Shanta and Suresh Narayan find joy in restoring period pieces to their former glory.

They go into the past to furnish the present and the future. According to furniture restorers Shanta and Suresh Narayan, every piece of furniture hasits own story to tell.

Exquisite art work and engravings in the curve of a broken console leg, a scrap of the now forgotten craft of ivory trellis work or a bit of broken marble inlaid with precious stones… every pice has a history.

The couple and their team of ‘paramparik’ artisans pick up old and damaged furniture, and begin to piece it together to recreate the original, or sometimes create new concepts around the old pieces. They also make full reproductions as well.

Suresh says, “We study old hand techniques of furniture making and embellishment using archival material, old documents and catalogues and period furniture in private collections. We then conceptualise and create the item with the help of craftspersons.” At the Classical and Contemporary Furniture exhibition put together by the Narayans, the ambience is evocative, whether captured in the 150-year-old Opuim bed from Hyderabad or in the chaise lounge settees.

Scattered around the exhibition hall are restored Jacobean settees and chairs, charming French cupboards and sideboards, dining tables with Chettinad door table tops and waiting-to-be-restored East India company almirahs.

The 9 ft by 6½ ft opium bed is a mélange of intricate craftsmanship including remnants of delicate ivory trellis work panels, exquisite cutwork in wood, glass encased panels of old zari and brocade, a crisscross wooden canopy on top and English ceramic tiles dating back to the 19{+t}{+h} century.

Shanta explains, “By the time the bed came to us, the ivory panels had all but gone; we replaced them with fine cutwork. The missing tiles were replaced by our own handmade tiles, the mirrors on the three sides repaired and the lovely canopy restored to its original condition.”

Another spectacular piece is a Charles II secretary with an ornately carved façade whose top part alone came to the Narayans. They added a lower half comprising three sets of drawers to complete the piece.

Restoring Jacobean sofa sets by adding the ‘twisted barley’ legs so typical of the period or conjuring up consoles which came to them in odd bits are many of the works undertaken by Suresh.

Saravanan and Marimuthu are the master artisans whose skilled hands recreate the lost magic, be it a jhoola, a tiled bed, a ball and claw period chair or a Raj chest of drawers. They ensure the survival of hand-made furniture, which, according to Saravanan, is slowly dying.

The Classical and Contemporary Furniture exhibition is on at 103/104 2{+n}{+d} Link Road, Nehru Nagar, Kottivakkam (near Sun Direct), till September 30 (Ph: 24540435).

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