Two things strike you when you speak to renaissance man and furniture restorer Rob Kennedy: he sounds much younger than his actual years, and he’s lost all trace of his native California accent. “That’s because I’ve lived here since 1967”, he says. “Moved to London in ’64, then to Reigate when we had children: it’s perfect for kids, then and now.”
Rob’s history with furniture goes back four decades to when he ran an antiques shop in Reigate. A customer request to supply pieces for a stage set took him into theatre production for 20 odd years, but his first love stayed with him. Now in his 70s and retiring from the thespian world, he’s starting up three new enterprises: The Reigate Antique & Flea Market at Somers Hall every first Saturday of the month; his new shop, The Old Bakery Antiques, opening soon at Redhill Aerodrome; and his restoration business in a space at the back of the aerodrome building.
“You meet lots of interesting people in theatre and antiques” he says, jokingly adding: “but unlike actors, furniture doesn’t talk back.” Although in Rob’s case that isn’t strictly true, because for him the old wood of furniture does speak; asking to be restored, reused and re-loved. “We throw away too much,” he says. “My children used to beg us to buy new things, but I restored everything and it’s stood the test of time and taste: I was Green before I even knew what it was! Wood grain has so much character and beauty, and bringing a piece back from disaster is a real pleasure.”
Rob’s new shop is at a very special place “They were going to knock the Aerodrome down but the locals in South Nuffield fought to keep it. Now it’s so festive and packed at weekends: a real day out with free parking, a restaurant, single engine jet flights – and soon, of course, my shop!” But to Rob, the whole of Reigate and Redhill are special. “You can’t walk five paces without bumping into someone and having a chat,” he says. “Reigate people are the best: once they’re friends with you, it’s for life.”
Just like one of Rob’s restoration jobs!
Reigate Antiques Fair
10 Slipshoe Street
Reigate RH2 9HU
The Old Bakery Antiques