Two Local Artisans Saving and Beautifying Planet, One Dresser at a Time

By Victoria Ford | Jun 26, 2019
Courtesy of: Deer Run Revamps

Surf City — When Candace Voehl and Christina Matthews met up for the first time a few weeks ago, they quickly realized their creative compatibility. They both pour their passion for restoring and revitalizing old furniture into their own side businesses. Voehl, who lives in Surf City, brands herself as Sea Maid; Matthews, who lives in Barnegat, has Deer Run Revamps.

Call them “art-repreneurs.”

They found each other on Facebook Marketplace and struck up a collaboration they’re calling Where the Ocean Meets the Pines.

Last week they were in Voehl’s garage, working on a late-’70s Bombay-style dresser. They had painted it powder blue by Frenchic, with “pixie dust” added to the paint for texture, and dry brushed ivory fusion mineral paint all over to accentuate the curves. They were in the process of applying floral accents made from fast-drying resin they had poured into rubber molds by Iron Orchid Designs (IOD) and Prima.

Matthews explained she wanted the wood top to have a bleached look, which was achieved by applying liquid wood with a wood graining tool and then dry-brushing various paints and stains. The drawers are lined with photos of DaVinci paintings, and the sides of the drawers are adorned with IOD stamps, Prima gold foil transfers and some stenciling, for a “peek-a-boo” effect. Finally, the work was sealed with General Finishes high-performance, flat top coat.

Elsewhere in the garage were Voehl’s works in progress, eye-catching furnishings in varying stages of transformation. They joked that their partners tease them about taking in too many freebies, as if they’re stray cats.

Voehl has a more feminine, romantic sensibility about her creations, while Matthews described her style as more masculine and rustic.

Matthews started Deer Run Revamps about 18 months ago and does a lot of her business through her Etsy shop and on Marketplace.

The first piece she ever restored was a little nightstand that needed some TLC. She sanded and stained it and impressed the heck out of herself. She had never considered herself “artistic,” she explained, so the results with the nightstand were exciting and whetted her appetite for more.

Voehl’s first project was an old bedroom set her mother had given to her. “I loved it, but I hated it,” she said. Someone suggested she paint it. Similarly to Matthews’ experience, the outcome delighted her. From there, she started collecting castoffs (curbside finds) and looking for inspiration and ideas online for how to breathe new life into old treasures.

The women like to think they’re “saving the planet, one dresser at a time,” Voehl said with a laugh. Every project is done in the most Earth-conscious way possible, by keeping used furniture out of landfills and working with products that contain no harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

A lot of new furniture for sale today is made to look old, with “character” added, Voehl said. She and Matthews look for pieces that already have plenty of natural character and turn them into one-of-a-kind works of art that will “last for generations,” Matthews said.

The work is painstaking and time-consuming, from cleaning and repairs to the artful craftsmanship of the beautification process.

Sometimes before they can think about painting and decorating a piece, first they have to deal with drawers that don’t glide smoothly, feet that aren’t level, filling splits in the wood, fixing or replacing broken or mismatched handles. “You can’t just make a piece look pretty on the outside and have it not function,” Voehl reasoned.

The learning process is never-ending. That’s partly what feeds the “addiction.” Each new project brings new problems to solve and new tools, materials and products to explore.

“You have a lot of growing pains, doing this,” Voehl said. But any initial intimidation soon wears off and is replaced by newfound confidence. Matthews said nowadays her holiday wish lists are most likely to include a sander or saw.

Matthews was previously doing a lot of custom work but got “bored with all the white and gray,” she said. Now she makes what she wants to make and waits for the right buyer to come along.

Their goal by the end of August is to offer classes as a collaborative team at a venue yet to be determined, combining their different styles and methods and giving practical advice to show how DIY projects are for everyone. Matthews also wants to create some how-to videos to share online.

“I want to share this with people,” she said. She wants people to know: “You may not think you’re artistic, but this is a healthy way to express yourself. Especially if you have problems going on in your life.”

Voehl likened it to meditation. When she gets going on a project, everything else sort of fades into the background.

The women plan to maintain their separate businesses and join forces on occasional collaborations. For now, find them separately on Facebook and Etsy, at Deer Run Revamps and Sea Maid or Sea Maid’s Cove.

—Victoria Ford

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