Bringing new life & love to your old pieces.

Because you asked…

This post comes in response to a lot of questions.  It won’t be a neat little 1, 2, 3 kinda post, or even bullet points but I hope it gives you lots of answers.  I have been sending you off to read Mandie’s post of How to start a business and even Jessica’s post on the pricing of pieces.  But you come back… And that is okay, I like you here and I am happy to answer your questions… BUT if you follow me, well you know I am a full-time wife and mother to 4 kiddos first!! That doesn’t leave much time to paint, let alone blog {which I love}… and then email and questions.  

So, I will answer the #3 question I get most… What’s #1 and #2 you ask?? Well those will be another day, if at all.  

Many times the question comes to me like this… “I love your blog and I love what you do. I too would love to start, but I am not sure how.”  or “Hi I am a mom too and would love to help my family, I love looking at all the pretty inspiration but I am not sure how to even start.” or “How do you price your pieces and the work you do for others?”  “What color should I paint this to sell fast?”  So many other ways- but those are the most common.  If you have emailed me and I didn’t answer you- read above and read below… 

I started this as therapy.  I started painting in one form or another {walls, furniture, canvases, I even used paint in layouts on scrapbook pages} years ago.  How many?  Acckkk, I am sad to say over 20. I’m in the “This is 40” moment.  I have always found my creative outlet to be so rewarding and therapeutic.  And as I told you before, my husband thought selling some of these pieces I was redoing might not be a bad idea.  I seemed to be creating a beautiful hoarding look around here.  The first one I sold was fast and thrilling.  I loved that someone else loved what I had done and wanted it in their home.  Did I make any money?? Likely not.  I had no idea what to price it at.  I think the only pricing email I have ever sent out was about kitchen cabinets.   And it never got answered.  But that is okay.. Why?? Like all of my painting skills… I researched and played with lots of different products and learned the hard way what worked and didn’t.  I learned over countless hours products that worked together and what products I absolutely would never use again.  That is something I enjoyed and loved every minute of, okay not the bad ones.  It developed my style and my way of doing things.  

This piece was my first that I sold.  I paid $75 for it and my husband drove out to Canton to get it.  I sold it to a single mom {who ended up being rather wealthy after a sob story- don’t get duped!!} that we delivered to over 40 minutes from us for are you ready $150.  What??!! Yes.  It cost me more than I got paid.  Don’t tell my husband!! That was in Oct 2011.  It’s done in Annie Sloan’s Coco.   I didn’t know any better on pricing.  And I figured it out over time!! Take the time to find your place and your way.  

first-piece-sold-by-vintage

You have to find your techniques, your own way of doing things, your own favorite brushes and paints.  My favorites may not feel right in your hand.  Your wrist movement may not be the same as mine and your finish preference may not be like mine.  That’s what makes us unique.  And people buy unique.  There are so many different brands of paints out there and each one has a specific thing that makes them unique {if they are wise}.  Chalk paint doesn’t work on every piece of furniture or accessory.  Spray paint has it’s place still.  Enamel paint, although extremely hard to clean up and work with, is absolutely the right paint for a high gloss piece- which by the way I still get requests to do.  Your interpretation can be totally different.  I love that about this business!!  Questions about paint might be truly #1 question I get… I know I use it all and you want to know the low down on them all.  I think if you read from start to finish on this little ol’ blog you’d get it all.  I love what I love and tell you what I don’t!! That’s me.  I truly don’t have a poker face and I am genuine about it.  Some like that and some don’t!! And that’s okay too!!

Annie Sloan Duck Egg and Country Grey

While buying my daughters uniforms yesterday, the lady asked what I did.  When I told her I restored and painted other peoples furniture she got so excited.  She said how much she loved to strip through layers of history and get to the bottom and see a whole new beginning.  I just smiled, that’s where the magic begins.  She asked if I ever had difficulty with clients visions versus my own… I laughed.  Typically people who come to me to get their pieces me, they’ve seen my work on Facebook or Pinterest or stumbled upon my blog.  I have had a few pieces that my vision was totally different and I had a hard time letting go, but honestly those are the pieces that are that much more rewarding!! Out of my comfort zone and yet so beautiful!!

