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DIY products arrive for furniture makeovers

By Patricia Sheridan
Scripps Howard News Service

Amy Howard wasn’t surrounded by offerings from her latest furniture collection at the High Point Market earlier this year. She was up to her blond tresses in paint cans, gilts and finishes.

“Did you know Americans throw away more than 10 million pieces of furniture a year?” she asked.

That’s one of the reasons she chose to showcase Amy Howard at Home: Rescue, Restore, Redecorate. It’s a line of products made for those who want to rehabilitate old furnishings.

Her products include powders, pigments, one-step paint, aerosol lacquers, gilts, strippers, stains and more. With this new line, her career, in some ways, has come full circle.

“This is how I got my start 28 years ago, looking for pieces of furniture I could restore,” she said. She and her husband, Gene, would scour flea markets and antiques stores near Memphis, Tenn., finding pieces to redo.

Then she began to design and build her own furniture, inspired by antiques, and the Amy Howard Collection was born. While she continues to make handcrafted, hand-painted furniture at the Tennessee factory, this new venture is equally important.

“As I watched the industry change with more and more furniture being manufactured overseas, I got the idea to start trying to save the old, out-of-fashion pieces that were mostly made in America decades before.

“These were our mothers’ and grandmothers’ things. There may have been sentimental value. I wanted to do something,” she said.

Taking the techniques and proprietary finishes that are used in the studio, she began to create products that do-it-yourselfers would find easy to use.

“We wanted to bring the art of restoration to an elegant, sophisticated level that is not crafty or hokey,” she said.

She trademarked the phrase “Enjoy the bragging rights” because that is what happens when people do the work to bring a piece of furniture back to life.

She created a video that went viral. “I can’t be there to show everyone, so this allows me to reach a larger audience.”

Howard has done other step-by-step videos for using her products, all at www.amyhowardathome.com.

She has also started workshops that include art history lessons in which she explains how she came up with the color palettes, such as the Toscana powder paints.

Pigments for the all-natural Toscana products came from the south of France, adding an Old World patina to the blandest of furnishings. Her one-step paints will cover wood, melamine, concrete, plastic or resin.

“You can go over it in one step. You don’t have to strip it or prime it,” she said.

But if stripping is necessary, she has a natural soy furniture stripper for removing old paint and finishes. Like her paints, the stripper is low-VOC. Her inventory also includes gold leaf.

“We are even teaching people how to do an antique mirror by stripping the back and antiquing it or doing things like eglomise (a French term meaning ‘glass gilded’).”

Howard’s goal is to eventually have mini-workshops all over the country. Guests could bring in a piece of furniture and redecorate it that day.

“I am not wanting to take anything away from the furniture industry,” she said. “I just want to enhance it with different options.”

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