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About Me

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My name is Gerrie Wydeven doing-business-as Wydeven Designs. I have been conducting this small GREEN business since 2004. Wydeven Designs, based in the Atlanta, Georgia area, sells CHAIRS, LOVESEATS, CHAISES, SETTEES and other fine, well-constructed refurbished upholstered pieces. I love to travel, cook, take photographs and generally follow style and decor topics as well!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fabrics, Fabrics, Fabrics - Buying

Fabric Room

More Fabrics
The professional upholstery costs are my highest single expense when refurbishing furniture - I try to get exceptional prices on the furniture and fabrics.  Finding great fabrics at HUGELY reduced prices is quite a trick.  Since I have always loved fabrics (my mother was a professional seamstress/tailor), it is a quest that I enjoy.  In fact, I started collecting fabrics long before knowing what I was going to do with them - starting with a "fabric closet" and now a "fabric room" - which prompted me to get into this business - I had to do something with all these fabrics!

In the continued spirit of giving away (almost) all my secrets, here are some sources I have used to buy discounted, wonderful fabrics:

  • Fabric Stores - cruise the discount racks at fabric stores like Calico Corners - I am not afraid to approach the store manager to ask for better prices on something that's been there awhile (doesn't always or even often work, but it doesn't hurt to ask)
  • Ebay - there are several sellers that have good sized pieces of decorator fabrics available at great prices (my satisfaction quotient is about 80% - I end up giving away, selling or donating ones that turned out to be other than expected)
  • Craigslist and garage sales - search for "fabrics" - often people buy pieces that they end up not using - these are usually the least expensive
  • Close-outs of stores/shops/businesses - I was fortunate enough to be at two Calico Corners store closings and the retirement of a local, internationally known designer and bought as much as I could haul away
  • Remnant sales for custom work businesses - I have been attending the annual (or semi-annual) sale of a local window treatment and bedding designer (links to Kay's Kovers) for over 20 years - and buying 100-200 yards of fabrics at most sales.
A really important point to remember is to NEVER use inferior materials when refurbishing good furniture - the upholstery costs are the same as for better fabrics and the fabric is the most visible aspect of the piece.  

Good Luck!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shopping the Garage Sales

Today is Saturday and, like most saturdays all year round, I am joining my buddy to go garage/estate sale shopping.   I started going to these sales when I was MUCH younger with my ex-mother-in-law.    As a young (and poor) married bride, we didn't have the funds to go out and buy new furniture and other household items, so she introduced me to sales and auctions.  I quickly found that it was fun and exciting to seek and find these treasures and credit her for instilling in me the love of the hunt!  Today, I conservatively estimate that 85% of my household stuff including furniture has been purchased at garage and estate sales - and I am SO proud of it!

Here are some pointers to make your experience at garage sales successful - professionally-run estate sales are a different animal and I will deal with those separately:

  •  Do your homework in advance - Craigslist and local papers are your best sources 
  • Bring the right sized vehicle for your intended purchased (you'd be surprised!) and large bags for carrying your loot
  • Plan your route carefully - the first arrivals usually get the best stuff so it is important to look at start times and plan routes to get to as many of the best sales as early as possible - just before set-up is ideal (some people like dealers arrive at ungodly hours and often get cursed by frantic sellers who are not yet quite ready)
  • Offer less than asking - unless the price is already ridiculously low, bargaining is expected - but don't insult the seller - I find that offering 10-30% off of the asking price is about the right amount (more if it is later in day)
  • If you are looking for a particular item, ask to make sure you get to it as quickly as possible - AND, something that has happened to me quite often, sometimes the seller does have what you are looking for but has forgotten to put it out
  • Check over the item very carefully before offering to buy 
  • Never insult seller by telling them their stuff is overpriced - it's not your place and they'll find out anyway (exception is if they ask you if their prices are in-line with other sales - it does happen)
Good Hunting!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Selecting and Working with a Good Upholsterer!

Re-upholstering costs are my highest single expense.  I have had over 700 pieces professionally re-upholstered over the past 10+ years (at least a dozen of my own furniture) and have some suggestions about what to look for in good upholstery work - I will discuss expected prices in a separate blog:

  • Choose a reputable upholsterer based on observed work (visit the shop at different times) and references
  • Ask about pickup and delivery options including any additional costs for the service
  • Ensure that no one is smoking in the shop - the odor will linger in your fabrics
  • Check for pattern placement and matching - if there is more than one option for pattern placement, discuss with upholsterer in advance (e.g. direction and correct side of fabric)
  • If a new seat cushion is needed, the upholsterer will generally provide foam - ask that it be "softened" by wrapping in Dacron or similar sheeting (this trick can also be used to add heft to a too-flat pillow)
  • Ask about single or double-cording and consider whether contrasting piping might add to the piece
  • Ensure that 8-way hand-tied coil springs are checked and retied if necessary (may even need to be replaced) 
  • Ensure that dirty, smelly, or inadequate fillers are replaced and/or enhanced
  • If you are redoing woodwork, have it done after removing old fabric and before recovering chair (many upholsterers either directly provide that service or can have it done for you)
  • Clean woodwork including eliminating any oils before having redone - oils can get on the fabrics (see my blog about refurbishing wood - use GOOF OFF or similar cleaner)
  • Get all pricing up front including any contingencies (e.g, don't know how much filler - added work required once old fabric is removed) - this should not happen often and only for the most complex and/or "destroyed" pieces
  • When picking up (or having delivered) completed piece,  check carefully before paying - reject for re-work if not satisfied
  • Buy and bring your own fabrics (make sure the quality is worth the expense) - most upholsterers can order for you but it will cost more
    Pattern Matching
    Pattern Matching and Placement 

