I first met Sue of QuirkiStuff when she contacted me looking for some help with their social media (as she had noticed that I’d set up Write on Track offering mentoring and training). Working with Sue was a dream, apart from the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed oohing and aahing over their handiwork, she grasped the concepts of social media so quickly.
Quirki Stuff is all about making preloved pieces of furniture quirky and loved again. Sue and her husband Les have numerous pieces for sale on the Quirki Stuff website from telephone seats to shelving units to mantel clocks and re-upholstered chairs. They will also to work to commission so if you have a piece of furniture or even a small item lurking in the shed, that you’ve been meaning to do up for years,do give them a call. They will also source furniture and restore it to your specification if you wish too.
In order to provide you with the full description of the services provided and to demonstrate their talents and keen eye, I decided to interview Sue for the blog. I hope you enjoy reading it.
1 Your pieces are certainly quirky, what do you think makes a traditional wooden piece of furniture so much more attractive when it is painted in a bright colour?
Some traditional wooden pieces of furniture have really interesting lines and details which respond very well to bright colours. These are the types of pieces that we tend to gravitate towards. The colours enhance the existing features, by making the lines more defined, highlighting the curves and creating interesting shadows. We are big fans of the Memphis Group who applied vibrant colours to furniture items specifically to emphasise the shape of the pieces.
But we certainly don’t advocate painting every piece of wooden furniture. In fact, we love wood, particularly wood that is a lighter shade and warm toned. If a piece has attractive wood we often strip it back and varnish or wax it…so that it becomes a feature. For example, in our upholstered pieces we often like to let the fabric do the talking (colour wise) and tend to strip and varnish the wooden components. However, much of the mid-century furniture that we work with is either veneered or dark stained timber, often damaged and sometimes requiring reconstruction…so more often than not, paint is the best option.
2 I can still remember stripping furniture of its paint back in the 90s, why has painted furniture become so popular again do you think?
We can remember that too…and very hard work it was! We think there are a number of reasons why painted furniture is enjoying renewed popularity. One reason is because it offers a (reasonably priced) alternative to discarding pieces when they become dated or you become bored with them. Recycling and upcycling are the order of the day.
Another reason is that it enables you to revitalise and transform a room with a splash of colour, provided by one strategically placed piece of furniture.
Also, now that houses are becoming regarded as homes rather than a commodity to be traded on, we have noticed that people are more willing to experiment with colour. There are more people who want their homes to say something about themselves other than “I want to be like everybody else.” Colour is the best way to personalise your home and to express your personality and painted furniture is one of the most effective vehicles for this.
3 Do you use a special type of paint or method of painting? Are they primed, undercoated etc (i.e. is there a danger of the paint chipping off or are they quite robust)?
We have experimented with a huge range of materials and techniques over the years. However, at the moment our favourite medium is spray painting. (Les actually spent many of his school holidays – in the far distant past – learning how to spray paint cars…so he has quite a bit of expertise!)
We aim for a finish that is smooth (needless to say no visible brush strokes, runs, drips etc) and lustrous, allowing the grain of the wood to show through if appropriate. But at the same time we don’t want the piece to be so highly finished that you can’t see its history. We try to use paints that are somewhere between matt and satin so that the colours are at their most vibrant and luminous.
For spray painting we use enamel spray paint that is weather and uv resistant, has excellent flexibility, good scratch resistance and strong adhesion. In addition, we always leave pieces to harden for at least a week. If a piece is to be used in a bathroom or needs to be particularly hard wearing, we apply a clear protective finish.
For this type of finish thorough preparation is vital. Whatever type of paint is being used the surface has to be prepared sufficiently to provide a key for the paint. In addition it is vital that joints are tight, cracks are stabilised and so on. So we often spend the majority of time working on a piece on the preparation phase. This is where the fact that Les used to be carpenter in a past life comes in very handy!
In some cases we would prime the piece, particularly if reconditioning metal furniture. We would also definitely use undercoat to seal wood that has been stripped for repair or to stabilise surfaces that could otherwise lift or flake.
4 What is your most popular item? What tends to be the most fashionable?
Overall probably our most popular items are chairs, clocks and mirrors. Another item that is quite popular is the re-imagined china display cabinet. We have done several of them now, including commissions. They respond really well to being “quirkified” as they have such lovely lines and such potential for transformation. They turn out to be real statement pieces.
Retro clocks do seem to be quite fashionable at the moment. They are such amazing shapes, they can carry off the most vibrant of colours. Luckily Les has discovered a previously unknown talent for fixing them, as many of the clocks that we find have ceased to tick!
5 Have you found pinterest good for spreading the word about your business or for gaining inspiration?
We find pinterest fantastic for inspiration. Sue does the pinning and has become a bona fide pinter-addict…it’s just so therapeutic after a stressful day! And, as someone said, it’s just like getting your favourite magazines everyday…but you get to choose the content!
We don’t find it particularly useful as a business tool though as, although we are getting increasing numbers of people clicking through to our website, most of these people are overseas so it doesn’t tend to lead to sales as we don’t ship overseas (yet!).
6 Given that you paint items in such bright colours, is it sometimes difficult trying to choose a colour? Do you sometimes have to repaint something if the colour hasn’t worked?
Choosing the colours is probably our favourite part of the whole process. We spend a lot of time agonising (in an enjoyable way!) over the choice of colour before we actually start to paint. And of course, once we have chosen a colour, we then agonise further about the exact shade of that particular colour. We have developed our own library of extra large shade cards which we find immensely helpful, as it makes it much easier to visualise the finished item.
Despite all this, we do still occasionally change our minds and have to repaint. The good thing is we nearly always agree…otherwise things could get messy!
7 For those who have a piece of furniture languishing in a shed or even in the living room, do you take in pieces and transform them for people.
We love to do commissions for people. Sometimes people will say that they have no idea whatsoever what to do and give us carte blanche, other times we will work closely with people to put their ideas into practice. Either way we find it really enjoyable. It’s very satisfying to see how much pleasure it gives to people to be able to transform something that has become outdated or just doesn’t fit with their lifestyle into something new and vibrant.
We can also source pieces for people and transform them to their specification. We get a lot of pleasure from trawling through charity shops, auction houses and even the odd bit of skip diving!
8 Have you any tips for anyone considering upcycling or transforming any items of furniture?
Probably the main tip is to remember that preparation is all important. Also practise makes perfect…so don’t experiment on your favourite piece of furniture. Practise on small items until you get confident.
And for people who are chronic procrastinators our tip would be…give us a call!
9 Where can people buy your furniture and smaller items?
At the moment we sell through our website. If someone sees something that they like they can email us or give us a call and we can take payment and arrange delivery. People can either pick up from our premises or we will deliver (free of charge) to anyone in the greater Dublin/Wicklow area, or we can arrange a courier. Of course we are very happy for people to come and have a look at things before they buy.
We also occasionally go to markets and keep people informed of any impending dates on our website and facebook page.
There you have it – the full details of where to know if you want a piece customised or if you are looking for a quirky table, chair, clock or other item. Sue pins away on Pinterest too so don’t forget to follow her there too.