Christie Carter-Tokairin furnished her first apartment with old pieces she found in Lethbridge’s alleyways.
At that point she was no stranger to upcycling old furniture. When she was about 13, she got a dresser from a buy and sell advertisement.
“I remember getting it and it had flowers all over it and I hated it,” she said. “I painted that thing six or seven times in the course of its life. I don’t know if it crumbled from the weight of paint or what,” she laughed.
Carter-Tokairin had many hand-me-down furniture items growing up, she said, so her mother would give her a can of paint and she’d get to work making them her own.
When it came to furnishing her own place in Lethbridge, she found a kitchen table, chairs, side tables, book shelves and a desk that were bound for the dump. But when she was done with them they were refinished, modern pieces.
“All my best pieces were headed for the dump,” she said.
While living in Calgary with her husband she continued to give new life to old pieces, and before she knew it friends and family were requesting she make them furniture, and asking to buy her existing pieces. A few years after she sold her first piece of furniture she had a year-long waiting list.
“I was pretty proud of it because I was just in my basement in Calgary and I thought, people found me? That was impressive.”
Just over a year ago Carter-Tokairin and her husband were on vacation, driving up Island from Victoria. She became car sick and asked her husband to stop at the next town. It was a place she had never even heard of, Qualicum Beach.
“We walked around and then I thought, ‘I love it here, we should move,’ so we went home and listed our house and moved here three months later.”
Carter-Tokairin recently opened ReVived Vintage in Qualicum Beach, where she sells her one-of-a-kind, artistically inspired refinished furniture. She has made most of the pieces in the store, and there are a couple items by local artisans. She also does custom work for which there’s a bit of a waiting list.
A large wooden hutch in the store has been stripped and re-stained, and water damage in the side panels has been fixed and painted to look like copper. The front drawers have hand-painted stripes and she refinished the inside of all the drawers and cupboards. Finally she sealed it with beeswax from Salt Spring Island.
“I seal everything with beeswax. It’s natural, environmentally friendly, it’s super durable and it smells like honey.”
Carter-Tokairin also sells Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint from Toronto and Van Gogh Chalk Paint from the Lower Mainland in her store. She currently holds workshops on how to paint furniture with both products. She’ll also offer workshops in the fall on how to upcycle furniture.
Carter-Tokairin said she believes everyone has some sort of sentimental attachment to a piece of furniture, and upcycling offers the chance to keep those pieces forever.
“You might want your Grandma’s table that you spent every Christmas having dinner on, but you don’t really want your Grandma’s table,” she said. “You want to make it your own. You want the bones to be the table you sat at.”
Old furniture is generally high quality, she said, far better than most things sold today, and will last much longer.
The other positive thing about learning to upcycle your own furniture, she said, is your house won’t look like anyone else’s, but will instead show your own personality and character.
ReVived Vintage is located at Unit 101-664 Beach Rd. Visit the website for more information on workshops at www.revived-vintage.com, or call 250-927-1308, or find the store on Facebook.