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  • Writer's pictureSophie - Dustpan & Brush

Mid Century Modern Furniture; Melbourne’s Style Obsession

Mid Century Modern furniture, abbreviated as MCM, is arguably the most sought after look for Melbourne design obsessives, vintage connoisseurs and for chic quintessentialists alike. But why? And what is mid century modern? A simple definition - it’s a style expressed loosely by the 1950’s step away from art-deco. Appreciation for the ornate, evolved into appreciation for cleanly refined design viewed as tasteful and simple. It remains undeniably timeless in its simplicity while brimming with character; a triple-threat that we think most would find quite difficult to argue with! There's good reason we adorn our houses with these items. In addition; choosing a sustainability-oriented lifestyle by deciding on owning beautifully restored vintage pieces, as opposed to buying temporary, and inferior mass-produced furniture? Now you’re speaking our language.


Today, we’re writing to you with an overview of select need-to-know tips and suggestions about owning, obtaining, restoring and most importantly, caring for vintage and MCM. We’re also lucky enough to be joined by Sarah, the knowledgeable selector-of-style behind the boutique Hey Jude Workshop; a Melbourne haunt for lovingly restored mid-century furniture and everything home vintage.

hey jude workshop, mid century modern furniture, mid century vintage

Sarah started Hey Jude while at home with their new-born son after quitting a 10-year career in the wine industry; “mostly it’s just me, doing all of the things, although my husband, son & cat do all help out in their own way. Combining a love of vintage and a strong motivation to have a positive environmental impact - it’s truly a dream job!” Reduction of said environmental impact is something she feels strongly about, acknowledging the constantly changing trends and subsequent over-consumption of ‘fast-furniture’ that contributes significantly to the waste crisis we live in. Sarah’s opinion on how best to help address that as individuals? “Simply put, second-hand is the most sustainable way to shop.”

“In addition to saving the planet, I want styling your home to be fun, affordable and accessible. For me it’s not about trends and designers, but about sourcing great, timeless vintage pieces that add character and have a story to tell. I stock a variety of furniture and objects from the 1950s through to the 90s; mid century, space age, industrial, I love it all.”

Gratefully, we do too 😊


Caring for Mid-Century Vintage; the Quality of Character

“Caring for your vintage furniture certainly doesn’t mean covering it in plastic sheets (I’m looking at you nonna). Furniture should be loved and enjoyed and shown off! A few dings and bumps often aren’t noticeable in a vintage item and if anything, just add to the charm or give another story to tell. But when it comes to wooden pieces, you do need to be cautious around hot and cold drinks. Both can leave stains that are difficult to remove without sanding. As with most things, prevention is best, so why not get yourself some pretty vintage coasters to save your lovely furniture from damage.”

We agree, outside of some character building knocks, damage prevention is the best medicine.

Some tips from us: on the off chance your hot mugs/plates have left white heat stains on your sealed wooden furniture, you might be a bit scared as to what exactly has happened and what can be done. Heat stains are a very particular type of stain. They will be white in colour and are caused by high temperatures, whereby moisture remains in the micro-layer between the wood and the sealant/resin. If this happens, you can remove them by drawing that moisture back out with a shower towel and an iron.

Switch on your clothes iron in and let it sit for a couple of minutes while it gets hot. Place a towel on top of the white heat stain. Once the iron is hot, run it over the towel that is covering the white mark - just as you would normally iron your clothes. Give it a good spritz of steam to get it going. With 4-5 runs over, have a look under the towel and you should notice the white mark beginning to fade as the moisture is heated back up and extracted into the towel. Repeat the process until the stain is all but gone, and in a couple of minutes, voila! The wood will be looking like it had never been touched in the first place. Of course, in case this needs to be said, do not directly iron the wood! As noted, iron only the towel that is laying on top of the stain. Materials and finishes such as cement, soft stones, marble, travertine etc aren't affected by this issue. For maintenance tips for those kinds of surfaces, see our post; soft stone - a cleaning and care guide.


Cleaning Mid Century Modern Furniture: Everyday Care

According to Sarah, “when it comes to cleaning my furniture, it’s quite unromantic. I mostly use plain old water. In addition to avoiding toxic chemicals, it’s really about going gently, so as not to damage the finishes. I would always suggest starting with water and slowly building up to the ‘stronger stuff’. For those things that do call for a little more, I’ll get out the castile soap. Or even a little bicarb if you need some light abrasion on those grubby spots. The eucalyptus oil also gets a pretty good work out too - tackling the sticky & oily bits. Once clean, for nourishing and protecting my wooden furniture, hemp seed or linseed oils are my go to.”

Of course, we again couldn’t agree more. Aside from the unromantic part; 'let me do the cleaning tonight honey' is probably the most romantic thing ever. A quality fibre cloth, some water and castile soap is more than enough to tackle 90% of your cleaning needs, both from a functional and environmentally sound perspective. To make sure that a gentle approach is all you’ll need effort-wise, the key is to clean before grime hardens and sticks; regular maintenance is everything. Of course, adding shine and sheen is an extra level of detail that takes a bit of work, but there are good tricks to obtain streakless surface results for your benches, mirrors and glass too.

For hard to lift grime, we suggest diluting your essential oils. Only use 100% essential oils if you know that the finish you’re working with is oil/solvent safe. Sometimes, these products can strip the protective coat depending on how it was made, restored or applied. If you don’t know how your furniture was finished, or aren’t confident about that (no shame, most of us are in that boat!) then using a diluted mixture that you can leave on for a minute or so and wipe down later is best. We of course use our own hand-made organic cleaning products, but you can make a home-equivalent with your essential oil of choice (eucalyptus, tea tree or citrus based options such as lemongrass or orange are fantastic). A mixture of 5% essential oil to water ratio will do the trick. In other words, for every 5ml of oil, add 95ml of water. Don’t have the time for all this kerfuffle or want a professional eco-friendly cleaner around? We know the feeling, that's why we're here! Give us a shout out and we’ll be happy to help.


Styling Vintage and MCM

“Although it can seem daunting, the styling bit is the fun bit and really shouldn’t be overcomplicated or overthought. Our house is a total mix of eras and styles, an eclectic reflection of us, the various places we’ve been and pieces we’ve collected along the way. It’s a constantly evolving space. Plus, the beauty of stocking your house with vintage, is that when you change your mind or want to “upgrade”, chances are your furniture will have held its value and you’ll be able to resell (and offset the cost of the next piece). For me, there’s really no rules. Put together things that you love, and you’ll love how it looks. While Sarah has am undeniable flair for making the simple look stunning, whether you're a minimalist or a knick-knack nut, your furniture and adornments will work well so long as there is warmth in your styling approach. Maintain good practice with how to reduce dust in the home and you'll be set.


So there you have it! Either you already have some mid-century modern pieces, are pining over them like anyone with taste does, or are ready to get stuck in with adding a touch of classic simplicity to your home template. In any case, you’ve made the right choice and now have the knowledge of how to care for these gorgeous furnishings so they may remain a part of your life and adaptive style for decades more. Want us to take care of it for you? Submit an enquiry for a Melbourne eco-friendly clean here.


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