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Guest Curation: Confessions of a Pro Furniture Flipper with Rachel Sherman

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Pro furniture flipper Rachel Sherman shares with us her experience of refurbishing vintage and secondhand furniture and some useful tips for beginners to start your DIY journey

Rachel is the founder and owner of BrickandBoho, an aesthetic modern bohemian furniture account based out of Greensboro, NC. When she’s not busy being a mama to her 4 kiddos, she’s getting her hands dirty refinishing furniture and doing DIY projects. 

After a new move in 2020,  in the middle of a pandemic, she found herself needing an outlet for her creativity. She started transforming rooms and spaces within her home and a blog was born. 

She took on clients through e-design and even local clients, helping them envision new spaces for themselves. Flipping furniture for profit came secondary and she realized she really enjoys finding old well-loved pieces and making them modern and updated. 

“There’s beauty in the process, all the details coming together to create a better design.” Rachel told us. You may not only find her transformations unique and beautiful, but you’ll likely catch her dancing in her garage as she works to enjoy the process! 

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What got you interested in secondhand, vintage and antique items?

I believe my love for vintage and thrifted finds started at a young age. I would go to the yard sales and flea markets with my grandparents and relish at the beauty of something old and loved. 

We were a very frugal family, and I made the best of it. I enjoyed finding practical pieces and designing my home around it. I like the character and style of something dated, and they usually always have a great story behind them! 

 

Out of all the pieces you’ve done flipping, what's your favorite and what project was the most difficult?

From the time I get my hands on a piece, to when I finish, there’s always trials and challenges but by the time I’m finished, I can easily say “I think this is my new favorite!”.

But if I have to choose one from them then my favorite flip is an old antique sideboard. It came to me from a client who needed it to be restored and updated. It had scratches everywhere and literally had “Help Me” carved into it. 

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It was a large beautiful piece with good bones and amazing details. I really wanted to showcase those details and the beautiful wood that was still in great condition. I went with a neutral green with tan undertones and even took the inlay details out and shined them up. 

Whenever I can, I always try to salvage the original hardware to a piece. If I can’t clean enough of the patina off, I’ll spray it with bronze or gold paint to show what it looked like originally. 

Overall, not only was my client happy, but I was blown away at this massive beauty! 

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But not every piece is that simple and fun to refinish. My hardest flip, to date, was a 1970s ornate dresser I found for a client for her nursery. 

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She wanted a very bohemian design and referred to a geometric design I did on a previous piece. Of course, this meant showing off a lot of natural wood, which required a lot of sanding. 

At the time I didn’t have the high quality tools I have now, and sanding took days. I learned the hard way when stripper and sanding didn’t work on the drawers of the dresser that it was in fact, plastic. 

You see, in the 1970s, furniture manufacturers started making furniture cheaper by adding plastic designs on top of real wood for design purposes. I was stripping and sanding the plastic and realized it was too late and the dresser drawers weren’t salvageable. 

Plan B was to re-create new drawer faces and cabinet faces out of a sheet of wood. I got out the big power tools and created new faces and created an entirely new design to this dresser. 

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The mauve pink paint and geometric line design came next and adding new holes for the custom hardware finished the job. Overall the piece turned out incredible. 

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What typically takes me a few days took me almost 2 weeks but the work paid off and I felt so relieved and proud of myself. I learned A LOT about furniture and myself with that dresser and I’m a better artist because of it.  Would I do it again? I think I’ll stick to painting over those “plastic dupes” from now on. 

 

Lots of people love DIYs but don’t know where to begin. Do you have any tips from your own experience to begin flipping furniture?

Start small. Don’t go for large, overwhelming pieces. End tables, coffee tables, night stands etc. are great starter pieces. 

Having good products and a lot of patience is the key! After all, it’s a learning curve of a process. 

There are tons of great YouTube videos as well as refinishing accounts I’d watch and learn some basics. Personally, I like to refer to using the 5 P’s. Prep, Prime, Paint, Protect, Pictures, & Price(if you choose to resell). 

Skipping or not taking your time to do any of those steps could lead to a big mess and a lot of wasted time and energy. And if and when mistakes happen, take it with stride! Learn from it, and adapt! This is supposed to be a fun creative process so make sure to enjoy it! 

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So as a pro flipper, is there anything specific you’d avoid?

I hate turning down furniture but from a work perspective, I typically avoid laminate and pressed wood. They are tricky to repair and the quality of them usually aren’t long lasting. 

I also prefer not to work on chairs. If it’s a quick and easy reupholster, sure! But sanding, staining, or painting chairs is not my idea of fun! I’ve done them in the past, and had success, but typically they take more time than I’m willing to give in my busy little business. 

 

Last but not least, after finishing flipping, how do you usually stage your furniture?

#1 When staging a piece of furniture I always go for basic & simple. Artwork, books, and vases make great pieces. Make sure your decor matches your style and the style of your space and is cohesive with the design of the piece as well.

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#2 Adding greenery or floral stems is a must. My go-to is usually pampas grass or a bright house plant such as a snake plant or pothos. 

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#3 Work in 3s such as 3 candlesticks, 3 books etc. Use height and texture in your display too. 

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What are the one or two things you always find yourself bidding on/looking for when shopping second hand?

It’s hard to narrow it down, but I’m always out looking for mid century pieces. If it’s not furniture and I can’t flip it, but can use it as decor, I’m always coming home with candlesticks, vases, baskets, & artwork. 

In this week’s Collected Perspectives, I joined AuctionNinja and chose some of my favorites from their Marketplace. Let’s see what I found.

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  1. Mid-century Modern Louvered Five Drawers Dresser (Hudson Estate Sales)

  2. Pair of Barley Twist Candlesticks (Trading Post Estate Sales)

  3. An Assortment of Eight Woven Baskets (Modern Day Auctions)

  4. Trio of Milk Glass Bud Vases Marked Randall (White Mtns Estate Services)

  5. 21st Century Wicker & Rattan Wrapped Lift Top Bedroom Trunk (Chatsworth IV Antiques)

  6. Barrel Leather Chair (Simple Sale Auctions)

  7. Iran Handwoven Wool Area Rug, 7'5 X 4'6 (Ridgefield Thrift Shop)

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