CHILHOWIE, Va. — A Washington County woman is on a mission to help save the environment a little bit at a time by restoring furniture that is destined for the landfill.
Kellie Monk flips discarded furniture, taking what people no longer want and transforming it into objects of beauty.
Her trash-to-treasure business is a creative outlet for the Meadowview woman who works a full-time job as an administrative assistant and comes home in the evenings to work her magic on odds-and-ends pieces of furniture she finds at yard sales and thrift stores.
“I’m no stranger to picking up things off the road,” she said with a laugh. “I hate seeing something that’s still useful going into the trash. I’m always thinking I could make something pretty out of it,” she said.
“I believe in salvaging what you can to help keep our world as clean as possible. It blows my mind what people will toss in a trash bin instead of recycling or repurposing it. I feel that each piece I save helps protect our environment in a small way.”
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It’s also a way to save unloved pieces of furniture, she said. “I’ve never been a fan of new things. I’d rather go to a thrift store than a new furniture store.”
Monk is the only employee at her workplace who can take a lunch break and come back with her car loaded with furniture she’s found at yard sales and thrift shops.
“Why not save a vintage piece instead of buying a new one?” she asked.
The crafter just seems to have a knack for visualizing what will make a piece of furniture a good seller. She carries a notebook with her to jot down her ideas when she spots a potential project.
“Nine times out of 10 I can look at a piece and see it in my head before I even bring it to the house,” she said.
Monk named her business Kellie’s Primitive Craft when she first started flipping furniture about 10 years ago when she was a stay-at-home mom. That was before many of her customers became interested in her white farmhouse décor, which is known for its light and airy pieces of furniture.
Most of her work sells on consignment at HodgePodge on Main, a retail store in Chilhowie, Virginia. She’s known by customers at the store as the “lady with the white furniture.”
“I have people text me and send me pictures asking if I want a piece before they throw it away or take it to a thrift store. So I think people are catching on with how much I enjoy seeing what I can do with old pieces,” Monk said.
Something old, something new
The first kitchen table she flipped and sold was a combination of three mismatched pieces, one of which displayed hand engravings on the wood.
“We almost sanded that out, and then I thought, ‘nope, we’re going to leave that.’ ”
The table sold within a day after arriving at HodgePodge.
“The lady actually bought it because she said the markings gave it character.” Monk said
Monk, who’s been captivated with crafting since she was a child, recently turned a yard sale dresser into a work of art. She painted the French Provincial dresser black for a more elegant look. On the inside of the five drawers, she stenciled a “peek-a-boo” cheetah print.
“I’m anxious to see how this one sells,” she said.
While most of her furniture recreations are what she called “girlie,” she occasionally comes across a piece that lends itself to a masculine appearance. That’s what happened when she spotted a metal table found at a yard sale. She painted the wooden top with white paint and then decoupaged an antique car design on top.
Another unique piece in her booth at the store is a bench made from a twin size bed. Her brother-in-law Rick Monk is her go-to side kick who helps with the construction part of the jobs.
Another piece in the store is sure to invite conversation. After removing the drawers from a vintage vanity she inherited from her grandparents, Monk painted and applied decorative paper for finishing touches. “Some people put legs on the drawers and sit them on top of a dresser,” she said.
The crafter spends hours making each old piece durable and sound again.
Every piece of furniture gets cleaned, sanded, primed at least twice, painted two coats, and sealed. A light sanding on the new paint gives a distressed patina finish.
“I like my creations to be one-of-a-kind. I don’t like to do more than one of anything.
She breathes new life into old pieces of furniture, even if it’s an antique.
“People may be surprised that I sometimes paint antique furniture, but if I hadn’t given it a new look it may have eventually ended up in the trash and no one would have enjoyed it.”
Her favorite thing is to let the natural character of a piece of furniture shine through.
“If you fill in all of the imperfections, you make the furniture look too new and store bought.”
Every scratch or stain tells a story. It’s a sign of life being lived, she said.
She buffs out some of the rings and scratches from the furniture, but leaves a few to add character. She believes old furniture is a connection to family and friends.
Monk’s furniture creations can be seen at HodgePodge on Main at 201 West Main Street in Chilhowie, Virginia. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Monk will bring some of her smaller pieces of furniture to Meadowview Days, a community gathering from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 in the Meadowview town square off I-81, Exit 24. The event will feature vendors and concessions.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected].
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