Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sue Whitney Talks JUNK - Interview with the Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art

The Fort Worth Show welcomes Queen of Junk Sue Whitney to our 55th year show. Sue will offer a hands-on furniture revival project and sign copies of her books, JUNK Beautiful: Furniture ReFreshed... JUNK Beautiful: Outdoor Edition & more. Sue will be with us Fri March 2, 10-6 and Sat March 3, 10-4. The show continues Sun March 4, 10-5.

 Fort Worth Show: Sue, when you first started JunkMARKET Style, what drew you to vintage items and up-cycling? Did you realize that the public would find it so intriguing?
   When I started, I had been a stay at home mom for 15 years, raising my kids. At first I could not afford antique and vintage items, so I looked for junk –things that no one wanted or knew what to do with. In one year I went from a 900 square foot building to 7,000 square feet full of design projects based on junk. This growth told me that there was a void in the market. My first occasional sale drew 35 people, all my friends and family. After that the business skyrocketed. My son would joke about my shoppers as women “with designer handbags loading up on junk.”
   Junk was built to last – tractor implements, corn discs, old table legs, chair parts…useless in their former purpose, but ready to be re-imagined. I tried to encourage being creative with true junk and being respectful of real antiques – not just painting everything turquoise! 

Fort Worth Show: Is fake vintage/fake industrial, like Restoration Hardware, a good investment? 

   No. They are probably built better than IKEA, but they are not style-makers. Both RH and Pottery Barn send their buyers out to shows like The Fort Worth Show of Antique & Art to copy and reproduce what antiques dealers find and create. They give the look, but they can never reproduce the real thing. Lift up a fake vintage table. Lift up a real vintage table ---much heavier and durable. Does the fake look good? Yes. Is it unique? No.
  The only way to get a style of your own is to acquire it one piece at a time and put them together in a way that only you would do. Your home is not a catalogue.

Fort Worth Show: In Furniture ReFreshed, what are some of the techniques that you show for improving old furniture and junk?
    You learn in the book how to use an intentional glaze by Valspar. Vintage pieces get patina and crackle selectively –not all over. I try to show the difference between merely changing a look and actually improving a look. I did the glaze on a large sideboard/cabinet that had been hobbled together. The front was old, the back and shelves were added later. It was a great piece to pull together with a deep gray paint and the crackle glaze. I painted the interior back and shelves a “JUNKMARKET green” so that it has an olive pop, which gives a modern tweek. It is a great piece.
One chapter in the book has a very easy project: a medical/dental tray stand up-cycled as a blanket holder. Sometimes abuse and the elements make a piece look better! On this piece, the metal had a great patina. All I did was remove the lead paint flakes and seal with poly. I used an old technique, Naval Jelly, to remove the rust. Then I used Penetrol, also an old product, to prepare the metal before I sealed it.
   In another chapter, I took a damaged old Art Deco desk and simply fixed the wood surface. I used a broken piece from the desk in a new way, as part of a mirror – it lived on in a creative way.

Fort Worth Show: Your upcoming book is called JUNK Beautiful: She Sheds. What is a “She Shed” and why do we need one?
    A She Shed is a new form of human cave—a place to hang out, eat, watch TV or use for artistic projects. A She Shed could be outdoors or it could be inside your home. It is a place to get away to, without actually going away. In my upcoming book, She Sheds, I feature several style-makers who have unique She Sheds. One example of a She Shed was a former cattle trailer. It took two days to de-poop.  Now it’s a writing shed, a very modern and fresh environment. This shed is mine. I get to leave my house, walk a few steps and find a private and serene place to write.
   A She Shed could be a wooden shed, an enclosed pergola, it could have an indoor/outdoor function. I did a She Shed for a woman flower grower who supplies weddings and banquets. Her shed has an attached flagstone patio, an indoor work space as well as a spot to relax. I worked on a She Shed for three sisters in Minnesota who hijacked a storage shed from one of their husbands to create a place for them to have sister re-unions, a place to drink tea by day and wine by night. She Sheds are a practical form of escape and personal renewal.

Fort Worth Show: Our 55th year show theme is “Revive! Revamp! Renew!” If your home is feeling a little blah, what is the best thing you can do to revive and renew your home? Where do you start?
    Start by moving the furniture around. If you buy things that you love, they will always work. But think –will it work in the kitchen? The bedroom? The living room? Anything you love can go just about anywhere. Move things around. Then think about buying accessories and accent pieces, which will be less expensive than big pieces. Add vintage or up-cycled junk in a fresh color or look. Seek out textiles at the show. You don’t have throw out your old textiles and collections ---store them and rotate them. I’m not a clutter-bug. I collect antique scales. I put them out in winter. Then I put them away. 

Fort Worth Show: You like to mix old and modern with a twist. Why?
   I do this because it doesn’t date a look. If you get pieces from different time eras and put them in your home, it does not date your home. My very first book, “Decorating JUNKMARKET Style,” is just as robust and fresh today as it was then. Go for an eclectic combination. A sweet Swedish piece could be an unexpected element in a modern design. It gives your eye a rest. It gives you options to move about your own home more freely. If you can move pieces from room to room, it will not look “dated” in a few years.

Fort Worth Show: Any thoughts about coming to Texas and the Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art?   
    I can’t wait to hang out with my friend Jan Orr-Harter, who owns the show. I have not spent much time in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. It will be all new, a kid in a candy store. When I am not signing books and doing furniture demos, I will be shopping! I’m very excited about the Fort Worth Show. I am also excited to bring my books to life with displays and how-tos and provide a sneak peek at my upcoming She Shed title, as well as to talk with people about repurposing and refreshing pieces--- when to do so and when not do so. I will learn from them too.

Fort Worth Show: When you come to a big show like the Fort Worth Show, how do you decide what to buy?
    Well, my approach is always to go through a show twice. Go into every booth, even if they appear to not have anything you need. See what’s inside the booth. You never know what is behind the table! Get to know the dealers; a big part of shows is building connections with dealers, letting them know what you are looking for. Then I go back through a second time. My rule is: if you love it, buy it. You will find a place for it. Make your home out of things that you love, one piece at a time.      

Learn more about Sue Whitney and JUNKMARKET Style at and for a complete listing of her books, see            

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