Do you have a beloved family heirloom that’s seen better days? It may not be “valuable” in the sense that it would fetch a million bucks at auction, but it’s an item that you truly treasure. Well, The Repair Shop Australia is now open for business, restoring those treasured items to their glory days.
If you’re familiar with the UK version of the show you’ll know every item that comes in the door has a cracking backstory to go with it. And while The Repair Shop Australia showcases the same skill and care, host Dean Ipaviz promises “more sense of Australiana”.
“We’re seeing the metal toy cars, we’re seeing items that are just dinky-di, so to speak, and things that I think a lot of Australian immigrants can relate to, and a lot of stories Australians can relate to,” Ipaviz told Lifehacker Australia.
While I’ll admit I’ve been brought to tears more than once while watching The Repair Shop, for Ipaviz it’s the migrant stories that really hit home. Like Maria, who presented her husband’s old boot-making machine that he brought over from Italy when they set up a new life in Australia.
“The way that that sort of played out for me very much reminded me of my family’s immigration and she reminded me a lot of my Nonna,” Ipaviz said. “This sewing machine, we’ve been told, now sits pride of place in her entryway when you walk in.”
The items featured on The Repair Shop are not just for show — they’re brought back to working condition.
“There was a pocket watch we restored, it was another one of those items that hit home for me, where the contributor noted he will keep it tucked away and he’ll show his son who eventually will be handed the pocket watch, but he was going to take it with him on special family events so when the family gets together they can use the pocket watch and say ‘let’s have a beer or let’s have a wine for our great-grandfather,’” Ipaviz said.
“People are seeing that they do and should use these items. We are restoring them in a manner which means they can be reused. They don’t just have to be wrapped in cotton wool and left on the mantle.”
The show is a wonderful showcase for the incredible talents of the specialist restoration workers — skills that are unfortunately fading fast as fewer people take up the trades.
“The detail and the level of expertise, the artisanship, the realms within these guys work, every day I was dumbfounded at how incredible these guys are,” Ipaviz said.
“I’ve obviously got a skillset myself as a carpenter… I liken it to myself working in millimetres, as a builder and a carpenter you work in millimetres, but then watching the repairers and restorers they work in micrometers, they’re working at such a minute level it’s hard to fathom at times.”
Not everything can be restored. Ipaviz, who is a Northern Rivers local, saw first-hand the damage after the recent floods and noted the distinct difference in quality when it came to furniture in particular.
“Any item that was 1980, 1990 when IKEA started becoming popular and modular furniture, that all got completely dilapidated,” he said. “All of these timbers that are particle board and reconstituted timbers they can’t cope with any kind of moister in the atmosphere let alone being drowned in water.
“But you looked at all these beautiful antiques — Lismore is an older area, a lower socioeconomic area where people have held on to furniture, so there were a lot of antiques in the houses, which obviously is a bit of a shame. But it was also something I noticed as I was going through people’s houses — the antique items were actually holding up. A lot of the solid timber furniture, it was all salvageable.”
With any luck, The Repair Shop will encourage us all to really think about what we’re purchasing and ask: is it going to last?
“If you’re going to buy something, buy it once and buy it properly,” Ipaviz said. “Even if it is a modern day table, buy a table that is proper timber, that’s not reconstituted timber and laminated. It’s thinking about the purchases we continue to make as a society going forward.”
The Repair Shop Australia starts May 3 at 8.30 pm on Foxtel’s LifeStyle channel.