Maison Blanche Wrought Iron and custom cream

Where am I going with this?  This therapy that turned business- is absolutely FULL-TIME.  I am not 9-5 by any means.  I am all the time.  I get emails after 9pm and if I am on- I answer.  I get texts before 6 am- I don’t get mad.  I get it- it’s when you are up and have a minute to ask a question.  It’s not my favorite thing to wake up to, but I understand.  I am blessed to be able to do something I love, I am passionate about, and truly being able to provide for my family at the same time.  Here’s the hard part for you- Knowing what you are worth & charging it.   I know what I am worth and I have found that through the last couple of years of doing what I am doing.  I believe in me, the experience I have, the products I use, the quality of finishes that I put out there.  Anyone can slap some paint on, scuff it up, and say ta-da.  Really anyone can.  But what you need to know, is those of us who do this full time.  Aren’t just slapping some paint on and selling at ridiculously low prices just make a few dollars for a lot of work.  I take extreme pride in what I deliver to my client.  I put a lot time, dedication to perfection, and love into each brush stroke.  Choosing colors and techniques with clients that work inside their homes and the way they do life. Those things you see are just to beginning of what it takes to keep this all going.  Balance is out the window and I take on too much and thank God every day that he blessed me with ADHD… yep, other’s think it’s a curse I am blessed!! 

So about pricing for my clients…

I get emailed weekly sometimes daily for my pricing guide.  Here’s the deal- I won’t send it out anymore.  I don’t really mind if you charge the same or charge under.  You aren’t taking business from me- there will always be plenty to go around no matter how saturated our market is.  But it’s what works for me and it likely won’t help you to understand what works for you.  And even if you aren’t local, my market is different than your’s likely. 

I have only gone up on the price of chairs since I started this business… Chairs are the enemy.  But darn it I love each one.  They truly take hours for each one.  I hand brush every spindle and every nook & cranny.  Then distressing and waxing every nook & cranny.  It takes a lot of time.  That’s why I love to do those in classes.  I want you to see the time it takes.  “it’s just a chair’  Why, Yes it is!! Have fun!! {insert a little sarcasm}  I worked hard to come up with my pricing.  I chose to go with a flat rate, rather than an hourly rate.  Why?  A client comes to you to know how much something is going to cost them to have redone.  The details of how long only matter to them in turn around time.  They only truly care that the end result is going to be beautiful in their home.  Boring them with details on how much everything is and how long it takes me to do this step and that- is just that, boring details.  So my flat rate is all inclusive of my labor, supplies, and materials.  It includes the hours of experience I bring into the process and it includes the amount I know I am giving back to my clients.  If you were to want to paint just a chair, let’s look at what it would cost you if you used my supplies.  

cane-french-chair-back-pain

Paint- in this case you could use a sample jar.  If it is just one color it would be $10.95 You’ll need Wax too- and likely you want clear but what if you want antiqued look, you’ll need dark.  Depending on brand you use it could cost you $27-$32 each.  Now to paint you’ll need brushes and sand paper.  You’ll need to clean your piece.  You’ll likely need buffing materials as well.  Brushes- Purdy Cub Style $13.95, Wax brush- $27.95  TSP to clean with $6.95, Sandpaper- because you can’t just buy one sheet at a time will likely cost you $10 total for multiple grits I use.  I use a buffing drill bit- $25 but you could use a rag or pad and spend a much longer time to the already hours you spent getting the coverage you needed on many details and spindles.  So where are we on the total for a chair??   $148.80 in materials and if you have more than one chair well change the sample to a $38.95 quart and add tax.   That doesn’t include the labor it takes.  Now, yes I already have a huge investment into brushes and materials that I use.  But I paid for them at some point and they get used and need to be replaced.  

