You might like vintage items. You might like beautiful things. Or you might like classic objects inherited from Grandma that are, well, kind of ugly. Whatever your preference, three shops in the St. Croix Valley specialize in making old furniture, décor items and jewelry new (and beautiful) again.
Reclaiming Beautiful co-owner Monique Gainor has just installed a new sign in her Myrtle Street shop in Stillwater: “Upcycled Furniture, Home Décor and Pretty Things.” “That sign says it all,” she says with a laugh, adding, “Women who like pretty things often walk in and fall in love with our store.”
Furniture is “our bread and butter,” Gainor says. Through stripping, painting, stenciling, staining and resealing, “We give old pieces a new look.” The pieces include dressers, chairs, tables, hutches and bookcases, among many others. Home décor inventory consists of articles like vases, trays, artwork for walls and candlesticks.
Some jewelry is new, but most is upcycled. For example, Gainor has featured a line of pendants with miniaturized maps inside. “Our jewelry vendor will even take custom orders,” she says. “You can ask for a map of your favorite vacation spot or where you live.”
Gainor’s business model, like her inventory, is eclectic. Reclaiming Beautiful is open year-round Thursday through Sunday. Every Wednesday, Gainor and co-owner Susan Tank get together at the shop with their eight vendors, all local artisans, who include painters, furniture repurposers and the upcycled jewelry artist. “We bring in all of our work for the week and re-stage the whole store,” Gainor says. Then they open again on Thursday, delighting customers with a fresh shopping experience.
Carol Haapaniemi has purchased a variety of repurposed and refurbished furniture, including a black-legged, wooden-topped trestle table and benches. “There are so many things that are disposable nowadays,” she says. “Anything you can reuse is good.” She likes that the owners share the history of items they buy and sell, and also praises the furniture painting class at the store. “I believe in supporting small, local businesses,” Haapaniemi says. “I like to give back to my community.”
Eye Candy Refind
“At Eye Candy Refind, we focus on bringing our customers affordable fashion, furniture and home décor,” owner Lacy Vreeland says. “All of our furniture, art and accessories are either handmade, vintage or re-imagined.”
Re-imagined—there’s a word you might not have heard before. Vreeland is happy to give examples. “On the floor presently is a dresser that was missing a few drawers. Now it’s a cat hotel.”
Some re-imaginings start with barn wood and iron, and end up as tables. “Even some of our local artists’ paintings are painted on barn wood and other scrap wood instead of canvas,” Vreeland says.
One of Eye Candy Refind’s contributing artists is a police officer who lives in Stillwater. “She makes jewelry out of old bullets. You can buy one of her beautiful necklaces for $25,” Vreeland says. Re-imagined, indeed.
It’s all part of a bigger recycling movement, Vreeland says. For example, even when people inherit furniture they might not immediately be drawn to, “Instead of not embracing it, we say, ‘Repaint it,’” Vreeland says.
Customer Lori Limoges-Green had a piece she happened to like very much from her childhood farmhouse growing up that was in dire need of rehab. “Lacy repainted the entire dresser except for the top, which she refinished but left its natural wood color,” she says. Similarly, Limoges-Green’s mother refinished a bedroom set but didn’t get to one last piece before she passed away. “Lacy matched my mother’s refinishing, with her own touches, of course, to the cedar chest my mother hadn’t gotten to.”
Both Limoges-Green and another client, Tena Pettis, have bought pieces off the floor at Eye Candy Refind. Limoges-Green fell in love with a dresser someone liked on Eye Candy Refind’s Facebook page. She was drawn to it for its pretty light-blue color, its crystal drawer pulls and some painting/stenciling around the handles that reminded Limoges-Green of the chandelier theme in her young daughter’s bedroom. Pettis follows Eye Candy Refind on Instagram, where she saw a hutch she liked and subsequently purchased in Vreeland’s Hastings store.
My Happy Place Design Studio
How would you like a job where you buy the entire inventory of a store full of beautiful, artisan-refurbished furniture and jewelry? Such is the case for Sheryl Amos, buyer/designer for My Happy Place Design Studio of Somerset, Wis., although, as she tells it, the work is not quite as carefree as you might think. “It’s fun, and it’s hard,” Amos says. “I have to really know our clientele, what they like, what is in their price range.” Approximately 30 consignees (artisans, says Amos, with very high standards) bring her items already repurposed. “They know what you’re looking for,” she says. Amos and My Happy Place’s owners, Brett and Cherie Link, also go “picking,” she says, periodically perusing antique stores, flea markets and barn sales for unique pieces. She and the Links do their own refurbishing and repurposing as well.
On any given day at My Happy Place you might find artistically repainted dressers, vanities, chairs (many of them blue, says Amos, in a current trend); a shabby-chic shelf made of recycled barn wood and hooks; or, occasionally, jewelry made of old coins and bullet shells. Also sold are new clothing and accessories, some new home décor items and a variety of paints for refurbishing furniture. In fact, the shop offers classes in repainting furniture with instructor Theresa Parnell, My Happy Place’s paintologist. (Parnell’s other claim to fame is as Prince’s dressing room decorator in the ’80s and ’90s.)
Another trend in My Happy Place’s customer service is the availability of a “home stylist.” Whereas an interior decorator might charge $75-plus an hour, My Happy Place’s home stylist, Claire Patterson, charges $25 an hour to assist clients in assessing, rearranging and repurposing their own home décor and furniture.
Hudson resident Martha Lewis hired Patterson when she couldn’t decide if she could meld a specific piece of furniture at the store with her other furniture/décor at home. Patterson came to Lewis’s home and, after four hours of moving and rearranging, Lewis was satisfied that the upcycled waist-high cabinet would work.
Kat Fenton of Somerset has made several repainted furniture purchases, including a dining room set, armoire, jeweler’s table and free-standing pantry complete with screened doors.
The dining set includes six vintage chairs painted lichen green and reupholstered with linen. Its table is a yellow-green, “with a beautiful, freehand-painted design on the top,” she says.