How We Got Started: Grow Your Painted Furniture Business #3

28 Oct

Chuck and Kathy Moore are successful business owners in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. They own The Country Cupboard, specializing in handmade, hand painted primitive country furniture.  But they didn’t burst into business overnight.  Here’s a look at how they got started, how their business evolved, and some tips for other painted furniture business owners.

It all started when Chuck decided to make a shelf for their home.  Before, he had only cut out small things out of wood, like a pumpkin, for Cathy to paint for their home.  But Chuck built a shelf–successfully, and Cathy picked up some paint at a local store, which happened to be Old Village Paint.  They loved the finished product! Soon Chuck was building other furniture, and Cathy was painting it with OVP.  Their business grew slowly. It was years until they opened a shop, and several more years until Chuck quit his job and began building furniture full time.

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Tips & tricks:

I asked Kathy some questions, to learn from their success!

What are the most popular furniture colors your customers want right now? “Black, valley forge mustard, and the new England red. Several years ago it was village tavern blues. The number one color now is black.”

What piece of furniture is most popular? “When flat screen TV’s came out, we started to get a lot of interest in furniture for those.  We adjusted our business to do special orders, some people want doors on these tables, or not, a spot for dvd players, etc.  Our standbys are jelly cupboards, and anything that people need a custom size — everyone seems to have a piece of furniture they need that fit into a very specific place in their house.  We let customers know on our website that the size of any of our pieces can be adjusted to fit their needs.”

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What do you enjoy most about this business? “I enjoy working for ourselves, if we have to take a business trip- we can do it.  I really like getting the furniture to the customer and hearing the feedback. We just got an email yesterday- from a woman who  bought a piece from us in 2009 , and she wanted some shelves to match it. I remembered her.  Isn’t that great?”

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Kathy tells me with pride that everything they make is solid wood, nothing is sprayed, it’s all stained and painted by hand.  And they take care of every part of the furniture building and shipping process.  Chuck picks up the lumber himself, cuts and builds the furniture, they paint it, then pack it up to ship.  They want to be sure it gets to the customer in perfect condition.  This special care ensures they have great products, and their customers have noticed.

What is your process for painting furniture? “Stain, paint, distress, hand rub wax.”

What do you wish you had known starting out? “I wish we would have done this when we were in our 20’s! We never would have taken the chance back then, but when I see what we can do with hard work, and how we enjoy it… I wish we would have done it a long time ago . We started this in our 40’s. Working together- its wonderful. I say, the only way you fail is by not trying.”

Thanks to Kathy for sharing with us.  Happy Painting!

How To Price Your Painted Furniture: #2 in Our Grow Your Painted Furniture Business Series

21 Oct

Wow! We had a huge explosion on our blog last week from our post “How To Grow Your Painted Furniture Business.”  So, we’ve decided to make this topic into a series!  If you have a specific question or challenge about this type of business you’d like us to address- let us know in the comments section!

We’ve already got several interviews with very successful painted furniture business (PFB) pros scheduled, and we can’t wait to share their tips and tricks with you in the next few weeks.  (If you haven’t already, you might want to sign up to receive a weekly notice about new blog posts).

Last week we included a link to this article: How To Price Painted Furniture- but the information is so good, we wanted to highlight some of it this week.  Denise is the author of this article, and she owns “Salvaged Inspirations” her own business! Yay!

“I’ve been painting/re-styling furniture full-time for almost 2 years now. Prior to this, I did a lot of projects for myself, family and friends, so it’s really exciting to be doing what I love as a business.” Here’s some of her tips for pricing.

1. The basic formula: (cost of piece) + (supplies used) + (time/mark-up) = $$PRICE doesn’t always work. And this is especially true if you’re just starting out. There are so many variables and factors to consider… and for all of you who asked, here are my thoughts on just a few of them…

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2. Punching a Time clock.  The other week, M-M-M innocently asked me how many hours it took me to complete a piece of furniture. I shrugged my shoulders because I didn’t have an exact answer. Some pieces I finish quickly and other pieces seem to take me forever!

I’m well aware that in any venture, time equals money. The longer it takes me to find, prep and paint a piece of furniture, the less profit I make. However for now, I need to let my business grow organically while enjoying the process and creativity… without punching a time clock to determine my pricing. I know that in time,  my furniture painting techniques and skills will become faster and profits will continue to increase.

If punching a time clock is going to discourage you from moving your business forward, consider looking at your pricing strategy differently. Enjoy the process andknow the gap between time spent and pricing will soon close organically.

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3.  A Dollar Saved is a Dollar Earned.  I’m always on the look-out for furniture I can refinish. And I look  for the lowest price and best deals possible. I also keep track of the cost of supplies used for each job. This information is then factored into my asking price. The old saying “A Dollar Saved is A Dollar Earned” is very true in a furniture painting business. If I find a great piece for $25 at a garage sale rather than pay $125 for a similar piece online, my dollars saved have turned into income.