French-Provincial-Benjamin Moore-Homestead Green

All these things get factored into what I charge.  I do mostly custom work and I know exactly how long it will take me to do a variety of projects and finishes.  I can’t help you figure that out.  What takes me 30 minutes may take you more or less.  There is not one detail in this business that isn’t hard work or wasn’t developed from taking time and putting in the hard work to figure it out.  You have to be willing to make mistakes, play around and ultimately figure out what works for yourself.  Trust me when you do, you will have found your worth!! And you will be able to own it.  Why do charge so much?  Why don’t you charge more?? If I tell you my prices and then you implement that as your own- you won’t be able to answer those questions.  And if that is okay with you- you are definitely in the wrong business.  Because this is hard physically and emotionally.  I know that may come off as rude or crass even.  But if I don’t say it someone else is saying it.  Knowing your marketplace where you are is also key.  Are there a lot of furniture painters?? What are the prices you are willing to pay per piece?  How far are you having to drive to find the piece?  How many hours did it take you to come up with the idea of the piece?? These are all things the buyer doesn’t think about.  But you are an artist.  It’s sooo much more than slapping paint onto a piece.  Every detail, every curve, it speaks to you.  It does to me.. if that means I am a little crazy that is okay!! 

Benjamin-Moore-Spring-Sky-d

My hours are crazy.  I told you I have 4 kids.  That is also why I love custom work.  I can do it when I need to and not worry about shop hours.  I can get up early, stay up late, and even not touch at all one day.  But I am in yoga pants and painting every day when I have clients pieces.  I give them a quick turnaround so they can have their pieces back quickly, without their lives being horribly disrupted.  If I have a client who is looking for a piece- I will help them find it but I let them see what they are paying.  I don’t find it and up-charge,  is that cutting my worth?? Nope, it’s helping them find a piece at an affordable price and allowing them to have it finished out in the way they love!! Now see, you might do that differently.  Many people find a piece for X amount charge a little more and tell you they’ll paint it for a little more than that… You think that person only charges $75 to paint a china hutch now and I am overpriced… NOT.  There is no worth in that.  And I am not apologetic about that at all. I can’t paint a piece for $75 in time and materials.  And I won’t.  But you have to do what works for you.  I just find it easier to charge what I charge and be honest or pass along the savings in the piece itself.  

On this beautiful table, I found it for the client.  It was an hour from my home and I did charge a small fee to go pick it up for her, but she got that table for a whopping $50.  And I charged her $125 to finish it out the way it is. I didn’t have either of the colors that she picked out to use… and it cost me $80 before tax to buy the paint and I still have that quart of Annie Sloan’s Aubusson Blue today- that is half full 3 pieces later.  I can’t charge her for the full amount of paint that she isn’t using… eventually it will get used.  But these are things to consider when you are going to price out your costs.  My way of thinking and doing, may not be your way.   As much as I would love to have the magical recipe to email everyone back with it’s just so much.  

Aubusson-Blue-Entry-Table-Makeover by Vintage Charm Restored

In the few times that I do buy something and paint to resale.  I know already what I would charge someone to have it painted.  If I can’t buy it and charge what I would charge to paint it, and then sell it for that price… I just pass on it.  That is how I price my pieces.  When I am given something to paint and sell, you get the savings.  I typically only charge what I would charge to paint it.  You have to believe in yourself and what you are worth.  You can’t sell super low just to sell.  Most furniture that is found and repainted is of such awesome quality that they just don’t make anymore.  Solid wood and dove tailed construction is worth more all by itself over pressed wood and stapled drawers that will fall apart from a teenage boy using it in years.  And unfortunately that awesome quality has sometimes seen batter days and just needs your awesome painting power to bring it new life!!   But you will have to paint a lot, work long hard hours in between all the other things that life throws at us, learn to price it, learn how to market yourself and keep up all the admin stuff that goes along with painting.  There isn’t much downtime.  There isn’t much beauty beyond the pieces you create.  Everything I own has paint on it, those oh quick let me do this coat real quick turns into a splatter here and there.  I often have paint in my hair and on my arms that I didn’t find in the shower.  Oh and showering, it’s a luxury most days.  Pony tails and yoga pants ladies, that’s the life for me!!  Ask my beloved therapists that see my little Miss Mia everyday, or the lovely parents that stand in line waiting for their children.  I gave up caring what I have on during the week.  I go out to eat in my paint clothes!! I am a walking advertisement for myself- literally!!  

