Tomáš Grund is a genuine enthusiast. His little workshop in Prague’s Kolbenka is full up to the ceilings with pieces of furniture that will make your heart beat. You will remember most of them from your grandma’s apartment but you likely haven’t seen them in such a state that Tomáš can bring them in.
His project Retrohome focuses on the renovation of functionalist furniture. He only uses methods of the period, high-quality materials and, above all, a dose of precision that this graduated restorer has in his blood. You would hardly find any imperfections! The interior of his showroom is tiny but carries a unique atmosphere. It emphasises the contrast between renovated and old pieces that are awaiting renovation. His neighbours are guys from Nanovo with whom he cooperated even before he started his own business.
Tomáš will chat about his work with enthusiasm at any time and it is clear that with opening Retrohome he has fulfilled his dream. He has already gained plenty of loyal customers who return for other polished pieces to expand their collection of timeless furniture from the 1920s and 30s.
You graduated from restoration but are focused on the 1920s and 30s with your project Retrohome. What attracted you to this period?
The period of the 20s and 30s interested me mainly for its timelessness – for the shapes and materials used. During functionalism, designers attempted to emphasise the function of the furniture and to disencumber it from any embellishment, laths, and everything unnecessary that would be a burden when used every day. In the end, they managed to make furniture that is easily maintainable even after 80 years, and fits modern interiors as well as contemporary design products.
What is the renovation process like? What resources do you use to learn about the original appearance of the furniture?
Regarding renovation of wood, I act as its manufacturers did in the beginning. I give modern varnish a wide berth and I use only old time-proven methods, which are natural for wooden surfaces, are easily removable in the future and give wood the prettiest look (for instance shellac varnish and beeswax). In regards to upholstery, renovation is again based on old technologies that were perfect at the time, so there’s no need to change them. Contrarily, today most of the craftsmen don’t want to use them because they are very time-consuming and physically demanding. For fabrics I choose specialised companies that focus on patterns from the period.
Do your clients want you to bring the furniture into its original state or do they let you use your imagination?
It’s about half and half. There are customers who know exactly what they want, spend their time to get inspiration from various period photographs and then come to me with a vision that they consult with me, a specialist, and ask whether their vision is attainable or whether it will need a couple of adjustments. Then there are customers who have a certain piece at home after their parents or grandparents and let me design a variant (for renovation and visual aspects). This is, of course, after questioning them about what they like and what their home looks like.
What is your typical customer like? And their apartments?
I don’t think I have a typical customer. I’m always surprised by who addresses me. One of my customers is, for example, a 20-year-old man who wanted to buy a nice historical lamp of a high quality for reading, or it can be an older woman who has a couch from her childhood and wants to energise it because of her grandchildren. The same diversity goes for interiors where the furniture belongs. But personally I have to say that this furniture works best in old brick reconstructed flats or villas, with wooden floors and big windows that brighten up the spaces. The ideal place is Villa Tugendhat :)
How is your flat furnished?
I am still waiting for my dream house and if I get it one day, I will definitely get a couple of solitaires from this period. For now, I have a little bit of a mix from different periods but believe me; you won’t find a lot of new things without history at my place. Collecting and love for old things is almost like a disease of mine, that I am slowly recovering from. It’s best that I don’t look at containers on streets so I don’t drag anything home with me again.
Do you renovate any furniture that you stock so that customers can come to your workshop and have a look at it, or do you make everything to order?
I mainly focus on products and renovation for orders and this takes me more time. Nevertheless, I try at least once a month to put something new for sale on my website, according to my taste, and I believe it will only get better in the future.
(Tomáš Grund, owner of Retrohome)