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Finding inspiration in Goodwill treasures

December 6, 2010

Erin L. HubbsThere are few things I enjoy more than deconstructing an old piece of furniture, reworking to my liking and then reassembling. I’ll never forget my first time.

Picture a mid-’90s college graduate, living at home, with no full-time job on the horizon. I had begrudgingly returned to waiting tables at a little log cabin restaurant and was anxious to find something else to occupy my time. Enter a $5 chair from Goodwill (which, by the way, is the structurally the single best chair I’ve ever thrifted).

I repainted the entire wooden chair with different scenes and color schemes for each leg, and each rung of the chair back. I took off the upholstered seat, and recovered it with a super chic (at the time) thick woven fabric.

When I did land my first newspaper job in a tiny western Michigan town, I again went to Goodwill to keep my mind entertained and creativity flowing. My apartment was bursting with the fruits of my painting and refinishing labors. This is when I discovered the beauty of the inexpensive Goodwill coffee table as well — ample surface area to practice free-form flower painting.

I found myself in a familiar mental place a few weekends ago. There were a couple of things weighing on my mind, and I was getting antsy. So, I dug out the electric staple gun and got to work on the six dining room chairs from my great-grandmother’s set that we’ve had in our home for almost seven years.


I dove into the project feeling like a bit of an archaeologist, especially after I popped the first seat off and found that under the horrid country blue fabric my mom and aunts had attached in the 1980s, there were two more layers underneath: A white and teal striped silk and a deep red. I called my mom — mid-project — to tease her about her choice of fabric, and to find out more about the dining room set. The best she could figure, it’s from the 1930s or 1940s.


After I went to town with my electric stapler and my new fabric, the chairs went from dated and battered to chic and modern. Not bad for an afternoon of accidental multi-tasking: problem-solving, redecorating and creativity all knocked out at once.

-Rachel Sutherland


Stop by our Contributors page for more about Rachel, or read her other posts here.

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