Ever struggle to fit everything in your suitcase after travelling overseas? Spare a thought for Kathy White, owner of new furniture store and restoration studio Retro Room. After a recent trip to Europe, she returned with a suitcase full of West German ceramics for her store. “I have a double-garage full of stuff,” she says with a laugh. “You can’t get any cars in there.”
A psychologist by trade, White began passion project Retro Room as a stall at the Wayville Vintage Market. Now, her first bricks-and-mortar showroom has launched on East Terrace as part of the Renew Adelaide program. “I was always looking for [a retail space], but wasn’t sure how long to commit for and how long it would go. So Renew Adelaide gave me that perfect opportunity to trial it.”
White is always on the hunt for mid-century pieces, spending countless hours at salvage yards, garage sales, auctions and op shops around the country. “I used to like restoring antique furniture many years ago, when I had an old Victorian house. And then I got more into the mid-century stuff,” says White. “I think it’s timeless; it goes well in modern houses still, and I love learning about designers and the manufacturers and the history. It became an obsession.”
If Mad Men comes to mind when you walk into Retro Room, you’re not alone. A lot of people “talk about the show”, according to White. “I think that show was a big starter for people appreciating this design and the clothes of that era,” she says. The store is filled with dining tables, rattan cane chairs, drinks trolleys and Scandinavian glassware.
When Broadsheet visits, White brings our attention to a T H Brown “flip-flop” table, a round table that conveniently folds away when you need a bit more space. She says the label’s Simon Brown told her he hasn’t seen one of those tables for 20 years. The store also carries pieces from designers such as Ercol, Noblett and Fler.
There are plans to host design talks and restoration workshops in the space. “I’m passionate about recycling. I think we throw away far too much, and we buy too much disposable furniture,” says White.
“I’ve often bought things that are really bad, and wondered whether it’s worth the time and investment . . . but somehow just felt they needed to be saved. Halfway through three hours of sanding, you think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But then you see them come back to life, and they get another 20, 30 years.”
37 East Terrace
Tues, Wed, Fri & Sat 12pm–6pm