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Hobby of upcycling, repurposing of furniture turns into a successful Spring Hill business venture

SPRING HILL — As the spring clean-out-and-organize season arrives, Debbi McFarland wishes to intervene:

Hold on a minute.

The 50-year-old hobbyist-turned-entrepreneur is into the upcycling, even repurposing, of old furniture.

"We try to take things that would be junk and give them life," McFarland explained.

A hutch, dining room table, chest of drawers, china cabinet all are used canvases begging for refreshment under the eye of someone who's always been an avid fan of design, architecture and old things.

For a couple of years, McFarland, a lifetime homemaker, redesigned furniture one piece at a time in her home workshop for people who had seen or heard of her work. One day, she advertised a piece on Craigslist.

"I was so shocked I sold something. It sold immediately," she recalled.

McFarland and husband, Bobby McFarland — he's the "shabby" part of the business, they agree — scrounge flea markets, yard sales and auctions for would-be junk in which she sees beauty awaiting.

The couple set up their Not Too Shabby shop late last year at Towne Square Mall, a complex of small business retailers on U.S. 19. Her inventory sells so quickly she restocks weekly from her prodigious outpouring.

Upcycled china cabinets and hutches are most in demand. McFarland has, for instance, removed their top drawers and replaced them with shelves, resulting in a TV cabinet.

Similarly, she has tossed drawers from an old dresser, inserted in-vogue baskets, painted a bright color over the drably brown original, and created a baby-changing station.

Of her pieces, McFarland says: "It has to be beautiful, but it has to be functional. We do a lot of older antiques that are in disrepair. We make them for today. I like color on antiques. We distress it so the wood shows through. We do a lot of graphics on wood, designs and lettering."

The artisan emphasized: "We keep everything affordable, affordable."

A repurposed buffet sells for about $300, an upscaled dining table for $200, a table with four chairs refinished in a damask motif for $300.

"I don't know if people realize what a deal they get if they come to my shop," McFarland said. "We provide for some shabby re-shops in Tampa, bigger shops not doing their own work (but) buying from me."

Her $200 buffet is priced at a Tampa resale shop at $495, she said. A black dining room table she sold for $200 to a Tampa dealer ultimately resold for $795.

Renting shop space in the mall enables McFarland to keep prices affordable. Not only is the overhead lower than in an individual storefront; the mall's Tuesday-through-Sunday hours put her goods on six-day display without the couple's constant presence. They are on-site Thursday through Saturday, while on other days she works in her home shop, and Bobby, 48, pursues his job as a roofer.

Debbi couldn't pursue the business without her husband, she declared. He accompanies her to sales, sets up and tends the mall shop and, especially, does the heavy lifting.

"In my next life," she quipped, "I'm going to do something lighter, like wallpaper. I'm breaking my back here."

In the meantime, though, she added, "If you ever need a piece of furniture, I'm your girl."

Beth Gray can be contacted at

>>fast facts

Functional art

What: Not Too Shabby, redesigned, upcycled furniture and accessories

Where: Towne Square Mall, 3021 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; the McFarlands are onsite from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Information: (352) 345-0913 or (352) 585-6524;

Hobby of upcycling, repurposing of furniture turns into a successful Spring Hill business venture 03/27/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 7:44pm]
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