Simon Macintyre- Furniture Restorer
Simon Macintyre is a furniture restorer based in Arundel, West Sussex. He trained with Michael Hay-Will in 1981 (in the same class as Anselm) and set up shop a quarter of a mile down the road, where he has been restoring furniture ever since.
He is also a guest tutor on our cabinet making courses and for those who read our post about the Windsor chair restoration; it was under his expert guidance that it was brought back to its former glory.
And he is clearly not just an excellent furniture restorer, because while most of our students arrive here saying they have little interest in furniture restoration, the vast majority leave saying that furniture restoration is one of their biggest interests. One of last year’s graduates has even gone down South to work with him, so he must be doing something right!
He is a bit more modest. He believes that furniture restoration itself is what captures people’s imagination:
“There is a sense of history and tradition that accompanies restoring furniture,” he says. “You’re holding a piece that might be 300 years old, right in front of you, and you start wondering what the person who made it was like. Who has owned it? Who was the last person to polish it and restore it?”
Furniture Restoration vs Cabinet Making
He says that he understands why people might initially shy away from restoration. Even he started out thinking he wanted to be a cabinet maker, designing furniture. But he slowly came to realise that he had a greater aptitude for furniture restoration. He believes that cabinet making and furniture restoration feed the soul in different ways. “The ability to use a tool is a ‘skill’,” he muses, “whereas the ability to restore furniture is much more about having a ‘feel’.”
And so the pleasure comes not just from the sense of history and tradition, but from the nuts and bolts of revitalising antiques. “You have to imagine what the piece looked like in the past and you try to match that picture with a reality.” For Simon this means problem-solving and dealing with the subtle complexities of colour and patina.
For the Few, Not the Many
However, not everybody thinks the same way… Occasionally Simon will get an antique through the door that has been restored by a cowboy for whom restoration evidently means something completely different: “I do sometimes despair at what some people think it’s all about; trying to do furniture restoration with a pot of glue and a couple of nails is just plain wrong!” But by and large, taking apart history and breathing new life into old furniture is clearly as much a gentle lifestyle as it is a business for this man.
The Bottom Line
And what of the cabinet making? “While I still make the odd bit of furniture,” he says, “it’s not every day that someone walks through your door and orders a 3-piece suite. Restoration work is much more common.”
“But it’s never dull,” he adds. So despite the odd cold, grey, winter morning, he finds himself wanting to get up and go to work. Because even after 27 years on the job, he still finds it interesting, challenging and deeply rewarding.
Wepham Farm Stables