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Northport artist refinishes old furniture with enchanting detail

Tue, 12/22/2020 - 11:15am

    NORTHPORT—Back in April, The Atlantic magazine wrote a story about how making old-fashioned crafts during the pandemic could ease anxiety. Millions of crafters took that to heart, and with the COVID-19 virus still raging on nine months later, many burgeoning creators have taken to Instagram, YouTube, and other online resources to make something beautiful.

    One such artist, Shelby Connolly, from Northport, found her niche that way. After purchasing secondhand furniture such as dressers, trunks, and jewelry armoires, Connolly has created a cottage industry called Mainely Homespun, using her natural talent as well as pre-made design tools to refinish the items into stunning, fairytale pieces. 

    Connolly, a mother of two toddlers, needed something to occupy her time when the pandemic first hit.

    “ I started this process just to do something for myself during nap times and at night just to relax,” she said.

    A self-described DIY fanatic, Connolly said she had been refinishing furniture for about a year, teaching herself how to paint, decoupage, and use creative stencils, transfers, and moulds to transform the furniture. She decided to start an official business after being inspired by a similar crafter’s Facebook page.

    “I first picked up an old oak entertainment center in Rockland and painted it with chalk paint, then put a decal, what we call a ‘transfer image’ on it and ended up selling it,” she said. “After that, I was like ‘Okay, let’s try another!’”

    One of the secrets to Connolly's furniture appeal is that she uses Redesign by Prima, a line of DIY products that allow artists to redesign, repaint, and retexture the furniture. She has also created a side hustle as a Redesign by Prima retailer, and regularly blogs about how she does her artistry through tutorials.

    Like any self-taught artist, she has a plethora of tools to choose from, but it’s her own aesthetic she calls “Farmhouse and Cottage style to French Chateau Chic” that transforms these pieces into works of functional art.

    Her pink-striped vanity with mirror is emblematic of her unique style, using certain painting techniques, pale pink colors, and neutral, feminine tones.

    “Each piece is different,” she said. “I do like the Shabby Chic vibe and that vanity has a sweet and petite look to it. I just kept picturing it in some old run-down chateau in France.”

    “I’ll buy a piece, then think about it, what vibe I want and from there, I’ll paint colors, transfer, decoupage papers onto it,” she said. “For this one, I love stripes, so I just taped off the top drawers with painter’s tape and used decoupage paper on the front. And for the warm look around the edges, I used a product that’s almost like loose eyeshadow and mixed two different techniques.”

    Some of her furniture designs gravitate toward what she calls “crazy colors, patterns, and florals, which are more rustic and primitive,” such as a magnificent jewelry armoire in deep blues and greens.

    She also brings glam to everyday objects, such as a gumball machine, which looks like a prop on a vintage carousel.

    “I actually buy them on eBay and Amazon new and just prime the metal and do my designs on them,” she said. “I do love doing it and mixing certain elements. it’s super fun.”

    Connolly has a website, but primarily sells her pieces through Facebook Marketplace.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at