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Repurpose ‘throwaway’ furniture, the easy way

By Staff | Jan 24, 2018

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Joni Johnson and Jackie Helfmann are transitioning their downtown Muncy store, Blessings by Design, into a paint studio so they can offer classes to the local community on how to use their exquisite line of Annie Sloan chalk paint. Pictured with them is an old Motorola cabinet that they transformed into a cool wine rack with serving bar.

MUNCY – “No sanding, no staining, no priming, just paint,” said Jackie Helfmann, co-owner of Blessings by Design and whose vision is to transform old pieces of furniture with a new updated look.

Upon finding their ideal location to market their Annie Sloan chalk paint in downtown Muncy three years ago, Helfmann and her partner, Joni Johnson, never thought their creativity would inspire others to follow.

A new paint studio soon will take the place of most of the retail space inside the store located at 29 S. Main Street, and monthly education classes on the art of painting with this exclusive patented chalk paint will be offered to the community.

Annie Sloan is a famous chalk paint that was developed in 1990 and only 819 stores in the United States carry the paint. Its origins go back to Oxford, England. “This decorative paint does not have chalk in it,” acknowledged Helfmann. “It is because of the finish.” This green-friendly paint can be applied to any surface. It has a wax based finish with no chemicals and no sanding or priming is necessary. “I want to educate others how to repurpose old treasures,” she added. “There is love and creativity in everything.”

Annie Sloan paint took off in the United States shortly after the Katrina storm hit New Orleans and the paint became resourceful in the restoration process. “It started to unfold. You will never see it in K-Mart or chain stores,” said Helfmann. “It is very durable. There are knock-offs, but they keep peeling and chipping.”

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Co-owner, Jackie Helfmann of Blessings by Design, shows how their line of chalk paint can be applied to old furniture to give it a new updated look with some stenciling and distressing techniques which are now offered in workshops at their store on 29 S. Main St. in Muncy. The first painting class will be held this Saturday morning.

The paint is mainly sold in small shops. It is community-based and Blessings by Design attracts customers from outside the Muncy area as well. Helfmann took a class five years ago in Quakertown, the closest place from here to learn how to become a retailer for the paint. Johnson quipped, “She had this insane idea to start a store!”

“It was a process to get the distributorship,” Johnson said, ” and a huge initial investment.” The two women had to purchase ten thousand dollars worth of paint. “I had to take classes in Louisianna so I was able to stock the paint product,” Helfmann said.

The store took on a French “shabby chic” country look and pieces of furniture were transformed into a total new look. Johnson said that each piece she put into the store’s window front would sell quickly. “We built our store around Annie Sloan paint.” They look for well built old hutches at estate sales and thrift shops, and antique buffet tables are especially popular for that “vintage floral style.”

Now the two women are going to liquidate their pottery and jewelry line and some of the decor accessories, and focus on the paint and community classes. More space was needed for the customers who requested more training on the techniques. Up to now, classes were taught using molding strips to learn a few refinishing techniques such as stenciling, decoupage and copper leaf. “We want to teach more, how to use the paints and glazes and develop some distressing techniques.”

Classes currently remain small, approximately six but the expanded space will allow more to participate. All tools are provided for the classes. “It pays to have good quality tools and brushes,” they said.

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Distressing techniques using molding strips are used to learn how to apply Annie Sloan chalk paint at Blessings by Design paint studio in downtown Muncy. Classes are held Saturday mornings.

During the transition, a discount of 25 percent is being offered on most of the gift items until everything is gone. Classes will start this Saturday, January 27 and a paint bar will be added to test colors. Annie Sloan colors are easily mixed and blended for a whole new color. The colors can be applied to any clean surface.

Some fabulous examples can be found on their website at www.blessingsbydesign.com. New colors are introduced and some become limited editions. Johnson pointed out the new Lem Lem, a soft, warm green inspired by allium fields Annie saw in Ethiopia at a farm grown by women in support of Oxfam’s Ethiopian Seed Project. “Some of the sale proceeds will go towards this project,” Johnson said, “and help fight poverty worldwide.”

The paint goes a long way too, so not to be alarmed at the higher cost. One quart can cover about 150 square feet, and there is no primer or sealer. There are 35 custom colors.

“We will teach custom work,” Johnson added. The business women are creating studio space for those who want to bring in their own home decor item or furniture piece, usually a small wooden table or tray work best. The shop owners will help design and choose colors if desired, and all tools and accessories can be purchased at the store. “We will feature a piece once a month, and also a color to show there are custom piece colors,” explained Johnson.

The first class will be January 27 from 9-11 a.m. and will specialize in the basics of wet distressing and color wash. The next class is February 7 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and vintage techniques using wax finishing along with the fundamentals of wet distressing will be presented.

Kids classes will be offered as well, with a start on painting small glass bottles, working on floral designs, stenciling and learning the art of decopauge with dinner napkins. A schedule will be posted soon.

In March a class on painting kitchen cabinetry will be introduced for anyone interested in an “easy kitchen re-do.” Small pieces of cabinetry will be available for this class.

The shop is open every week Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5, or by appointment and Saturday mornings are open for classes and workshops. Call 570-220-5196 to schedule a time or to inquire for more information.