New life for old favourites

Twin sisters Paula (left) and Maryke Wichmann in their new shop.
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If you are on the hunt for that unique piece of furniture for your home, you’re in luck, a new shop has opened in Rakaia selling upcycled, refashioned furniture.

Twin sisters and Dutch natives Paula and Maryke Wichmann moved to New Zealand in 2007 and to Rakaia from Northland two years ago.

Having previously owned an equestrian centre the sisters wanted a change and have turned another passion, furniture upcycling, into a business where they find old furniture and give it a new purpose and life.

Their shop Sha & Ivy – named after their two pet dogs – opened last week in Rakaia.

They had been selling their creations from a spare room in their house, now they have taken the leap and opened a shop.

Paula said the amount of work that goes into each piece depends on what is needed, ‘‘some pieces get new colours, new paint, wallpaper or moulding added, other pieces we go all out and can change the purpose of the piece all together.’’

The sisters love upcycling furniture. ‘‘New stuff can be expensive if you constantly swap your furniture over which we like to do, so that’s how it started, selling what we have in our home and changing it up or painting what we already had,’’ Paula said.

They source the furniture from thrift stores, Trade Me, Facebook and they are contacted on a daily basis by people with furniture to sell.

They had a pop-up shop in Ashburton, ‘‘which was fantastic, but we needed something more permanent, we wanted a space in Rakaia where we live,’’ Maryke said.

They found their ideal space in Rakaia and have been helped by their new landlords. ‘‘I don’t think we could find better landlords, they are amazing people,’’ Paula said.

Maryke said what makes their furniture special is they are one-off unique pieces. ‘‘We’ll never make the same piece twice.’’

There is a trend of old furniture coming back in fashion and the sisters said particularly mid century modern is becoming very popular.

They restored a stunning mid century sideboard back to its original condition, it had been painted yellow, and they spent hours stripping the paint off. ‘‘It would have been simple to just paint it black, it takes a hell of a lot longer to strip it back but we felt like we could not paint it, it’s made such a comeback to its bare roots,’’ Maryke said.

When they decide to paint furniture they don’t take any shortcuts, quality of finish and durability is as important as bringing new life to the furniture.

‘‘We don’t cut corners, where others just paint over an existing polyurethane finish that will chip quickly, we sand, prime, paint and finish with a top coat for a finish that will last generations, preparation is 80 percent of the job.’’

Maryke said they have fun together when working on furniture. ‘‘When we get a nice piece we get excited thinking about what we can do with it so its keeping us busy, we are enjoying it.’’

The people of Rakaia have made the sisters feel welcome, ‘‘right from the day we moved to Rakaia everyone is super supportive, we love Canterbury it is a great place to live.’’

Sha & Ivy is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday or by appointment, Corner Railway Terrace West and Rolleston Street, Rakaia.