A Modern Man

In a beachside studio at the end of a quiet street in Kailua, John Reyno does more than refinish and repair old furniture — he saves its life.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

A welder by trade, John Reyno is the curator of an astounding collection of mid-century-modern furnishings. We sat down with him to learn about his preservation and resurrection of an entire era of design, which appears less like a hobby and more like a mission.

HHR: Where did your love of modern furniture begin?
JR: In 2003, I purchased a ranch-style house in Southern California that was very original and came complete with a white tar and gravel roof.  It needed work, but something about the architecture spoke to me, so I started doing research on it. I picked up a new publication at the time, called Atomic Ranch, which showcases mid-century homes and furniture — and I was hooked. I have been collecting ever since.

HHR: Where did you acquire your mad craftsman skills?
JR: “Mad” about sums it up. I grew up playing in the garage with my twin brother, building all kinds of contraptions. We didn’t have much money or tools, so we learned to get creative. That interest led to Industrial Arts majors in high school, which led to 20-plus-year welding careers and eventually starting our own shop.  When we sold our shop in 2007, I moved to Hawaii and began remodeling a home here. Through that process I started really liking to work with wood.  Restoring and building furniture has been my focus for
that outlet.

HHR: What do you look for in mid-century-modern pieces?
JR: When I began collecting I was attracted to anything mid-century, which, to me, included postwar to about the mid ’70s. If I liked it, I bought it. The more I restore and collect, the more I appreciate the quality of the high-end American and Scandinavian pieces I find. They are quality pieces with good bones, which make them easier to restore.
If you are keeping a piece, look for something you like and have the skills and/or money to restore. If you want to resell it, you need to know what it is, who designed it and what its value is here in Hawaii, which is a totally different market than the mainland. This is critical. It does not matter what a person is asking, what matters is what it is selling for today and where it is selling at that price. Forums like Design Addict can be helpful in identifying the piece.

HHR: Where do you find all of this amazing furniture?
JR: I find pieces anywhere and everywhere. There are no real “trade secrets.” It’s just the law of attraction, I guess. If you educate yourself on what to collect and know the esthetic, designers, manufacturers and values, you will know if you should pull the car over for that old chair on the side of the road or if the lamp on Craigslist is worth an inquiry. People from all corners of the Earth move to Hawaii and bring their things. I am always surprised at the range and quality of pieces I find here that people are just about giving away. In fact, some of my most memorable finds have been on the side of the road. On the other end of the collecting spectrum, I have paid retail for many pieces in my collection I really wanted.

HHR: How can you tell if a piece is able to be repaired/refurbished? What should you look for?
JR: This is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Through experience in restoring pieces, I have learned that almost anything can be restored. The real question is: Should it be restored? Some pieces are so far gone it’s not worth the time and money to do it unless there is some sentimental value to it.  Over all, you need to be honest with yourself and ask: Is this something I have
the skill set and tools for?  Or is it worth it for me to pay someone to restore it?

I personally try to stay away from badly damaged veneer. Most case goods like credenzas and dressers that are advertised as solid wood are not. Learn the difference. It is really hard and expensive to repair badly damaged veneer right.  The other side of the equation is it could be a rare Arne Vodder credenza worth $10,000. It can literally pay to know the difference.
Above all, if you are going to repair/restore a quality piece, stay true to the original style and design. It will look authentic now and over time, as well as hold its value. Please don’t ruin it with shabby chic paint and wall-papered drawers, which was a trend a few years ago but I still see here in Hawaii.

HHR: How should people contact you if they’re interested in one of your pieces?
JR: I don’t have a brick-and-mortar store because I am not convinced it would be sustainable in Hawaii yet. I usually post my pieces for sale first on Instagram (@Hawaii_Modern) before selling them on Craigslist or eBay. If you’re not a fan of social media and have a specific mid-20th-century, postwar item you’re looking for or want to sell, I can be reached at johnreyno808@gmail.com

Categories: Industry Insider, Interior Design