WASHINGTON — You may want to reconsider throwing out grandma’s dining room set this spring.
Suzanne Eblen, owner of The Old Lucketts Store, a restored vintage furniture and antiques store in Leesburg, Virginia, says you can bring your old furniture up to date instead of throwing it away.
Eblen cares deeply about furniture waste.
“We are throwing away the really good furniture that you could never even buy today,” Eblen said.
It’s a growing problem in the United States, the EPA says. In 2013, there were 11.6 million tons of discarded furniture and furnishings in U.S. municipal solid waste — a substantial increase from the 2.2 million tons in 1960.
The entire mindset about furniture has changed since the ’90s, Eblen says. Traditionally, parents handed down their dining room sets or bedroom sets to their children, but now, young adults don’t want the hand-me-downs; they want to buy their own furniture and in their own style. The problem with that, Eblen says, is people today are replacing good old furniture with more expensive, less durable pieces.
That’s one of the reasons why Lucketts is making it a priority to educate people about repurposing old furniture.
The store, about 45 miles outside the nation’s capital, offers paint workshops to teach people how to fix the furniture they have and transform it into something they like.
The paint workshops focus on the finish. Anyone can bring a piece of furniture up to date by simply painting it and changing the finish, Eblen says.
Amy Riedel, 29, leads the paint workshops, held a couple times a month in a section of the store. Through the workshops, Riedel teaches everything from how to refinish a piece to gold and silver leaf gilding.
“Our goal is to have those people go out to thrift stores or recycle centers and see the beauty in a piece that maybe doesn’t inspire them immediately, but maybe with a little bit of work, they can bring it back to life,” Riedel said.
Home to inspiration
Lucketts also includes a design house, a decorative showcase in a 3,000-square-foot farmhouse.
The house is restyled by the first weekend of each month, with designs evolving each season — from the warm tones of winter to the light and airy feel of summer.
Eblen says one of the reasons why the store started the design house was to illustrate what a complete spread of repurposed items can look like in a home. It’s different when people see home décor in person rather than viewing it on Pinterest or DIY blogs, Eblen says.
“I love to show people you don’t have to go buy some piece of crap from Home Goods. You can buy a 300-year-old Egyptian door and use it to flank an opening in your house, and all of a sudden, your house isn’t like everybody else’s house. Yours is interesting,” Eblen said.
Riedel suggests going to a thrift store or an auction to scope out vintage finds. “There are just so many possibilities out there for people to feel empowered to take on a project and be creative and spread that creativity into their world.”
Tips for spring home projects
If you’re looking to change a few things around the house this spring, Riedel says it’s better to start out small and work your way up. For example, start by painting a side table. Once you get the hang of it, move on to repainting your bedroom set or kitchen cabinets.
And if you mess up, don’t worry, Riedel says. “It’s a process that’s very forgiving. You can always fix or repaint what you’ve already done.”
For supplies, Riedel recommends using Amy Howard One Step Paint. She painted her daughter’s floor with it two years ago and says it’s been holding up OK.
“It will cost maybe $35, $60 in paint, instead of thousands of dollars to just buy new furniture or kitchen cabinets.”
Riedel says you can paint anything, from floors and walls to the vanity in your bathroom.
If you’re looking for more subtle changes around the house, Eblen suggests changing out the pillows or curtains to brighten and lighten up your house. Pillows and curtains are the way to go especially if you have items in a room that don’t necessarily go together. For example, if you have five different colors in a room, Eblen says, find a pillow, curtain or piece of art that includes all those colors and it will unify the room.
The plus side is, you don’t need a lot of money to make your home look nice, Eblen says. When she started out, she went to auctions with little money, but didn’t let that take away from the pieces she could create.
“You just have to be creative and see value in things that other people don’t see,” Eblen said.
The Old Lucketts Store will hold its annual Spring Market May 20-22, with more than 170 vendors selling antiques and vintage items. More information here.