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

>>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. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.