Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wooden revival

Give your old furniture new life at Kayu House.

THINKING of giving the old, broken down grandmother’s cupboard the “heave ho”? Don’t! It may have another chance to serve the family for a few generations more. According to Michael Lee and Rodzi Rahim of Kayu House, a workshop that specialises in the restoration and refurbishment of antique furniture, the old cupboard will come back almost as good as new once they are done with it.

The workshop, which does repair work for customers as well as sell their own collection of antique pieces, is headed by Rodzi, 38, who prefers to be known as Dodi. According to this father of two, it is amazing how people can throw away old furniture without a thought to their historical or monetary value.

Dodi (left) and Michael have a friendship based on understanding and a passion for antiques.

Of special interest, noted Lee, 39, who handles the business development, are furniture dated from the 1900s to the 1940s. This period, said this father of one, has the most interesting teakwood pieces. Though the furniture designs were supposedly English, they also had Chinese influences because the craftsmen who made them were Shanghainese. This made for a very interesting mix, such as the “tigers” and “phoenixes” on English dressers and living room centrepieces. The estimated value of a restored teakwood cupboard from this era can be from RM15,000 to RM20,000.

Lee said that old pieces of furniture that can still be used in their entirety are put aside, while those beyond salvation are taken apart so that certain pieces can be used to replace parts of furniture where the wood has rotted.

Talking of experience, Lee proudly pointed out that Dodi is one of the very few skilled craftsmen who can make furniture without a single nail. Dodi, whose discipline had started in cane works upon completing his SPM, had at one time owned a furniture shop in Manjoi, Perak.

A living room center piece which may be dated between 1900 and 1940s.

In Kayu House, Dodi heads a team of skilled carpenters who can restore anything from old cameras to making things such as carved ornate headboards, birdcages and bamboo blinds from scratch.

But more interesting than the work at Kayu House was the ironic start which led to the “muhibbah” partnership between Dodi and Lee, who came from very different backgrounds. Surmised Lee, a tin miner’s son from Tronoh who originally studied computer programming in Melbourne, if a restaurant had not burned down, the two may not even have thought of forming a partnership.

Eight years ago, Lee ran Straits House, a restaurant at Jalan Raja Ekram (formerly Cowan Street) in Ipoh until it burned down in 2001.

“Straits House was doing very well and even won the award for being the Best Restaurant in Perak in 2000,” he recalled.

After fire, Lee, who was single at that time, knew that he had to get back on his feet. The fire, which had been caused by a half extinguished cigarette butt that the cashier had thrown into a waste basket, had incurred close to RM100,000 in damages and an undetermined value in antique furniture that he had on display in the restaurant.

Understandably, Lee found himself in a financial predicament and had to sell his Prado and settle for a Proton Saga. And it was while he was picking up the pieces from the charred rubble that he would find solace in Dodi whom Lee met when he was looking for someone to repair the antique pieces on display at his once-flourishing restaurant.

Rodzi, a former Michaelian, had struck Lee as a conscientious worker who seemed to have the innate ability to “heal” anything made of wood. Plus, Dodi seemed to have an aura of perpetual happiness about him, which was just as well as he was very much in need of cheering up.

Today, turning old things into new, the two friends have also ventured into producing wooden pergolas, floor decks and gazebos. So if you’re looking at giving your home a contemporary Aseana feel, call on Kayu House (016-220 0179 or 012-508 6789) at 14, Hala Rapat Baru 23, Kawasan Perindustrian Kinta Jaya, 31350, Ipoh, Perak, for a free consultation anytime.

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