Debbie Fredman relaxes with a cup of tea on the silky oak armchair with the silky oak hall stand behind her.
Debbie Fredman relaxes with a cup of tea on the silky oak armchair with the silky oak hall stand behind her. Renee Albrecht

Every piece tells a story

MODERN building design - stark minimalistic walls in white and beige, and similarly neutral floor coverings and window dressings - can mean homes can become clinical and contrived in appearance and lack warmth and intimacy.

That's one of the main reasons Debbie Fredman likes to use antique and recycled furniture to dress her home - to add personality.

Besides, it makes good sense financially.

"If Jody Allen (local internet entrepreneur from Stay At Home Mum) can feed a family on $50 a week, you can furnish a house for $500 a year,” she said.

The Mary Valley home she shares with her husband has a mixture of new furnishings and old treasures she has sourced from all around the region.

"The beauty of the old is it's inexpensive, unique and generally stronger than the new,” she said.

Plus, it's the purest form of recycling.

The first place Debbie looks for old furniture is through relatives and friends.

"When the rest of the family just want to throw it out, be on hand to rescue pieces on their way to the dump. It's amazing how they can be transformed with a clean up,” Debbie said.

Plus she likes to find treasures at secondhand stores, charity shops, markets and auctions.

She has a penchant for pine and silky oak furniture and these pieces hold a special place in her heart.

"The interesting thing about pine and silky oak is that it grew, and still grows, prolifically in this region. And it makes really good furniture. I like that it was one of our region's earliest industries and I'm helping to preserve that legacy in this, Gympie's 150th anniversary,” Debbie said.

Often when furniture has come to Debbie, it's in a distressed condition.

"Fortunately silky oak and pine furniture is easy to repair (much easier than chipboard). Cleaning and re-lacquering is also relatively easy, especially if you use one of the local restorers.”

Each of the pieces holds a special place in her heart and, for Debbie, the appeal of antique furniture is its history.

"They can be great for storytelling when people visit, and to muse about our history. With a son of my own, I think it's my job to make sure his family history is not lost. I think it helps to give our youth a sense of themselves and where they belong,” she said.

"I just love it, because there's a story behind each piece.”

Here are some of Debbie's furnishings and their stories:

Pine trunk: Bought from Tom Grady Auctions, great for a TV or lamp stand or coffee table. Made in Gympie and previously owned by well-known local family - the Wellers. Useful out-of-sight storage inside.

Silky oak sideboard: Salvaged from family. This is a dining room piece and is a great repository for flowers. Leadlight glazing is nice with glasses behind. The painting is by Debbie's late mother-in-law.

Silky oak hallstand and armchair: The hallstand is from family, and the chair is from Ian Wenzel (who is a local restorer of silky oak furniture). These pieces provide a warm welcoming experience for visitors, and of course the hallstand is very handy for hats and umbrellas.

Silky oak gramophone: Salvaged from Debbie's family, these were beautifully made, and make great drinks cabinets when the internals are removed.Gramaphone collectors would be horrified, but drinks are more important today than an old 78 record player.

Silky oak serving tray: Purchased from the RSPCA shop in Monkland St quite recently, during parties it forms quite a team with the above-mentioned drinks cabinet and glasses sideboard. A lovely point is that a plaque in the centre records that it was a gift to Mr and Mrs Dean from the first aid class at Sexton in 1932.