Few things excite Michelle Clayton-Wood more than the feat of saving solid Canadian-made furniture from going to the landfill. The owner of Whatnot’s Gift Shop in historic downtown Newmarket is one of many spearheading the upcycling trend, transforming used and dated furniture with new life.
Her shop is packed with vintage and rustic pieces that Clayton-Wood and her team refinished in-house using Fusion Mineral Paint, a Canadian brand available for sale at Whatnot’s in all shades and colours. A beautiful buffet table recently painted in black and teal rests against the back wall of the shop, ready to grace someone’s home as a new kitchen island or bar. Beside it, various chairs and consoles patiently await their turn at a makeover.
“For me, it doesn’t get any better than selling good Canadian furniture upcycled with Fusion paint, and keeping our past from going in the garbage,” says Clayton-Wood, recently named a 2017 finalist for the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce ‘Innovator of the Year’ Business Excellence Award.
But it’s not just the finding, refinishing and selling of furniture Clayton-Wood enjoys. She’s passionate about spreading awareness around the importance of upcycling within her community, and teaching others how to transform their old furniture into works of art.
Canada produces over 25-million tonnes of waste each year, 9-million of which comes from Ontario. The waste disposal issue may be grand and global, but change starts right here at home. Every piece of furniture that is upcycled rather than disposed of can help make a difference.
You don’t have to be an avid crafter to do it yourself. In addition to selling the furniture she refinishes herself at the Gift Shop, Clayton-Wood has opened a new workshop studio just down the street, where she hosts classes for community members looking to learn how to upcycle pieces they bring from home.
“Many of my customers are starting their own side businesses upcycling furniture, and it’s creating a new industry,” Clayton-Wood says. “That’s huge, I think.”
There are a number of different techniques involved in upcycling furniture. It depends on the style, the finish, and the owner’s personal taste. “A little prep goes a long way,” Clayton-Wood says. Optimal results take time and attention to detail. While it’s not difficult to do on your own, it’s worth taking a basic 101 Fusion Paint workshop, where you’ll learn about pairing different types of wood with the right Fusion products. The workshops at Whatnot’s generally run for a couple of hours, as Clayton-Wood guides participants through the step-by-step process, from start to finish.
“You can bring in a small project for the workshop, and you’ll leave with a finished piece and the confidence to tackle your aunt’s heirloom buffet,” she says. For more information on dates and times of upcoming workshops, it’s best to connect with the shop directly.
Of course, if you’re not feeling up to the challenge, you can also do your part to keep pieces out of the landfills by buying upcycled and refinished furniture. “I will keep an eye out for treasures on your behalf if you’re looking for something specific,” Clayton-Wood says. “One woman called today looking for a dresser for her child’s bedroom. She sent an image of a piece she saw on Pinterest, so I’m on the hunt for that.”
And with new pieces coming in and going out daily, the studio transforms every single week. Head over to Timothy Street and see for yourself.
by Charlotte Ottaway
Whatnot’s Gift Shop