Visiting Restorno is an experience. Although it’s early in the morning when I arrive, I can see that everyone is hard at work. Each employee is in his own department, using his skills and specialties on whatever item he happens to be working on at the time. As I walked in, I was greeted by Netanel Journo, who accompanied me with a smile towards the gallery also used as the customers lounge.
Netanel, your workshop here is quite impressive, how did you get started?
My first steps in the furniture restoration field were over 15 years ago, just before finishing my army service in sayeret egoz. I started working as an apprentice in furniture restoration with an American oleh. He taught me the basics of the field and some valuable American techniques. We quickly built a very successful business, and I became a foreman over a team of workmen, learning the ropes of both professional craftsmanship and management. It wasn’t long before I was developing my own antique restoration techniques, and although it was a lucrative partnership, I found the type of work done in the company to be very limited. It was a natural decision to start my own business.
Today, our workshop is comprised of several departments dedicated to different purposes.
We have departments for cosmetics, repairs, upholstery and even traditional hand-tool woodworking. We also have a gallery where we display restored antique furniture that’s ready to be sold. This is also the area where all the different upholstery materials are stored, so that clients can come and choose which material they like best for their furniture upholstery, in a comfortable, home-like setting.
What is the difference between a furniture restorer and a carpenter?
The foundation of each trade is completely different and although there can be slight overlap at times, carpentry and furniture restoration are entirely separate fields. In a nutshell, a carpenter will work with new materials to create something new, while a restorer will work on an item that is already made. A good restorer needs to have great knowledge of construction methods to know how to dismantle and reassemble a piece without damaging it. It’s also essential to have a mechanical understanding of the stresses applied to a piece of furniture in day-to-day use, and its effect on the wood, in order to perform a long lasting repair.
In his work, a restorer must devise various repair techniques to navigate any problems that might arise in restoration but not in carpentry work, and visa-versa, a carpenter will have construction solutions not needed by the restorer. The tools are different as well. Most carpenters will not have the necessary equipment for restoration. This is why we practice both fields here at Restorno, restoring and furniture making.
One particularly interesting area of the work a restorer must master is the chemical nature of wood finishes and their interaction with one another. For example, while mixing substances and materials, one must be aware of possible chemical reactions that may occur if incompatible substances are mixed, which can result in unwanted harm to the furniture (such as bubbles, stains etc.). A restorer has to see what lacquer, paint and type of glue is under the veneer of the furniture so that he can be sure he is treating the item properly.
What type of furniture repairs do you do?
We meet a wide variety of niche consumer needs. We repair and re-do all things furniture, including finishes; upholstery in fabric and leather; upholstery cleaning; marble polish; cane work and much more. We also specialize in antique furniture restoration requiring sensitive craftsmanship.
Furniture restoration is not just a question of what, but rather how. We insist on the highest standard of quality in our work. The materials and techniques that we use as well as our commitment to excellence are what make us stand out from the local scenery.
For example, in repairing a simple chair, we’ll take it apart completely and clean all the joinery. Only then will we re-glue using high-specification glues to achieve a solidity which allows us to guarantee our repairs for up to 25 years, though they will most likely last much longer!
Is it really worthwhile to fix your furniture? Doesn’t it make more sense to buy something new?
It all depends on how much you like the item.
Furniture is not only about function. It has strong aesthetic value in a home and can bring many years of pleasure to the owners through its comfort and design. If you enjoy the piece, it’s certainly worth repairing, especially if it will be a quality repair that will make it last longer and look great.
A separate but related element is the quality of the piece. Furniture made nowadays is almost never the same quality as furniture made even ten ago, not to mention decades ago. Quality furniture that has been properly restored can last you more than fifty years.
Unfortunately, we live in a generation where the “throw-away” mentality is common. Some are more interested in trends than quality, and would prefer to purchase something new every couple of years rather than preserve the results of true quality craftsmanship for the next generation. A sad truth is that many cheaper furniture pieces are brought to us for fixing after as little as a few months. This then becomes a question of practicality in light of money recently spent as well as aesthetics. We will normally advise the customer as to whether we think it’s a worthwhile investment or not, based on their needs and the quality of the furniture.
So how would I know how good the quality of my furniture is?
If a customer has a repair job, we’re happy to examine the piece of furniture to see how good the original quality is.
Is it advisable to bring furniture over when making aliyah?
The Israeli furniture market has improved drastically in the past decade, but fine furniture here costs much more than abroad. This is mainly because manufacturers who used to make excellent furniture have downgraded their quality in order to match the market prices. And so, if the furniture is made with higher international standards, it’s usually very worthwhile to bring it over rather than buy furniture that may last less than five years.
I know your team goes all over the country—where are you situated?
Our workshop is located in the industrial zone of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, as an idealistic move to strengthen the hityashvut in the area.
For most of our jobs, we’ll pick up the item and deliver it back to the customer after completing the work. However, there can be items that are very antique or fragile, and there is a concern they will be damaged in transportation. In these cases, it may be necessary to work onsite in the customer’s home.
How do I prevent my furniture from falling apart?
First of all, it’s important to remember furniture is not a trampoline. If furniture is treated well, it will last for a very long time without too much maintenance. Having said that, when furniture doesn’t seem as sturdy as it used to be or is starting to shake, you need to take care of it sooner rather than later, and fix it before it becomes a bigger job than it has to be. Nothing lasts forever, but if you take care of your furniture properly, it will last for a good many years, and can be a special possession that is passed down through generations.
Tell me about your woodworking courses.
Restorno will soon be offering woodworking courses for teenagers and adults be’ezrat Hashem.
Participants will learn about the different types of materials and tools, but most of all, they will acquire a feel for working with wood. They will learn to create the furniture with their own two hands while covering all the essential steps. Our goal is to equip the students with enough knowledge to allow them to keep creating and repairing their own furniture. There is a great satisfaction in finishing a project and being able to take it home.
This is why we are now working towards starting a new course catered to youth at risk. We believe that wood work is a positive way for youth to direct their energy and express themselves.
Working with wood has endless benefits and is a real challenge, as you must understand the material while you work with it, in order to get it to do what you want. Working with your hands in order to create infuses self-awareness and makes you mindful of yourself and your capabilities. Physical work forces you to connect to your senses, thereby reconnecting to yourself.
What is the vision of your company?
Our vision for Restorno is a workspace that allows for a customer to bring a piece of furniture that needs work and then receive it back just as they imagined it would look – this grants a great freedom of design for customers in a world where fine furniture selection is limited and mediocrity and repetitive offerings are commonly available. Our final products are always impressive and will elevate your home. When a client comes to us with a dream of how he wants his home to look, we want to fulfill that dream.