Bonnie Poythress finds vintage furniture and restores it with a fresh twist

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Bonnie Poythress with some of her furniture finds that she will give a bold new look. (Laura Simon)

For Bonnie Poythress, a successful shopping trip is one where she arrives home with an assortment of secondhand furniture finagled into the back of her car. Be it dirty, broken or just plain ugly, Bonnie has a plan for every piece she brings home: to clean it, restore it and sell it.

"It looks old and tired in my eyes. I like taking stuff that has character and making it fresh again and functional," she says.

Bonnie says she has "fiddled around" with furniture since she was in her 20s. She taught herself through trial and error, and also learned some tricks about color, texture and painting from friends who are artists.

"My mom was an incredible seamstress," she adds. "She really liked working with her hands. I picked up a lot of stuff from her. ... I can't hold a candle to the sewing my mom did, but I've got a good eye."

As a mom of five and a grandmother of two, Bonnie is most interested in pieces that are durable, like solid wood pieces that have already withstood the test of time (and children!), but simply need an update.

"I like things that are different -- the curve of the leg on a chair, the weave in the seat, the detail work in it," she says. "If it's broken and something I know I can fix, I can get it for a better price and I also have more flexibility with what I can do with it."

Bonnie's first step is always to scrub the piece clean with Murphy soap and let it dry. From there she sands, primes and paints, sometimes adding upholstery or slipcovers or distressing the piece for a more primitive look. Her best-sellers are usually black, white or turquoise, but Bonnie says she likes to push herself beyond what she's normally comfortable with, especially when it comes to color. Once, she found an old cabinet and turned it into a wine cabinet, painting it a deep aubergine purple. With accent pieces, she says, you can get away with colors and patterns you probably wouldn't use throughout the house.

On her ideas and inspiration, she jokes, "I'm old. I've seen a lot! I know that I personally like things a little more classic. I'm a little bit of a cross between traditional and country."

Bonnie grew up in Cape Girardeau and earned a degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She lived in several other states before settling in Jackson to raise her kids and be close to family. Now that the busiest of her working and parenting years are over, she's enjoying the chance to spend more time on furniture projects.

"I got out of it some when I was having kids, and got back into it more as my kids left home," she says. "I really got into it full blast as they started getting their first apartments. I love to do that."

Bonnie sells her pieces at Brick Street Gallery in downtown Cape Girardeau and also does some contract work for people who are looking for something specific. She's also done some home staging and even "flipped" a few houses.

"The main thing I learned over the years is that I want somebody to walk into a room and see my pieces and for it to be uplifting," says Bonnie. "I want them to be energized and feel good."

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