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The furniture restorer Natalia Eljas: „The eyes fear, the hands do!“

Alina Zelimkhanova

Photo: a personal archive of Natalia Eljas


Husband and wife are indeed of “the same breed”: the Eljas spouses stay together both at home and at work.

Secondary use, restoration, renewal is not only a fashionable trend in the world of interior design, but also a terrific experience. Several years spent in Sweden, prompted the interior designer Natalia Eljas to engage in restoration of furniture.

Having returned to Tallinn, Natalia and her husband Janek opened their workshop and launched restoration courses for all interested people.

Natasha, how come that you took up furniture restoration?

  • It is Sweden to blame! I lived there three years, and in the beginning I just bought interesting design furniture before I decided to attend a restoration course. After returning to Estonia, I didn’t give up the case, but went on with my studies. Slowly I began to help my husband, who has always been interested in the furniture. Thus our hobby turned into a job.

Do you feel comfortable working in pair?

  • This activity unites our family, there is always something to talk about in the evenings. By the way, we perfectly complement each other: my husband likes to work with wood, and my preference is working with textiles and design.


Do you work more as a custom restorer or do you look for things yourself, restore them and then sell?

  • I work more against orders, but I also look for things myself and restore them. I mostly bring furniture from Sweden, where you can find a lot of interesting and high-quality pieces. My apartment is fully furnished with our furniture – renovated or made from scratch, and I even restored all the doors of the 50s!


What’s your handwriting, or special style?

  • I like to use bright, rich colours, spectacular fabrics, but I can make an exception. For example, recently we have made a model of an armchair in restrained tones and called it “Pilot”.


What interesting things have you encountered in your work?

  • Once I had a chance to restore chairs that were more than 200 years old! During the restoration of antiques, you may find the signature of each restorer who worked with a piece. And, accordingly, he left a memo of the time and his name. Therefore, such thing becomes even more valuable. There were a lot of very difficult items in the restoration, which I restored literally bit by bit. But, as the saying goes: „The eyes fear, the hands do!“

Did you happen to find a treasure? As in a famous story “The 12 chairs”?

  • I find something in almost everything! But the treasure… not yet. Most often it’s just old coins that fell out of the pocket of the owner.


They say that in the process of restoration things “speak” to you. Is that true?

  • Yeah, right. Especially antiques, which have seen a lot and many, can tell loads of interesting things about themselves. I also leave a trace of me in the memory of my work!


What would you do if, for example, near the garbage containers you noticed a chair that can be altered? Would you take it?

  • I’ll pick it up, and with pleasure! But today almost no one throws valuable furniture away, although a couple of times I was able to come across some special items. And once a friend brought me an antique canapé, picking it up just there. My hands have not reached it yet, because it is in a really bad condition. However, the great restoration is coming one day!

Tell me a little about the courses you taught. Who are your students, what do they bring for restoration?

  • It is a course on the restoration and design of furniture, where different people – starting with schoolchildren and ending with pensioners – come.

  • Absolutely anyone can become a restorer. The main thing here is a great desire to make something with your own hands and time to do it. Usually they bring their furniture, which is dear to them as a memory. Sometimes they buy Swedish furniture for restoration. Note the fact that oddly enough, the necessary quality for the restorer is physical training. Hands should be strong – installing springs has never been easy!