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Monday, June 27, 2022

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Reimagine That!

It all started several years ago with a hutch.

I wanted one; specifically, large and solid wood. I checked every retailer I could think of. Not only were they out of my budget, but I didn’t really love any of them. Most were not well made, not the right color or the wrong style.  We’re an average family with an average income and common sense. I wasn’t about to overspend on something that wasn’t even perfect. I look at a $4,000 hutch and all I see is braces, groceries, and school clothes, you know?

Determined to find the perfect hutch, I started scouring second hand shops and Craigslist. That’s when I found it; solid wood, circa 1960s, and the most heinous dark stained wood you’ve ever seen. It was like a giant black hole, sucking all the light right out of the room. “We can only buy it if you won’t give me a hard time about painting it, because it’s got to be painted,” I said. “Of course you can paint it,” my husband Ken agreed, until we got it home. “It’s made by Willet, solid wood, really nice,” he said. “I don’t think you should paint it.” A two-week battle ensued. I won.

After a few weekends and some elbow grease, the heinous hutch was transformed into a gorgeous French country cottage piece.

With a little creativity and skill (and great products), you can reimagine any outdated piece into something current that works with your home décor.  A stodgy old dresser becomes a glamour-puss with a fresh coat of hot pink paint.  A dark, dated desk turns into a stand-out focal point when enrobed in rich red.  The possibilities are endless, limited only by imagination.  There is a sense of romance in knowing a piece has witnessed the passage of time and has been used by generations before you.

When we reimagine an item, we’ve not only given an old piece new life, we’ve recycled it.  Each piece gets a fresh start, including a thorough cleaning and deodorizing. Every drawer is restained to look like new. Our products of choice include environmentally sensitive paints such as milk and chalk paint.  We avoid toxic chemicals and latex paints, making our pieces perfect for children’s rooms and people sensitive to chemicals.  Our goal is to provide gorgeous pieces of furniture that embrace the past for a reasonable cost.

So how do you know what colors/techniques/paint to use? There is no right or wrong when it comes to color. If it makes you happy and you love it, it’s right. Just make sure the color works inside your home. Remember, it’s only paint! If you don’t love it, paint it again!  While my husband typically has a plan in mind and sticks to it, I tend to just jump in and start painting.

Getting started is easy. I learned by doing (with lots of trial and error). There are lots of great classes available locally and online. I prefer to learn on my own, so books are my best friends. Read up before you pick up a brush if you aren’t sure what you are doing!  Stencils can be a wonderful creative element if you aren’t an artist; embrace them if you don’t have advanced drawing skills.

Remember, to look for pieces that are in rough shape, discarded, broken, or otherwise in need of some TLC.  Search everywhere from second hand stores to the Internet. If a piece could be great but needs major repairs and you aren’t handy, pass it up. You don’t want to end up with a garage full of pieces you don’t have the skills to complete. And keep in mind that it’s only paint. When the paint is stripped away, the wood is still there underneath. If you’re going to tackle painting an antique or vintage piece, I’d suggest doing a little research online first just to be sure it’s not valuable as-is.  This is especially important with pieces that have original paint already in place.

We love what we do. It’s good for the environment, involves our whole family, and the creative process feeds the soul. And what could be better than that.

Happy Painting!

Michele Hiley and her husband own Stiltskin Studios where they rescue discarded, unloved, and just plain ugly furniture. To learn more about Michele or to purchase one of her furniture pieces, visit www.stiltskinstudios.com.

You Can Do It!

Just keep in mind to do it properly there is so much more than slapping of paint involved! The process starts with selecting a quality piece of furniture. That huge hutch I bought? Lugging it home was not fun, nor was storing it in the garage. If you aren’t fortunate to have a studio, remember you will be painting in the heat/cold/rain and it sometimes stinks. You might find some unsavory things residing in your new purchase (we’ve found everything from dead animals to dirty laundry). Once you’ve gotten it home and cleaned it, you’ll need to prepare the surface for paint, paint it, and seal it. It’s a lot of work, but it can be quite rewarding.  If you want to tackle your own project, our advice to you is to start small. If you paint a small side table and have a miserable time doing it, you will be glad to have discovered you hate painting before you tackled your kitchen cabinets!

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