Bringing the past into the future

O’Connell Street

By Em Worthington

If you’ve ever had a mild taste for mid-century furniture, you need to pay a visit to That Retro Man on O’Connell Street! The love-child of owner Mark Cawdron-White, That Retro Man is a celebration of Australian and mid-century furniture — and Mark’s passion for it all is contagious.

“I’ll restore any furniture that’s got a cool shape! We’re talking about incredible pieces (many of them originally bespoke-designed and made) from the fifties, sixties and seventies. I also touch on the eighties and nineties, depending on the shape. My main focus is sideboards, coffee tables, dining tables — living room and dining room furniture, really. And I have a real fascination with chairs! They’re so honest and engaging and I’ll restore chairs and drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” Mark laughs.

“As Australians, we’re naturally humble and we’re very good at denying how good we actually are — this is my way of shining a light and showing South Australians that we’re living in a country of amazing makers and designers. We know how to interpret spaces and I get such a kick out of doing full restorations of vintage pieces made by these clever people years ago,”

So, how did That Retro Man come about? “I spent the last five years as a consultant in building industry design. Working with a custom builder, I started the design process and oversaw construction. I’d walk customers through their spaces, budgets, how they were going to effectively live in that house, advised them on what to do with each room and how to make changes — and furniture has always been a focal point of this. Furniture actively impacts with how people communicate with each other. It helps to create spaces that are conducive to talking and it allows face to face engagement, plus, statement pieces can be a talking point. In the sixties and seventies, furniture placed a big part in face-to-face engagement — it wasn’t about being on your phone!” Mark explains.

“I started this business two years ago on Instagram — essentially showing people pieces that I’d restored. It was all about me teaching myself and sharing it and then it turned into people wanting to purchase things. It grew and grew from my passion and now, we have a shop! And it’s a bit different, in that it’s a gallery-esque kind of store. You can move from one room to another and see how the furniture works in different spaces.”

And the stories behind these pieces are a real highlight for Mark, as he explains. “I get customers who come in with memories from growing up with these items or others who look at it and think about how they want to make it work in a modern space. Sometimes, these pieces have 70 years of stories and now, it’s time for them to tell their 21st Century stories — it’s giving new people a sense of ownership on that bit of history and bringing it into the future. I also love getting the customer in on the storytelling of these items by choosing their

upholstery from some of the wonderful people I work with, like local business, Warwick Fabrics,” Mark says.

That Retro Man also showcases local art in-store, including images from Matt Castle Photography, so there’s plenty to entice your eyes, your mind and you soul when you pop in.

That Retro Man

191 O'Connell St, North Adelaide

Open Monday to Saturday

10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Instagram: @that_retroman