If you can minimize your initial expenses without sacrificing quality, you will earn more per sale.

4. Increased Confidence = Increased Income.   As my skills develop and I gain more experience, my confidence level is growing.  I’m feeling comfortable asking more for my one-of-a-kind pieces and painting services. Also, I find I’m not as quick to lower the price on items that don’t immediately sell.

As your skills and confidence improve, so will your income!  This  is a natural progression. If you’re just starting out, be kind and patient with yourself. Everything takes time and that includes growing confidence in any new venture.

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5. Pricing What Sells Fast.  I created a chalkboard from a $5 mirror and sold it for $100 + delivery within hours of posting it online. After it sold, I received numerous requests asking if I had any others just like it. The old adage of supply and demand applies in every business. I could have priced it a little more aggressively but more importantly, I wish I had duplicated it!

If you notice an item is selling quickly and in demand, price accordingly. By the way… if you know where I can buy these corner pieces… please let me know!

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6. Compare Yourself to Yourself but Don’t Compare Yourself to Others.   I find it extremely beneficial to network with other furniture painters. Networking and developing friendships with other DIY’ers and business owners encourages me to learn, grow, gain inspiration, and gauge asking prices. But I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing myself to all the fabulous talent out there!  As my very wise sister likes to remind me; compare myself to myself and not to others. I may or may not be pricing my painted pieces for the same dollar amount as the furniture painter who’s been painting for 20+years… and that’s okay.

Keep yourself focused on developing and improving your skills and business while enjoying your own path and journey.

7. Location & Market.   Know your area and your target audience. If you paint a piece of furniture and placed it in a NYC Boutique, it may quickly sell for $1200. If you shipped that same piece of furniture to a Flea Market in a quiet rural town, it may take 2 months to sell for $200. Take your location, venue and target market into consideration when pricing your furniture.

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8. Passion + Purpose = Profit.  I didn’t start this business as a get rich quick venture. I LOVE thrifting for great furniture bargains, salvaging for fabulous furniture finds, painting and re-styling, meeting wonderful clients for custom jobs, staging, photographing, blogging and writing tutorials. This is all FUN for me! I can spend an entire afternoon painting yet it feels like 45 minutes has flown by.

 

Are you in it for the love or the money? If your in this business for the money and you’re not loving what you do, you will most likely have a difficult time. I’m a believer that Passion + Purpose =Profit… IN ANY BUSINESS!

A huge thanks to Denise for being willing to share her tips with us! Read more of her experiences over at www.salvagedinspirations.comPricingFurniture31

Start or Grow Your Furniture Painting Business

14 Oct

Paint can truly transform a piece of furniture.  From a grungy, dated eyesore, to a beautiful cherished family treasure.

Perhaps you’ve transformed a few pieces and you’re considering making it into a part time or full time business.  How exciting!  Or maybe, you’ve been painting furniture and selling it for a while, and you’re ready to grow.  Sending good vibes your way!

tbootbenchOur friends over at The Country Cupboard talk about their business: “My husband and I started our own small business several years ago. We wanted our handmade furniture to have an aged and primitive look to it. We needed to find a paint that was easy to use but that would also give us the authentic colors we were looking for. Old Village Paint has met all our expectations as well as our customers. We also sell the paint in our store for customers that want to finish their own project. There is no other paint that can match your quality. Thank you for such a time honored product.” Kathy and Chuck Moore (The Country Cupboard)

Here are a few awesome articles waiting out there in cyberspace for you.

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Painted Piece Redone in Rittenhouse Ivory over Black.

If you’re in the painted furniture biz- you’re into restoration, redemption, change, and beauty.  You can see something in a piece, even before the first touch of sandpaper and paint.  Good luck as you courageously move ahead with your business plans! (Thanks to Donna Latour of the Tole Booth for the photo)

We’d love to know- what resource has helped you if you are in the painted furniture business?  Leave your ideas in the comments so that everyone can benefit!

Prim Home Office

7 Oct

Fall makes me think about writing letters, sorting mail and making holiday lists.  And the perfect place for any of those activities would be in a cozy home office with a hot cup of tea or cider.  Do you have a home office space? If you need some inspiration- look at these beautiful prim home offices! This first one is very simple,but gorgeous! (decoholic.org)

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The green desk in this second photo is so nicely organized.  I especially like the boxes on top, that are much more appealing than the usual paper versions. (behindmyreddoor.com)

primofficeClover Creek Country Furniture and Crafts in Williamsburg, PA carries several beautiful items that could help make the perfect prim office.  I think the most basic items needed in a home office are: a desk, good light, a chair, and a filing system that works for you.  Maybe you need a new piece of furniture, or perhaps you just need to repurpose something you already have in your home, attic, or garage.  A beautiful coat of paint could get your item ready to create your dream office space.

 

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If you have a photo of your prim office, please share it with us! I especially love seeing how people combine modern technology with classic desks and shelves.  People are so creative!  Maybe you can create a perfectly prim home office for yourself this fall. Here’s one last photo to inspire you.

