How to care for timber furniture with Thomas Mintsenikos, furniture restorer

Embedded in the Plyroom collection is the belief that furniture should be cared for and loved as a treasured, functional part of your home. In designing pieces for our collection, we imagine them as a blank canvas in your home, one that can be adorned to reflect the seasons and colour trends of the moment. We are always striving to create furniture that is contemporary and feels current, but also has a timeless appeal.

We take note of the items our grandparents lovingly repaired and reused. No piece of furniture would ever have ended up on the kerb or headed for landfill. Instead, each piece would have been loved and cared for and then passed down to other family members.

We’re aiming to reclaim some of this lost knowledge of furniture maintenance and care and share it with our community. To begin with, we thought we’d ask our neighbour in Northcote, furniture restorer and timber expert Thomas Mitsenikos, to share some tips with us.

‘As with anything, you look after your things, they’ll look after you.’ Thomas tells us. His workshop is bright and busy on the afternoon we visit. Frenetic drum and bass beats thrum along with the hum of machinery. Even Thomas himself has a restless energy about him, he barely sits still for a moment during our conversation. 

‘That’s an Eames Bird’ he tells us, ‘the tip of the beak broke off, so it needed new eyes, a new beak. The owner could have bought a new one, but this one has sentimental value.’

Thomas learnt furniture restoration in the workshops of master makers in Switzerland and England. He set up his workshop in 1996 and has since established himself as a highly respected name in furniture restoration. 

He tells us he loves working with timber. ‘It’s organic, it’s tactile’ he says. He shows us a timber and leather chair he’s repairing for a family in Perth. It was designed by local furniture maker Charles Catt, who popularised the use of Jarrah timber in fine furniture in the 1960’s. Before that Jarrah had been reserved for industrial applications such as rail sleepers.

The pieces being repaired vary considerably in age. Thomas points to a Georgian table which required careful work to replace a broken dovetail joint. And a contemporary tabletop which Thomas repaired with a tiny section of timber that was matched exactly to the existing grain.

When we ask Thomas about caring for timber furniture, he tells us to keep it simple. ‘A soft cloth and some water. Don’t use solvents or scourers. There are a lot of products out there that are too harsh for timber. And there are others, oils, that will leave a residue or a film on timber.

‘And a bit of common sense helps. You don’t use a chair as a ladder. You don’t jump on sofas. You know, it’s about respect. If something’s well made, it’ll last. But you’ve got to respect it.’

Finally, we ask him if he has a favourite period or style of furniture. He doesn’t. ’Good design is timeless’ he says. We couldn’t agree more.

Find out more about Thomas’s restoration services here

Shop our new Furniture Cleaning and Care Kits

Interview, introduction and images by Amy Snoekstra

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