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Carriers of history
Old wooden furniture tells the tale of the time from which it hails one craftsman tells ZOE CHRISTODOULIDES. He is also upbeat about growing interest in the items of yesteryear
It’s a leisurely Sunday stroll around the heart of Old Nicosia that first brings it to my attention. Old lamps sitting side by side with colourful phones from the 1970s as hip youngsters and older artsy types have a rummage. It certainly isn’t Portobello market but it’s a sight that one doesn’t often get to see here in Cyprus, as a whole range of quaint bric-a-brac and small home furnishings vie for attention.
A few steps ahead, an open doorway leads into a workshop space known as Akanthos that is crammed with wooden items as Dimitris Kyriakou runs around to keep everything in check. The vintage market has recently left its mark on the capital, luring curious crowds in near the old Municipality Square in Nicosia. As for the workshop, it has stands as Dimitris’ pride and joy since he opened up the space ten years ago.
We hardly have the chance for introductions before Dimitris begins to praise the wonders of old furniture. “It carries history, bears the marks of time. Not like the mass produced things that you find in the shops these days,” he exclaims. We stand amidst boxes, crates, tons of tools and vintage chairs piled high as far as the eye can see. Men dart around the workshop as they busy themselves with the day’s activities and a woman suddenly appears on the scene to pick up a rather hefty old chest that has been meticulously restored.
“You really need to see the shop,” says Dimitris with a childlike enthusiasm as he proceeds to lead me through the streets of old Nicosia. Soon enough, we reach a beautiful showroom filled with vintage and antique furnishings. Founded in 1998 by Dimitris and Andreas Marangos, the space resembles a huge treasure chest bursting with things to feast your eyes on. We take a seat on a French sofa from the 19th century embroidered with elaborate flowers. A mustard yellow chair from the 1960s then catches my eye as Dimitris points towards a cabinet from the 18th century.
With Akanthos specialising in the restoration of old furniture, the collection and sale of antiques, and making new art furniture, I wonder how Dimitris first got involved in the field. Having trained at technical school here in Cyprus as a carpenter, he went on to France to specialise in art furniture and restoring old vintage pieces and antiques. It was on his return to Cyprus that he first set up the Akanthos workshop.
“Wood for me is so very special. It can be used and shaped in so many ways for all sorts of objects, the possibilities are endless if you use your imagination,” he says with a smile. As for all the items that surround us, they’ve been collected from Dimitris’ travels as well as various individuals who have handed over their family’s vintage furniture. “A lot of the pieces I’ve added to the collection have actually been brought back from trips to France and originate from the most random and far flung places. Some used to belong in old farm houses; others have come from aristocratic quarters.”
What’s really interesting is that locals have recently began to appreciate old furnishings more than ever before, in line with trends abroad that have seen a turn to all things retro. Dimitris points out that young people have really embraced things from the 60s and 70s as well as art deco and art Nuevo furnishings that are characteristic of the late 1800s and early 1900s. “People now have a huge interest in furnishings handed down from their parents and grandparents and often bring them to us to have them restored,” he says.
But a visit down to the Akanthos workshop space is more than just business as Dimitris is keen on having a chat about where a certain piece originates from, pinpointing its era and letting a customer know about the trends that characterised the time in which it was made. As for his own personal favourite era, it has to be the 1960s as he speaks of the allure of curved furnishings with rounded edges and clean lines. “They are so charming and characteristic, and they really fit in with today’s world and interior design.” And does he stick to his passion in his own home? “Oh yes, I don’t have any new furniture in my house. The old ones have so much charm I simply can’t imagine putting new ones in.” When asked if he ever tires of working with furniture, he seems to be in disbelief of the very question. “It gives me so much pleasure and joy that I wake up with a smile on my face going to work.”
Conversation then turns to the weekly Sunday market that seems to be working up quite a fan base of late. With Dimitris always on hand to have a chat with passersby, he rejoices in the fact that the old heart of town now attracts all sorts of youngsters as well as collectors. “It’s full of new life blending with old history which is really great,” he says. “We’re hoping to get together with more people involved in the trade to make the market bigger soon.”
Apart from furniture, crowds can also get hold of old books as well as some select vintage clothes and random accessories. “Some collectors come regularly and take notes, whether it’s old phones or watches that they’re after. As for Dimitris, getting out of bed on a Sunday has never been so exciting. “Seeing the soul of Nicosia come to life like this is just great. It’s my recipe for happiness.”
Antique and vintage furniture market. Every Sunday 9am-7pm. In front of the old municipal market in old Nicosia and outside the Akanthos workshop space. Tel: 22-100984. www.facebook.com/akanthos.furniture
Akanthos Gallery, 38 Eptanisou St, near old Municipality Square. (open on Sundays)