A Second Chance: Meet the Alumnus breathing new life into forgotten treasures


In a world of single-use fashion and flat-pack furniture, a BCU Alumnus is on a mission to give a new lease of life to treasures which could have ended up in landfill.

Peter Grimshaw, who graduated from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in Jazz Trombone in 2015 has turned his hobby into a successful career thanks to launching ‘Unearthed’ during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Nowadays, Peter, who lives and works in Kings Heath and has made Birmingham his home after moving here from Grantham in the East Midlands 13 years ago, is musician by night, but furniture restorer by day.

From ceramics and candlesticks to cupboards and clothes, Unearthed is a real hidden gem, tucked away in a former car mechanic’s garage, but now the home of an Aladdin’s cave of vintage, upcycled and restored pieces.

Peter said: “I've always been a slight hoarder! During lockdown, I had the idea that I could start selling a few of my own bits, so I started Unearthed on Instagram, and posted things like ceramics, candlesticks, and cushions, and they would sell quickly.

“I found that I had an instant captive audience, as everyone was at home and looking for new pieces, so it took off quickly. I soon found my unit in Kings Heath, where I’ve now been for over two years.

“I love finding stuff, and saving bits and bobs that could have ended up in the rubbish tip.

“Unearthed specialises in vintage furniture and homewares. We have a huge range of retro, vintage, and industrial items, there is a great mixture and something for everybody.

“We’ve got big pieces of furniture like wardrobes, tables, and cupboards, alongside home accessories, kitchen items, and even clothes and vintage jewellery. I always like to mix old with the new, so those who visit the shop can get a good idea of what the pieces could look like in their own home too.”

From private sellers to having house clearance teams on speed dial, Peter finds his variety of unique pieces from a range of contacts.

But it’s thanks to his passion for restoration and preservation, along with the huge range of skills that he has picked up over the last four years, that Unearthed has grown enormously.

The alumnus may have started by giving a piece a lick of paint, but nowadays, he takes on pieces that require wood refinishing, detailed paintwork, and much more.

He said: “A lot of the skills to be able to restore and preserve furniture, I have picked up along the way, and my skills and knowledge around them have really improved a lot over the last few years. I started off with painting, which anyone can do really. I would pick up cheap furniture that people were getting rid of, give it a lick of paint and sell it on.

“Nowadays, I still do some painting here and there, but I focus a lot on restoration, bringing vintage pieces back to life, which can include wood refinishing, more detailed paintwork, and much more.

“I have found that it really is just a case of trial and error. I speak a lot to other people who restore furniture to see what has worked for them. I even learned how to upholster pieces by a woman I met by chance in Moseley. I have read bits and bobs, and watched videos, but I have found that everyone has different tastes and different ways of doing things, so you can’t compare your work to others.

“With furniture, the main thing is that it needs to function well, so as nice as it is to have a good-looking piece, it also needs to work, whether that’s having drawers that align and run smoothly, or making sure that heavy pieces stand properly and won’t cause any damage.

“I also don’t restore or paint every single piece that I come across. Some pieces are already perfect, but the person getting rid of it just doesn’t have the room or need for it anymore. Other bits, I will sympathetically restore, and give them a good clean.

“So many of the pieces of furniture have a huge amount of character, and I still want them to feel old, it’s not about making them look and feel like totally new pieces. I make a judgement call on every piece and do whatever feels right.”

Peter has social media to thank for the growth of his business though, and by posting consistently across Unearthed’s social channels, he has built a following, and a loyal customer base.

But doing this level of work requires constant creativity, vision, and very long days. So, what keeps Peter motivated?

He said: “I really enjoy giving furniture a second chance, so I do love restoring pieces. Sometimes after I’ve started a piece, I think, what have I got myself into! It can be hard work. With some pieces, I get really excited as soon as they come in, and want to work on them straight away, but with others, I need time to think about what I want to do with it.

“But it isn’t a fast job, it takes a lot of time to restore furniture, and you have to factor in drying time, making alterations, and all sorts. Sometimes, it can be a long time between picking a piece up, to it being on sale in the shop.

“What I do love about this work is that I can be flexible, there’s no deadlines and I can work at my own pace.

“I think the reason that I love this so much is that it takes me back to polishing my trombone; it may seem totally different to playing music, but it’s still putting a lot of work and effort into something that you never know what the final outcome could be. You never know where and when your next piece is coming in, and you never know what you might find, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Peter has big dreams for the future of Unearthed, and wants more people to consider giving furniture, accessories, and clothes a second chance rather than buying brand new.

He said: “In the future, I’d love to keep growing the business, and continue to promote it on social media and amongst those in the local community.

“A lot of the business I get through the doors is from social media promotion, which was worked incredibly well, but others have been from when I have popped flyers in doors of the surrounding streets, which has been great to do as well, so I will continue to do so.”

Unearthed is open publicly on weekends, from 11am-4pm on Saturdays and 11am-3pm on Sundays. Peter also accepts appointments during the week and can arrange collections and deliveries too.

Follow Unearthed on Instagram.

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