Pattern Matching
I use Song's Upholstery of Norcross, GA almost exclusively and highly recommend them for their prompt and professional work!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Craigslist Buying Tips

Previously, I wrote about selling things using Craigslist.   Here, I'd like to talk about buying - kind of a combination of good practices and old fashioned etiquette:

  • Use either the search engine or the categories to save time - going through ads one by one is slow 
  • When searching, recognize that others may not use the same naming conventions you use - be creative in your search
  • Respond immediately if you MIGHT be interested - these things go very fast
  • Ask all questions up front - you don't want to waste your time nor the listers
  • Even if you call a seller (number is provided in ad), send an email as well - this can help indicate strong interest and will help you find which ad(s) you responded to later when you get responses  - the original ad will be incorporated/linked in the return message as well as in your sent message
  • If you are strongly interested and have sufficient information, suggest earliest possible time/date for meeting with lister - recognize that some listers will indicate that if someone can come earlier, they will sell to earliest person to show up with the cash
  • If you intend to offer less than asking price, indicate that up-front to determine willingness of lister to sell at that price
  • Get address information (double check if using GPS to make sure address is likely to be found or nearest address that would be on GPS) and ask for phone number in case you get lost or need to change plans
  • Always tell lister if you change your mind about plan to meet
  • Always bring cash - nothing else is acceptable
  • Only if item is much less valuable for reasons you can articulate once you see it, offer less if you are still interested
Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Love Bright Colors in Home Design

Woodmark Chairs in Dorothy Orange

Apple Green Chair (SOLD)

George V Chairs (SOLD)

Northside Chair (PAIR)
Ever since painting the family room in our last home a hot "bordello" pink (so dubbed by my daughter as in: "You are NOT going to leave that color on the wall - are you?"), I have been more interested in bright colors in home decor than the creams and grays and taupes I see in so many of the (few) remaining furniture stores.  I think they just brighten the space and speak volumes about the buyer/home owner's design comfort level.  Even my daughter has a brightly painted and furnished home - something for which I give myself some credit!  I have some eye-popping pieces in my furniture collection that really speak to me!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shopping at Goodwill Industries

It is Tuesday which means it is Goodwill Day for me - I'll explain later.  There are many Goodwill Donation Centers and Stores throughout the area - in all parts of Atlanta.  They seem to have blossomed while the general economy has weakened.  Many people, including me, donate GREAT items to Goodwill all the time.  I donated over 150 yards of new fabrics last year - either ends or larger pieces I no longer wanted to use.  The Goodwill business model is simple and compelling - they just want to create and sustain jobs.  Because of that, their stores are well stocked and maintained and they have courteous and helpful staff.   There are four categories of things I buy:
  • Down/feather pillow inserts (just toss the covers) - I've bought dozens
  • Well constructed furniture in need of refurbishing - just bought a Baker (no less) love seat for $33.00
  • Designer handbags  - I've bought Prada, Douney & Bourke and Kate Spade for a song
  • Paperback books - all types
So why is Tuesday so special!  Today is senior citizen day and I quality - so I get a whopping 25% off!  As cheap as I am, this really incentivizes me to get out and shop!  So, here's a cheer for Goodwill Industries!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Craigslist Listing Tips - A Good Source!

I have been using Craigslist (Atlanta) for several years as a major source of "heirloom-quality" furniture in need of refurbishing.   The ads are free and there are a lot viewers/users - so there is no down side.  Here are some suggestions for listing - later I'll be adding buying tips.

Listing Suggestions:

  • Describe VERY briefly what you are selling in header - avoid all caps - and include price (e.g., Pair - Sherrill Club Chairs - $200) - the key words are important here to make sure buyers find you!
  • Use separate ad for each item - do not mix together (see note above - the ads are free) - items that are hidden are harder to find!
  • For furniture, always include at least one clear photo - no exceptions!  More are helpful! 
  • Do indicate where you are located with enough specificity to help people figure out whether they are willing and able to get to you (e.g, NOT Atlanta but Buckhead).
  • Always list price - do not ask for offers - do indicate whether you are firm or negotiable on price.
  • For furniture - include dimensions and brand name if you have it - these are the questions most people ask.  
  • Do not include phone number in ad - you can always provide that to legitimate potential buyers when they respond via email.
  • Respond first come - first serve to all legitimate sounding inquiries - you'll know them when you see them.
  • Inform all who inquire about piece when it is sold.
  • Take ad down immediately when it is sold.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Greyhound Package Express Shipping

Today, I have to drop off two furniture shipments at my local Greyhound station (Norcross, GA) to use their Package Express Service Link to Greyhound Package Express.  The shipments are going to Fredericksburg, VA and St. Louis, MO.  I have been using this fine service for over seven years with hundreds of shipments.  It is quick, reliable and cheap!!   Since the pieces travel under the passenger bus in the cargo area, there are some dimension limitations (one length must be 30" or less and the longest cannot be over 80") but about 90% of my refurbished pieces can be shipped using Greyhound.

