MAK­ING MEM­O­RIES

The cou­ple giv­ing new life to old favourites talk to Thomas Heaton

Cuisine - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Ja­son Creaghan

THE FRONT OF VITRINE’S Auck­land ware­house is a labyrinth: ta­bles are stacked two men tall, chairs and benches fill the spa­ces in be­tween. There are also old steel lock­ers, an­tique fridges, iron bread bas­kets, even old bar tops. They’re crammed to­gether, all wait­ing for their even­tual facelift.

Julien Th­ery walks through, point­ing out the nu­ances of each ta­ble; there’s the type of wood they’re made out of, the hid­den bread boards and draw­ers. He can tell you where each ta­ble comes from. There are the im­per­fec­tions too – the borer hole, the stains from hot pots, marks from bread-cut­ting. Some have been slightly bleached and worn down thanks to years of bread­mak­ing.

Many of them are from Nor­mandy in the north of France; some could be from La Marche, south of Paris. Other pieces might come from Poland, for­mer Cze­choslo­vakia, Eng­land or The Nether­lands. They’re all preloved ta­bles, com­ing from farms, schools or li­braries, fash­ioned from cherry wood, wal­nut, oak or pine.

French­man Julien has been restor­ing ta­bles, along with plenty of other pieces of fur­ni­ture, as a busi­ness with his wife Amanda for about seven years. They’ve been pro­vid­ing cen­tre­pieces and fit-outs for homes and busi­nesses across the coun­try. Restau­rant fit-outs are about 80 per cent of their busi­ness.

To say Julien and his team re­stores pieces would be correct, but that in­fers they’re be­ing re­stored to orig­i­nal con­di­tion, which is not quite the case. They’re be­ing re­vi­talised, given new life. Blem­ishes are em­braced, knots, cuts, stains and all. Some have been fid­dled with too – cov­ered in plas­tic flo­ral wraps or sanded down.

For one ta­ble, the en­tire process takes one per­son three weeks, so by the time they’ve re­stored ev­ery­thing, they’ll have an­other ship­ment com­ing from France. More work goes into each ta­ble af­ter Julien and his fel­low re­stor­ers have fin­ished with them. They’re French pol­ished by one of the few who can do it in New Zealand. “It’s an art,” Amanda ex­plains.

Amanda says they see a lot of firsthome buy­ers in­vest­ing in the ta­bles, look­ing to cre­ate their own sto­ries around them. Many of them are buy­ing their very first ta­ble too.

“They are buy­ing an ob­ject, but they are buy­ing some­thing to have their friends and fam­ily around,” Julien says. “It’s im­por­tant for peo­ple; mem­o­ries are made around the ta­ble.” They’re all dif­fer­ent, but all have “pres­ence and that feel­ing of quality”, he says.

There are plenty of other in­trigu­ing pieces strewn through­out the space in sub­ur­ban Morn­ing­side. There’s the large black sign with “four­rure” (fur) in large gold font, sit­ting up­right against old steel lock­ers. In front sits an an­tique child’s ride-on spaceship, from Bel­gium. Loup is also part of the fur­ni­ture – he’s a shrewd, hand­some bea­gle who can be found in the sunny spots. “He’s been there since day one,” Amanda says.

Each piece has its own story, and is about to have its sec­ond life in New Zealand. The shopfront is packed with Julien’s hand-se­lected pieces from a re­cent trip to Europe. He takes three six-week trips each year, sourc­ing the best Europe has to of­fer at flea mar­kets and through con­tacts. Once a year Amanda and their two chil­dren join him in France for the trip.

While all these dif­fer­ent trea­sures span decades and styles, they all have one thing in com­mon. Julien says how they pick each piece is sim­ple. “Ev­ery­thing that we buy, we love.” inthe­vit­rine.com

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