When we were contacted by a client asking if we could restore and invigorate a 1920s gramophone unit and upcycle it into a stylish drinks cabinet we really didn’t know what to expect.
Firstly, the cabinet was a solid, well made piece. It was crafted with a mix of oak, pine, mahogany and rosewood. It had all of its original parts with beautifully intricate mouldings and the wood hadn’t cracked or chipped in any significant way. And the gramophone still worked!
So, good news? Yes and no. The frame was in really good condition, less a couple of expected dinks it incurred over the last century. But arguably the cabinet’s best feature, the rosewood doors were in a bad way.
Sometime over the last 100 years the doors had succumbed to water damage. When wood has been soaked in water the damage often occurs after the water evaporates as it takes the wood’s natural oils with it, leaving the wood dry, brittle and warped. And that’s what happened here.
But we were in luck. We removed the varnish from the surface to assess the damage. Underneath shone a dusky pink wood that hadn’t seen daylight in a century and it looked glorious. But it was thirsty.
The wood desperately needed a drink. And who wouldn’t after 10 decades? So we fed it a rich, slow-curing tung oil and it soaked it up. While it was bathing in the oil, we gently clamped the rosewood to bend those warped doors back into shape. It was a slow process but the results speak for themselves.
The rest of the cabinet looked good but not as dazzling as it should. It was looking a little flat, partly because every piece of timber was the exact same shade of dark brown. We wanted to celebrate its unique form and highlight the differences between a beautifully reddish mahogany to a mellow, warm oak. We wanted to see the contrast of a glowing rosewood and a sunny pine.
But we also wanted another, bigger contrast. We wanted the cabinet to represent a period of history all about contrast. Prohibition. The world of speakeasys and gin joints. The world of a respectable exterior and a scandalous interior.
While a professional and respectful restoration was what was called for on the outside, we wanted the inside to be rebellious, rambunctious and downright raunchy!
We gave the interior a makeover any self-respecting disrespectful illicit blind tiger (speakeasy) deserved.
Tropical teal prints gave the cabinet an energetic and exotic feel while gold trims made it deep luxurious and a navy blue background leant a touch of maturity. And an LED downlight to brighten an enlighten finishes it all off.
And here we have it…