Make us your home page

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 [email protected]

>>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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker


    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims


    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza


    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]