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Vote for Your Favorite Fall Photo

30 Sep

Our fall photo contest is open.  We are loving seeing the georgeous images you guys have sent in.  We’re still accepting entries, so if you’d like a chance to win two quarts of any color, there’s still time.

To vote for your favorite- have others vote for you- read the photo guidelines or submit a photo visit this webpage. Good luck everyone!
“It is the summer’s great last heat,
It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.”
–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

No Redo Painting Prep Skills

23 Sep

This past week I wrote an early morning Facebook post that ended up generating lots of interest and comments. The post focused on chalk paints, and that I’m not sure it’s fair to customers to say that there is a paint that you “never” need to prime with.   (You can read the entire Facebook post and discussion here). I don’t want to get into a big war or debate here- my main concern is advising customers in a way that will help them get the best and most long lasting result for their efforts.

So here are a few painting prep skills for you that should keep you from peeling paint and the dreaded “start over” in projects.

1. Clean off your surface well.  Remove dirt, wax, grease, detergent film, rust, stains, mold, and dust. Mineral spirits work well cleaning wood.

3. Sand if necessary. Is there anything on the surface that will keep the paint from adhering to it?

4. Prime if necessary. (See below)

5. Is the surface sound, clean and dry?

6. Paint!

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In most cases Old Village Paint does not need a primer, but there are a few cases that it does.  You MUST use a primer:

1) on bare wood when its going to be used outside.

2) when your surface has a shiny or glossy surface,  like a polyurethane- or lacquer factory finish (cabinets).

If you need a primer, try our Over Under Primer. It works so well! The above instructions really cover primer/paint two in ones and chalk paint.

If you don’t prime with a chalk paint, you’re going to need to wax it to make it durable.  Many of you said on Facebook that you would much rather prime than wax.

So, those are some good painting practices that should help your next project turn out perfectly- without any peeling paint! Good luck! Laney Landis

 

 

A Lost Art & An Amazing Story

16 Sep

From the 18th to the 20th century many settlers to the United States of America were of Germanic decent. In fact, they were the second largest group of immigrants, coming in behind the English.  They settled in and around Philadelphia and Germantown.  One of the many things they brought and contributed to the “new world” was their art.  Today we’re focusing on their grain painting technique.  They used this painting technique to decorate commemorative objects- for special occasions like births and marriages, but also to enhance everyday items, things they would use in bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms.

“All reveal a sense of joy and desire to ornament and embellish the objects which enhanced and enriched daily life.” http://www.readingpublicmuseum.org/pdf/Cultural_celebration_booklet.pdf

Not many artists today have this skill- it is becoming a lost art. But we happen to know one of them- Heide Drewes!

Look at these beautiful pieces she has done using the Penslyvania Dutch method of grain painting:

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I especially love the before and after shots of the medicine cabinants- it shows how much this pairing method can add in depth and decoration.

Both of Heide’s parents were German bakers, and they spoke the German language in the home.  She remembers growing up surrounded by objects and traditions from Germany, handmade, hand painted items from the Black Forest, the fairy tales and stories her dad read to her from The Brothers Grimm, and Steiff animals. Her introduction to grain painting is a wonderful story of chance, here it is in her own words:

” I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and one of those things actually happened at a farm auction about 35 years ago! While waiting to bid on a pair of hand embroidered pillow cases, bidding was going on of items piled on a flat bed farm trailer, filled with a lot of primitives and farm tools. One item caught my eye, a small wooden carrier with a handle across the top. I thought “oh, how neat” and perfect for country primitive decorating! The item was held up high… too high to see what it held and the auction help never held up what was in it. I held up one finger to bid one dollar, no one else wanted it and it was MINE… and it WAS meant to be mine! For when it was handed down to me, I could finally see what else my dollar had bought… old graining tools!

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Steel combs of various widths and sizes and old wood graining rockers that mimic wood grain patterns. I felt a revelation when seeing all of this, and chuckled because I knew this little wooden carrying box was waiting for me to find it and make use of it and it’s contents! It had old gray paint, but I painted it mustard with green trim soon after getting it. It would be a few years later, in 1990, that I would be introduced to Old Village Paints and their brown graining liquid, by a wonderful woman I had recently met… and have a chance to use the old tools. She had all the colors of Old Village paints chosen and bought, to have her old wooden floors painted… and also wanted to use the graining liquid to add details in places. So that was my first experience with Old Village Paint’s fine and time tested products, and I began using old techniques as used on early grain painted furniture that I saw in books and magazines, and then developed my own idea of using the graining liquid to make scenic landscapes, to make very special, one of a kind pieces of furniture and at times picture frames. The rest is history as they say…” Heide

Thank you Heide for sharing this story with us! Heide is teaching a workshop on grain painting this Saturday at Roger S. Wright Furniture in Pennsylvania, the class is full, but we’ll share photos!

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