Heirloom repair and restoration has emerged as the latest boom pandemic trend, as Aussies seek to rediscover the emotional value of their often neglected family keepsakes.
Homemakers are rediscovering lost and preloved antiques, collectibles and memorabilia – often appreciated for their sentimental worth rather than monetary value – and giving them new life.
Restoration services are struggling to meet demand, with jobs growing by around a third year on year and inquiries shifting dramatically from trade to private clients.
Restorers say Australians are uncovering what is most important to us during these challenging times and adding character to our homes in the process.
“We have had a very busy year and we are getting busier and busier,” leading restorer Adrian Warren of AW Restoration said.
“At the start of Covid it went dead like a lot of businesses but now we are up by around 30 per cent. It’s taken us by surprise to be honest. People are certainly wanting to get these items that are important to them looked at during this time.”
Mr Warren, who has over 35 years of experience, said his clients were bringing in anything from antique tables and chairs through to unique artefacts like Aboriginal ceremonial spears.
“Often it’s not so much to make it look new but to preserve the item,” he said.
“It might look a complete wreck but people can be very surprised at how a piece can be revived.
“And a lot of the time, it’s not so much as an investment, although there is certainly that but something that has an intrinsic value. Its true cost is its importance to the owner, that family connection and passing on of tradition.”
Jason Snook of Jason Snook Antique Restorations, who has also been in the business for over three decades, said his business has gone “from 90 per cent trade work to 95 per cent private”.
“The sentimental value is really motivating people to have a piece looked at,” he said.
“In the current climate, that sentimental value is often worth more than the piece is. It might be 100, 150 years old with a thousand stories to go with it. People know you can’t get stuff made by hand like that any more. It’s not like a piece of Ikea furniture that lasts a year.”
“I’m upholstering a lot of pieces with more modern fabrics, crazy colours that make it more modern.
“People who haven’t had anything restored before will say ‘I should have done it years ago’”.
A growing hunger to appreciate these treasures of yesteryear, seen not just in Australia, is behind a TV phenomenon that has jerked tears and warmed hearts across the UK – and that is now coming Down Under.
The Repair Shop, in production now to air on Foxtel, will feature experts restoring items and exploring the special stories behind them. Host Dean Ipaviz said it would mine “the feel-good factor” of important sentimental pieces brought back to life and touch on people’s deeper feelings about who they truly are.
“We live in a disposable era and items like these that people are discovering or rediscovering in the back of their wardrobes or in the garage are really important to them because of family history (and) because of their strong emotional attachment to them,” he said.
“They contain such great stories, and a lot of that and what the show is about is the history of Australia – that Australiana.
“We have probably underestimated the value of that to ourselves and our families – and at times like this it is coming back to us how important items like this, whether it’s an old Ediphone, a piece of beautiful furniture or a doll’s house, really are to who we are.”
If you have a damaged heirloom, a prized antique, a loved one’s treasured possession or anything else that needs restoring and would like to appear on Foxtel’s The Repair Shop, apply here.
Originally published as Why antiques are the latest Covid trend