Stuart Pratley of Polish at Byron is moving to the Masonic Hall in Bangalow.
Stuart Pratley of Polish at Byron is moving to the Masonic Hall in Bangalow. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Stuart will give Bangalow a polish

BANGALOW Masonic Hall will take on another lease on life this week with well-known furniture restorer Stuart Pratley relocating to the historic building.

Mr Pratley's business, Polish at Byron, has been a fixture of the Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate for the past eight years, but he is looking forward to the move.

"Bangalow is the natural place for me to be and the furniture is going to look beautiful in the hall," he said.

"The town has lots of old buildings and the right feel and I will get more exposure and foot traffic.

"There are already a few like-minded businesses here, with the retro furniture shops and Heath's Old Wares just around the corner and that will attract people.

"The Masonic Hall will be the showroom and I will also be polishing pieces in there but I will maintain a workshop elsewhere for the heavy repair and rebuilding work."

Mr Pratley's grandfather started dealing antiques in Melbourne in the 1930s and his father Ian has been well known in the antiques business both in Sydney and Bathurst for the past 50 years.

Mr Pratley and his father share a passion for early Australian and fine English furniture.

So it seems he was always destined to be an antique dealer and furniture restorer.

"I was playing in a band at the end of high school and my father he told me that I would need some money. So he bought me a set of cedar drawers to restore and sell.

Mr Pratley sold that piece straight away and bought two more to restore, and that was the beginning of his career in antiques.

"I started off learning the basics, just standing there sanding for hour upon hour, but I did learn how things are put together," he said.

Over the years in the business Mr Pratley has seen a change in the way antique furniture is viewed.

His last shop was Stuart Pratley Antiques but he changed it to Polish at Byron to step away from perception of antique furniture as being dark, heavy and Victorian.

"A piece of my furniture will work well with contemporary pieces in a contemporary house," he said.

"Some of the furniture from the 1790s is incredibly elegant and looks very sharp and contemporary."

He sees furniture restoration as an important part of sustainability.

"Restoring furniture is at the heart of recycling," he said.

"There was a lot of cedar cut down around here and things were made out of it that were beautiful and practical.

"When I restore something I am returning it to how the original designer envisioned it, and I am honouring the beauty of the timber."

His aim is to restore furniture so the new owners can hand the furniture on to their children.

"I make the piece useful again so it can go into someone's home and they don't have to worry about it for another generation," he said.

Mr Pratley said the showroom will have furniture from the very affordable right through to items that are worth $100,000.

"There will be pieces in the shop that people have never seen before, some true antique collectibles and some functional furniture," he said.

"I enjoy having a shop full of beautiful things and sending them off to a home where they will be loved."



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