Bradford resident Lorraine Schmidt has been restoring furniture for as long as she can remember, fixing up pieces for friends or family for fun. It was only three years ago she decided to turn that passion into a business, opening up her own shop inside her garage.
After years of working in the corporate world, and being away from her kids for extended periods of time, she was ready to trade it all in for a simpler, happy life doing what she loved most, while still providing for her two children. It was around the same time, Schmidt was going through a divorce and was looking for something to keep her busy and keep her spirits up.
"How do I go forward to make myself happier?" she questioned at the time.
The furniture restoration business had originally been a retirement dream of hers, but after the separation, she decided to try her hand at starting her own business.
"What better time to try to reinvent yourself than when you're going through a divorce and learning to live on your own after 19 years," she said.
And so, with the support of her children, her brother and the Bradford community, Hidden Beauty Vintage Furniture Restoration was born.
Schmidt has always had a love for antiques and vintage furniture.
"I'm one of the few who believe in preserving antiques for what they are rather than painting them or throwing them away because they're dirty, or ugly or broken, everything can be fixed and brought back to its original look," she said.
"I have an appreciation for painted furniture but my belief is it should be for furniture built in the 70s or later," she explained, noting wood starting getting expensive and manufacturers started using materials of lesser quality, like MDF wood, plywood and thin veneers.
Pieces 100 years of age or older and unaltered are considered antiques and anything between 50-100 years of age is considered vintage, which are her favourite to work on. She admires the craftsmanship and quality of antique woodwork which was built to last and believes each piece comes with its own story behind it.
"It has built up character and history over time...and to paint over time covers all that up, rather than celebrating it," she said.
Restoring and repairing old furniture to its original form is a way to honour and pay tribute to the craftsmen who created them, she says.
Schmidt grew up in Quebec on a homestead with her parents, sister and two brothers and had a modest, humble upbringing. Schmidt says her family wasn't poor; they always had enough, but her parents were resourceful and didn't like seeing things go to waste.
It was her dad who taught her how to use tools and fix things around the house, including furniture.
"If it's broken, you fix it, you don't throw it away," is what she remembers her dad telling her and her siblings. Her dad wanted all his children to be independent and resourceful, but especially his two daughters who he wanted to be able to take care of themselves.
Schmidt has serviced clients from as far south as Toronto and as far north as Barrie. Her pickup and delivery service is something she is proud to offer her clients, hauling pieces to and fro in her large black truck. Now she says 90 percent of her clientele is based out of Bradford, which she is truly grateful for.
Most recently she was honoured to work on a piece of Bradford history when a client brought in a desk found inside the carriage house behind the historic home at 33 John St. East, which used to belong to Dr. Lewis Campbell. Dr. Lewis Campbell was a well known doctor of his day, and started practicing medicine in Bradford in 1893 and built the house on John Street in 1902.
Schmidt was honoured the client had chose her to work on the piece. She believes the desk was the one used by the doctor himself, noting it even had the buzzer box underneath it, which used to be the way doctors called in their patients.
"I get to work on a little piece of Bradford's history," she remembered thinking when she received the piece. "It was a fun project."
Her favourite part of the whole restoring process is revealing the final product to her clients, and comparing the before and after photos. And while she is experienced and knowledgeable after her many years in the industry, she says she is always learning new things whether it's a different technique, a new product on the market or the histrory behind a certain piece of furnitue.
"I like to learn as much as I can about the history of building furniture," she said. "The more knowledge you have the better."
To check out some of Schmidt's work, check out here website here. Or follow her Instagram page @hiddenbeautyvintage