and make it over. Have fun!