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#2: Why Choose Refinished Over New?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Welcome welcome WELCOME my friends. Okay so I know this podcast is about all things furniture refinishing, but before we jump into the nitty gritty of how to do these refinishing projects, things I’ve learned when starting a business and all that good stuff, I thought we should first start with a more high level talk about the reasons why you should choose refinished furniture instead of buying new.

Chances are if you’re tuning in here, you’re probably already well aware of the fact that refinished is the way to go, but there might be some things you’ve never thought of before, so let’s jump right in.

First and foremost, choosing refinished furniture over new is a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly choice. And it sounds straight forward, like yeah, duh, because you’re making over a piece of furniture that already exists. But it’s so much more than that, because not only does choosing that option stop pieces from being thrown out and going to the landfill, BUT every time that option is chosen, it’s also one less demand for new product to be created as well. And over time, if the demand decreases, I’m no *economist* but I know a little something about supply and demand. Of course, to make any sizeable difference in the amount of production of new furniture that would require a pretty substantial shift globally, but there’s truly no better time to start.

And if I’m being honest, it really doesn’t even end up feeling like a sacrifice you’re *having* to make, once you take a look at all of the beautiful refinished furniture pieces that exist out in the world. Wherever you live, I can almost guarantee there will be at least one person within or near your community who is upcycling, refinishing, restoring, or painting old and unloved furniture. It’s all about being able to find them, so do a Google search, look on Instagram, keep an eye on the Facebook Marketplace listings in your area, or ask around at local thrift stores, antique dealers or paint supply stores and I can almost guarantee you will eventually find yourself connected to someone doing this kind of work. When I first started trying my hand at refinishing furniture and discovering the huuge community on Instagram, I was so surprised to see just how many makers and creatives were on there and the transformations they were able to make on their pieces. When I started digging deeper to find others doing it locally, I found so many people doing their thing and we now have a little group chat we’ve set up with over 20 refinishers just within my area. So they are out there, we’re just quietly doing our thing plugging away in our garages with our earphones in, so you might need to do some digging to get to us but I can assure you that we would LOVE to have one of our pieces be in your home.

And, as much as I like to choose sustainable options when I can, I’m definitely no expert in the area of sustainability so I decided to put my *university degree* to work for once and do some research to pull some numbers to help paint a picture. Okay, I promise that’s the last time that I’m going to use that voice.

So furniture that gets thrown out and ends up in landfills is referred to as F-waste, and over 10 million tons of it ends up in landfills annually in Canada and the United States (source). If 10 million tons is hard to visualize, one ton is about 2,000 pounds (about 907 kilograms for my non-Canadian friends), which is about the weight of a fully-grown white rhinoceros if, you know, you’ve been around one of those lately. So visualize 10 million of them…in the landfill… every year. Okay great.

And actually, something that I hadn’t really thought through is the fact that the pandemic has actually increased that number by quite a bit with so many companies deciding to scrap their office space and a lot of the time, not taking the time to make sure the furniture is being reused, repurposed, or recycled and it often just getting thrown in the garbage pile and taken away. So just as an aside, if you are someone who is involved in this kind of a process at work… wouldn’t hurt to advocate for listing those pieces for free online or look into recycling options that would be applicable to avoid having to leave it out for garbage day.

So when we think about our own spaces, opting to put a piece of refinished furniture in your home will help to keep those pieces from ending up in the trash and contributing to those crazy 10 million ton kind of numbers. And you might be thinking, “oh, one dresser, yeah, that’s going to make the difference?”

No, no it won’t immediately, but the more people choose this option individually, the more it will collectively add up and make a bigger impact, and then it’ll be the trendy choice, so more and more people will do it… and then yeah, that dresser will have ultimately made a big difference.

But I don’t love the whole fear mongering approach to environmental improvement because nothing good in this world starts from a place of shaming and blaming, so let’s talk about some other benefits that you can more tangibly see and experience when you choose a refinished piece of furniture.

One of the things that I love most personally and think really is a selling feature, is that every time, you’re getting a unique, one of a kind piece of furniture for your home. Have you ever gotten a new like, buffet unit for your home from one of the higher-end furniture stores and been SO excited, like you spent all this money but you found this piece that you think looks so good in your space and is going to drop people’s jaw and you’re so excited to show it off and then your friend comes over for a wine night and you’re like ‘omg i forgot, you have to check out this new buffet unit I just got!” and she’s like “NO WAY, i just got this exact same one, isn’t it awesome?!”. And you’re like….oh. I’m not so unique after all.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you are so special and so unique my friend, but you’ve just been shopping in the wrong places.

When you buy painted, refinished or restored furniture, you’re getting an individualized design done specifically for that piece. If you do a custom project with a refinisher, that design can be made specifically to compliment your home’s décor and style, so it’s literally made just for you. And could there be similar pieces? Yeah, sure, sometimes there’s only so many ways to do a white and wood combo dresser, but it certainly won’t be a cookie cutter match to mass produced pieces.

AND, what I find really interesting, is that there’s always history behind a piece of refinished furniture, whether you happen to know it or not. Sometimes clients come to me because they have a dresser or a dining room table that they’ve had for decades, or maybe a set of nightstands that has been passed down through the generations that doesn’t currently match the vibe of their home, but they want to keep those heirlooms and memories close.

There’s been times where I’ve pulled desk drawers out of the desk and flipped them over and found notes taped underneath that say “this is the last day I will have braces” with the date, or I’ve discovered crayon scribbles on the bottom of a coffee table from a toddler years ago, who the client is now telling me about how they’re going off to college. All of this is history and memories and moments captured in time, and I’m honestly such a sap and I find it so sweet to hear the stories behind a piece that I’m working on, and love being able to retain those little reminders on the piece whenever possible.