So, when you get  a chance to take a picture of yourself without paint… go for it!! When clients meet you and you aren’t in paint clothes they never recognize you!! 🙂

Me- girl behind the paint.

Things that have changed since really being a business rather than a hobby,  I don’t call or email back on weekends unless I am not busy.  I give that time to my family.  I do let people drop off and I do deliver furniture back to people on weekends, but even that is more on my time than theirs/yours.  I love my clients and I try to be as available as possible but my family will always come first!! Which is why I will never have a shop full time. I will never be a furniture painting millionaire… heehee that sounds funny just typing!! I really do this still- because I absolutely LOVE it!!  Paint drama aside, it is the best “job” I could ever have for me!!  I’m only in competition with myself.  Still learning today, still trying new things, pushing products beyond their limits just to see… I love that I will never know it all… there will always be something different and new each day.  Meeting wonderful new people, hearing wonderful stories and bringing joy back to people through paint and furniture.  I have made wonderful friends through painting for them.  I get to share with readers beautiful projects and life happenings.  I get to test new products and tell you all about them.  I am doing what I love!! So if it’s what you want to do- find your place… find your style… find and play and do!! But mostly DO… because it’s a lot of doing!!

If this didn’t answer any of your questions still… well, I may not be the right one to answer.  I hope that you see this really is more than full time job & when you factor in your family too, it’s 2 full time jobs.  And I do it with a smile!! I can’t wait for the next client to come along with pieces that need to be loved on!! And God always provides.  I’m never without a fabulous client or a fabulous piece to work on.  I put it all in His hands a long time ago, and asked for His guidance and to keep me grounded!! He never gives me more than I can handle {although I’d argue that on some days!!}  It’s a business but it’s also a passion to share… and that’s a joy I can’t keep to myself!! 

If you made it down to this part, thank you for listening to me!! That was really really long!! Maybe I should have done bullet points and numbers… Seriously, y’all are awesome and I love ya!!

 

Comments

  1. Patty Soriano says:

    Lori, very well said ! I didn’t find it crass at all, only honest. If any reader finds it anything but honest, then they are missing something. I hope you don’t mind if some of your work winds up on Pinterest. It is great inspiration for those of us who look to improve curb finds or thrift store treasures. Not for profit, but to beautify our own homes. I’m sure many of us would love to make money from this “hobby” but it’s not always feasible. You have done what these folks all need to do, learn by doing. But you do give some great ideas for us to think about, and for that I am thankful.

    Blessings to you and yours.

    Patty Soriano
    Castroville, texas

  2. Lori…I always enjoy seeing an email from you! You’ve said it well and bullet points wouldn’t have worked here. You had a lot to say and you said it very well…your family comes before any of those other things that pull at you! Have a wonderful weekend…hope fall is in the air in McKinney!
    Sincerely,
    June

  3. Lori, you were very honest and like you said…some may like that and others may not…I do! Thank you for the info and have a wonderful weekend with your family! BTW ALL of your pieces are beautiful…thank you for the inspiration. Madie

  4. Very, Very well said! Thank you for taking the time to write this post. Nice. 🙂
    Lori@Thee Velvet Glove recently posted…Fifi Chic – Vanity and MirrorMy Profile

  5. IDK why my link is on this comment. I tried to edit it after the post but can’t figure out how to do it. LOL

  6. You are amazing. I am in awe of your teachings. I have just begun. Using the maison Blanche paint. Going to purchase a wax or two today. I can’t tell u how excited I am to find your website, made my day. I love your tips and tutorials.

  7. Wow, this post is amazing, it is like you got inside my head and wrote down everything I think and feel about my furniture painting business, with much more eloquence than I ever could have 🙂

    xx Karen

  8. Katherine Pittman says:

    Like your thinking (and how you relay in in your writing). Inspiring

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