Written by Megin Potter | Photos provided

High-impact, low-cost upcycling gives new life to roadside rescues, flea-market finds, & more!

Lisa Lockwood began experimenting with stencils during the pandemic for something to occupy her time after work and on the weekends. A fan of flea markets and garage sale shopping, Lisa began picking up furniture pieces and refinishing her finds before posting them for sale on the Facebook Marketplace. 

Of the 20 to 30 tables (and other items) she has completed, many sold in less time than they took to design. 

“It’s very hard to choose what I’m going to do. When you’re doing something everyone else is doing too, if you’re able to do something different, it sells,” she said. 

After searching through Pinterest reels and DIY websites, as well as in area shops for inspiration, Lisa rehabs the tired pieces she finds into cheerful and feminine ones using colors like bright sage, mint apple green, and yellow. To create intriguing contrast, she pairs the richness of red with the starkness of white in an intricate doily design.
On some tops, delicate edge ornamentation still peeks out even when covered with tableware. On others, stencils create a painted tablecloth base for even more texture once place settings are added. To repurpose a three-pane window into a compelling shelf, Lisa added wood, metal accents, and stenciled flourishes onto the glass. 

Luck & Learning Along the Way

When out thrifting, Lisa looks beyond first impressions. Undeterred by minor nicks or scratches, she searches for other signs of damage before purchasing a piece to refinish. By picking it up and turning it over, she can detect defects like glue marks, and discover the furniture maker. 

“Sometimes I get lucky, like when I found a Bombay Company half-circle table. I’m learning more as I go, but most people have heard of Bombay. I was amazed,” she said. 

While some of her discoveries are chance encounters, Lisa also likes to frequent Ed’s Antiques and Flea Market on Route 29 as well as the Malta Flea Market for project pieces. Customers to the Northline Road Stewart’s Shop in Ballston Spa (where Lisa has worked for 15 years) who know of her hobby, share tips on the season’s hot spots. 

“We let each other know what’s out there and say, ‘this one is going to be a good one and that one is where I got a lot of good finds’,” adds Lisa with that friendly smile.

A Smart Spruce Up 

Once Lisa has procured a piece, it can take weeks or even months for her to settle on how to refinish it. After nailing down a design, she thoroughly cleans the furniture, strips off the worn finish, then washes it again to create an even surface for the fresh paint to adhere to. 

By working with both oil-based spray paints and chalk paints, Lisa’s design takes shape with the help of her boyfriend, who operates the power tools and offers business advice. 

Next on her to-do list, Lisa plans to create added depth to a bookcase with stencils and is looking forward to tackling a set of dresser drawers.  

After putting a personal stamp on these transitory possessions, Lisa posts them on the marketplace at affordable prices so they can easily find their way into new homes. 

“If it sells, it sells,” she said about the process. “The people who buy what I make are looking for something different. Something they’re not going to find in a store.”

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