The history of a piece and what it represents lives on too, which is so cool and sentimental to me. As someone who’s grandparents passed away when I was relatively young, it really is special to me that I can have the same pair of nightstands that my grandmother used to use in her bedroom, sanded down and re-stained looking fresh as ever, in my room and get to see and appreciate them every day. Not to mention, they are the perfect size and shape for my space, and now match the style too after having refinished them. What a unique and also useful way to keep her memory alive, and to be able to hopefully pass it on to my children one day.

Not to mention, they just don’t make furniture like they used to. Have you ever tried to lug around a dresser built in the ‘60s? Well, I do it far more often than my back and shoulders would like me to, and let me tell you, they are friggin heavy and solid as hell. Lots of solid wood, quality craftsmanship, and designs that stand the test of time. You don’t see the melamine and particle board that’s used these days at a certain four-letter furniture retailer that shall remain unnamed, and with refinished furniture, you’re much more likely to come across things like dovetail joints rather than dowels holding a structure together. And if you have no idea what dovetail joints are.. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes. Actually that’s a great reminder, have you subscribed or followed this podcast yet? If not, here, I’ll take a quick pause so you don’t miss anything so you can pop over to the podcast page and subscribe or follow.

Good, got it? Awesome, thanks SO much for your support, it means the world to me!

Also, kind of random but when I was thinking of the benefits of refinished furniture over the new stuff, you know what came to mind? Have you ever seen that YouTube video where they light a fire in two living rooms or something side-by-side and compare a room that’s filled with older furnishings versus a modern day one? I swear I’ve had to watch it at like every job I’ve ever had, for some reason it ends up being a health and safety video that gets shown when they’re doing the overview on fire safety, might just be a location thing or my colleagues not being very creative.

But it’s actually really interesting, because if I remember correctly, the room with the older furnishings does catch on fire quicker than the modern one, but once the modern one catches on fire 30 seconds later or whatever, it burns exponentially quicker and the entire room is like catastrophically on fire and full of smoke while the room with older furnishings still just has like, a throw pillow on fire. So am I saying that it might be more safe to choose refinished over new? I don’t know, I’m not a firefighter but you can take a look at that video yourself and decide which you feel more comfortable having in your home. Okay cool, doing really good at avoiding fear-mongering, great.

But, maybe rather selfishly, the #1 reason I think everyone should consider buying their furniture refinished over new, is that you’re supporting your local economy by spending your dollars locally and ultimately, putting money directly into someone’s pocket. You’re supporting their small business, and supporting their dream of entrepreneurship while getting a really great piece of beautiful furniture in the process. Have you ever seen those Tiktoks or memes where it’s like “every time my small business gets a sale” and it’s a video of a customer walking out of a store and the two girls working at the cash turn to each other after the customer leaves and just start excitedly jumping around like “hell yeah we just made that sale?!”.

That’s me, sitting in my dining room at 10pm on a Tuesday when I get a message on Facebook marketplace from someone saying they want to buy that cedar chest that I’ve had listed for 8 months and I was convinced wouldn’t sell. That’s me sitting in a work meeting at my full-time job, knowing I’m in a dry spell of not having sold any furniture for 2 months, and glancing down at my phone and seeing a message from someone saying they want to buy one of my pieces and having to hold off on a happy dance until the meeting is over. It truly is supporting my dream of being able to do this thing I’m so passionate about, and every time you’re supporting one of our small businesses, it’s one step in the right direction towards being able to do this full-time one day.

AND, if that doesn’t warm the cockle’s of your heart enough, because we do take every purchase we get so seriously because we KNOW how valuable it is (and that, ultimately, buying a piece of furniture, no matter where you get it, is an investment you’re making), we do everything we can to make sure that it’s a great customer experience for you when you buy refinished. When I sell a piece, I’m giving it a thorough look over before the person picks it up, I’m cleaning it, I’m putting a furniture salve on the wood to moisturize it and make it look rich, I’m shining up the hardware, I’m handwriting a Thank You card, I’m including extra paint for you in case touch ups are ever needed, I’m including the name of the paint colour and paint company in the card in case you ever want to get another matching piece done in the future, I’m sweeping my porch and walkway off so it’s clean and looks inviting to the customer coming to pick up, I’m moving my vehicle out of the driveway so you can pull up close to load the piece, I’m posting my excitement for the sale on my Instagram, because I am genuinely so happy and excited for every single piece that I sell.

So that's my why. That's why I love refinished furniture, and why I really think that you should consider looking into it if you haven't already, if you aren't already sold on them. Take a look, see what's out there, notice the difference, and appreciate the art, appreciate everything that goes into it and I hope that I provided some food for thought as you move forward in your decision making. And I would love to hear your feedback too, so I would love if you headed over to my Instagram @MelDidItHerself, find the tile for Episode 2 of the podcast and leave me a comment because I want to know: why do you think it's important to choose refinished over new, or what's your reason for doing so? Or what are the most favourite things that you enjoy about choosing refinished over new? Because I know that there is so many things from a user perspective, a client perspective, that I'm maybe not even considering and I would love to know how you feel that those little touches go into the work that we do.

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Some good ol’ Dr. Seuss, because these things do not need to be complicated, my friend. And sometimes when it rhymes you just remember it better, amirite?

So remember that you can steer yourself any direction you choose- whether that be when choosing where to do get your next piece of furniture from, when you’re trying to decide what your next move in business is, or just when you’re trying to decide what to make for dinner tonight. You have agency, you have the ability to choose, and you are, let me repeat that, you ARE smart enough to make the right decision for you… so don’t overthink it too much, you got this!

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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