Modern History proprietor Paul Ternent has always been drawn to understatement. ‘I like furniture, lighting, music, and architecture, films, that are restrained design-wise’ he says. ‘For me less is very much more’. Having previously worked as a creative in the advertising industry, Paul has always tried to approach his work from this perspective, trying to express ideas subtly. Eight years ago he made the switch from advertising to trading in mid century design – a path which suits him to a T. ‘Advertising is obsessed with the hyperbolic – it doesn’t do subtle easily. Mid-century design is a better fit for me!’ he says.
Paul says he has always been an avid collector. From a very early age he recalls rummaging in charity stores and second hand furniture shops – the more cluttered and disorganised the better. ‘In the English town where I grew up, my idea of heaven wasn’t paying football, it was sifting through junk in the hope of finding something beautiful and neglected’ he recalls. He never realised it at the time, but says he now feels he was always destined to work in interiors.
Paul opened his first shop in Burnley in 2007, because like many dealers, he had simply collected more than he could keep. His first space was just 125 sq metres, crammed with mostly Australian design. As Paul’s design eye evolved, he began importing from Scandinavia and further afield. In 2010 he moved to a larger showroom in Richmond, before moving to the current showroom in Fitzroy late last year.
With its 12 metre long modernist shop front windows, and bluestone internal walls acting as a dramatic backdrop, The Modern History showroom is understated, yet unexpectedly impressive. For one thing, every item here is in pristine condition, having received a 23-step restoration process and a French polish finish before it is displayed on the shop floor. ‘We are one of the few mid-century shops in Australia to French polish’ explains Paul of this fastidious approach, explaining that an authentic French polish takes ten years to learn, and lends a distinct vibrancy and depth to the woodgrain of all his timber furniture.
‘I’m incredibly fussy, and this attention to detail is reflected in everything I do, from sourcing, to how I curate the store, to my restoration approach’ says Paul. ‘It is an ongoing privilege to enrich someone’s home with a beautiful piece of design that I have personally unearthed, so I will work hard to be able to continue to do this’.
430 George St
Open Tuesday to Friday, 11.00am – 5.00pm, Saturday 10.00an – 5.00pm and Sunday 12.00pm – 5.00pm.