Meander Valley Gazette

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A wealth of rustic riches

Arts and Reviews, BusinessJoanne EisemannComment

JULY 2018 | Lorraine Clarke

RHETT PANIZZA is a man on a mission. He wants to put his rustic industrial and farmhouse furniture in your house. It is not the kind you will find at local chain stores, but that’s OK, because he is catering to individuals who will fall in love with special items that can’t be found, or even imagined, anywhere else.

“Our furniture is not going to appeal to everyone, but gives people another option from buying mass-produced stu‚ff,” says Rhett. “We work on the imperfection rule. It’s a bit wrinkly, but it still works.”

The impressive collection is showcased on the four roomy floors of MANIA in Deloraine’s main street, sharing space with artisanal items of all descriptions. This is furniture richly hued with age, that has the integrity not just of timber, or even of wood, but of … tree. Its imperfections are celebrated. Its anachronous inconveniences have been tweaked to suit modern practicality and décor without compromising original character.

Ugly paint is stripped off‚, but maybe not completely. Sometimes a residue of its former life is retained as a link with authenticity, a glimmer of its original purpose. A well-used table, utilitarian lino patched onto its top above incongruously elegant 19th century legs, has been burnished into a homely warmth that invites hard wear as the centrepiece of a family kitchen.

A barn door, constructed from ships’ packing cases that ferried essential supplies on the long journey from the Old Country more than a century ago, served a lifetime of rural service until reborn as a lengthy trestle table supported by rugged Tassie Oak legs, perfect for the largest family gathering.

Castor wheels and capacious drawers below the work surface gave a new lease on life to an old cabinetmaker’s bench, and the original vise has been retained at one end for those difficult situations in an old or new kitchen.

An 1850 Georgian peg table with stretcher base, a wooden work bench with convenient hinged seats, a 19th century English pine table proudly bearing its scars of meat cleaver cuts and burn marks from heavy cast iron cookware – all exude warmth and hint at stories of their past.

A hardware store spare parts cabinet with pigeonholes would be the ideal home for a large spice collection. A bank of post office boxes with key-locked metal doors has been glammed up with blackwood sides, waiting to begin new life as a wine rack.

The lid of a long, narrow high-backed hallway seat hides plenty of storage space.

Rhett’s pieces blend quirkiness with function, evoking past eras while dovetailing into modern lifestyles.

Exteriors of an old red pine school locker and a Baltic pine wardrobe have both been restored, with interiors reworked as kitchen pantries.

Office furniture was once all made of wood, metal and glass, and the silky oak solicitor’s glass front cabinet with its A4 drawers is a lovely blend of fine timber and practicality for any purpose you choose.

Short of storage space for all your home-grown veg? A baker’s dough-bin of English walnut with tapered legs is just the thing. Few know that a posser and dolly tub is a rotund 19th century wooden washing machine, but you can buy one from Rhett!

What was not-so-long-ago the stu‚ff of everyday life, is now regrettably rare. “Very little comes from Tasmania,” said Rhett. “It has all been shopped out. I have to go to the mainland now and doorknock to find unusual pieces.”

His bespoke Rustique furniture is well-supported by local and interstate buyers, and he ships anywhere in the country.

View all these and many more at MANIA on Emu Bay Road, 7 days a week, or contact Rhett on 0439 818 728 or email

Photo | Mike Moores