Lara Knight – 31 January, 2020
Every decade has different furniture trends. Adding antique or vintage pieces extends the choice across centuries of global, local, mass produced and bespoke designs. We never tire of seeing what other people collect and treasure.
Ann Thompson deals in last-century vintage so we were curious to see her home favs. What do you keep when your day job is finding and reviving classic lines?
You sell 20th century furniture on Instagram at Meubel Melbourne. Is there a Dutch connection in your vintage/collecting journey?
There is a Dutch connection, excellent that you picked up on that! Meubel is the Dutch word for furniture, and also where I’m from. Although I haven’t lived in the Netherlands for well over a decade, it is definitely where my love for anything vintage started.
I come from a family of architects and makers and grew up with furniture from the Kringloop, anyone who’s Dutch will know that’s where they recycle grandpa’s sofa. My mom also had a habit of cycling around on hard rubbish days, just to make sure she didn’t miss anything good. I found this humiliating as a kid, but later she furnished my first apartment with her fixed-up finds.
I grew to love it myself and started collecting, restoring, and inevitably selling when the house would get too crowded.
It still took many years and turns before Meubel was born; I worked in visual merchandising, in designer furniture and briefly with an upholsterer, but kept my hobby up throughout. A year ago I took the plunge and made it into a commercial venture, and as the saying goes; if you love what you do you’ll never work another day in your life.
20th century covers a range of furniture trends. Which designers or periods are you personally drawn to?
I sell mainly mid-century modern as that’s what the market asks for but personally I have a massive love for the 70s too. Mid-century modern has been popular for so long now that its comeback has outlasted its original 2 decades of design. The 70s, as they say, is the decade that design forgot – I respectfully disagree. Design in the 70s was bolder with more emphasis on comfort. I love the opulence of marble, the cosiness of oversized sofas and the geometry found in 70s designs.
Do you have pieces you’d never sell or is your home collection fluid with new favourites swapping in and out?
Our home is definitely fluid and things are regularly swapped for things I deem better, at least for the moment. There are however are a few pieces that I could never part with. Our Florence Knoll boardroom table, used as our dining table, is one of them. We found this on eBay in a state of disrepair but it is now the pride of the home. We recently also picked up a 70s Noboru Nakamura for Ikea rocking chair and it encapsulates everything I love with its tubular steel masculinity. It won’t be going anywhere either.
Any tips for others who’d like to collect 20th century furniture?
We pick up stuff anywhere. Garage sales, markets, deceased estates and online platforms. It takes a lot of trawling but it’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps you going. You will know good design when you see it but figuring out who designed it after that can sometimes be tricky. Old magazines, catalogues and ads are definitely helpful with that.
Which present-day stylists or decorators really inspire you?
I have a mad love for the eclecticism of French interior designer Jacques Grange. He pulls off interiors that look like a jumbled mess of styles and decades, yet work beautifully. His eye for matching objects that have no place belonging together is something I can only aspire to – I try but I always fall back on a certain minimalism. I would totally live in a Jacques Grange designed house though.
What are your thoughts on the vintage/secondhand shopping culture in Australia?
I think younger Australians especially are realising that the amount of landfill is not sustainable and buying accordingly. I think with buying second-hand though the motto goes, if you remember a trend the first time around you won’t be buying it the second time around. So I see few people over 50 coming through the door, but mainly younger eco-conscious city dwellers. Good news for the future of the planet and great news for timeless design.
Are there any ideal future plans for Meubel?
I’m hoping to keep it simple. I have a workshop on the ground floor of our converted warehouse and some storage. It’s a small but happy set-up. As with anything, I think furniture sales are moving more online so I don’t feel the need to rush into a brick-and-mortar. Perhaps some importing in years to come, I do have a love for Dutch design!
Where can people see more Meubel Melbourne finds?