Packaging Products
I have also learned (sometimes the hard way) what I need to do to make sure that the piece travels well and gets delivered damage-free.  I am sharing some tips and techniques - what I use to secure bulky, fragile pieces for which I simply cannot get boxes or other containers that fit into their size restrictions (and my cost limitations).  I use commercial strength bubble wrap ordered from eSupply Link to eSupply Store in both the 12" and 24";   Scotch Packaging Tape bought in bulk from Costco; and,  shrink wrap purchased at a local office supply store.  My husband has cleverly devised a system to provide extra security for vulnerable chair legs - securing wooden slats to provide more stability - which have (knock on wood) pretty well eliminated the most common damage claims I've had - broken legs caused by dragging the heavier pieces.  Here are some photos that show the end result and why this service works so well for me - it takes extra time but it pays off - my clients have been happy with the reasonable shipping rates and I have been happy with the delivery process - a win-win!

Packaged Chair
Slat Security Solution

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Freight Shipping Options I Like!

One of my biggest challenges is to find reliable, reasonable shipping in order to sell my products throughout the continental USA.  I have been using Greyhound Package Express Link to Greyhound Shipping for at least seven years and hundreds of shipments.  They are quick and reasonable.  The downside is that is I must package bulky and heavy items VERY SECURELY (sans box) and deliver to the local (Norcross, GA) bus station and that the buyer/client must pick up at the other end.  I have found the folks at Greyhound to be caring and helpful!  The other major option I have more recently discovered is TSC Moving Link to TSC Moving.  Unfortunately, their delivery area is only about 50% of the country but their prices, particularly for multiple items, sometimes meet or beat the Greyhound prices.  TSC Moving is a blanket-wrap service - they pick up and drop off.  Their turnaround time is as much as six weeks.  Their drivers and handlers are without exception courteous and careful AND I have had exactly "0" problems with them!  Both are highly recommended!

Friday, February 18, 2011

I love Calico Corners!

Vintage Chairs in Garden District

Club Chair in Tip-Top - Sun

French Love Seat (SOLD)

Wingback in Cielo - Pear

French Chair - Buttercup (SOLD)

Loving fabrics as I do, I have been haunting Calico Corners stores for well over 20 years.  Link to Calico Corners  There are two stores in the Atlanta area that I frequent- one in Dunwoody and the other in the Buckhead area of the city.  One thing I love is how they name their fabrics.  The words are lyrical and fun and convey visual strong visual images.  Here are some of my current favorite items refurbished in Calico Corners fabrics:

The manager of the Buckhead store, Sheryee McCormick (don't you love the spelling of that name) has been a great advisor, counselor and supporter of my little business.  Here's a SHOUT out to the fine folks at Calico Corners and their fabulous fabrics!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Praise of Hickory Chair

Jamestown Plantation Wingback Chairs

Side Chairs

Vintage Club Chairs
One of my interests is to refurbish (and prolong the life of) great American crafted furniture.  Amongst the best, and fortunately still in existence, is Hickory Chair out of Hickory, North Carolina Hickory Chair  If I find a good priced piece of Hickory Chair upholstered furniture, I buy it immediately - the construction quality and elegant craftsmanship is superb!!  Here are some pieces - both vintage and newer - of Hickory Chair furniture in my current inventory.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is the Furniture Worth Reupholstering - the Foundation?

Thanks to an elderly furniture salesman that I met while trying to help my daughter with her first sofa purchase, I found the value of 8-way hand-tied coil springs.   He told us that only the very best furniture makers use them and that they were REALLY important in determining the long-time comfort and durability of upholstered pieces.  You can easily tell (I can do it in less that 5 seconds) whether the springs exist or not - just feel UNDER the piece not just under the chair/sofa cushion - for the large round coils - sometimes held in place by a latticed metal network.  When I buy pieces and consider whether they are worth making the large investment in fabric and upholstery labor, I always check for these coils.  If they are there, it's worth redoing the piece - if not, check for other signs of "worthiness" but, generally, it's not worth the expense!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saved from the Dumpster - You can do this too!

Here is an example of a piece of furniture literally saved from the dumpster.  The woodwork was badly scarred, the hand-tied 8-coil springs (more on that later) were falling out along with assorted innards.  I wish I had the before picture but look at this beauty now!  I call it my Morningside Settee - named for an Atlanta neighborhood (site of estate sale where it was purchased)!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wydeven Designs Gets Chinese Press

I have recently received a Link to Chinese Language Website which features before and after pictures provided by client in New York area - my pieces include the French Chair and Ottoman, the two Slipper Chairs, the Upholstered Dining Chairs and the runner - we worked collaboratively on this and it turned out so well.  Thanks Nancy!