In a community trending away from antique stores and bargain shops, Jennifer Taylor said she has offended a few purists with her furniture painting studio who wouldn’t dream of slapping a brightly colored coat of paint over the time-worn surface of an antique. Then again, people like Tom Krenek, owner of two Forest Park antique stores, really dig the idea.
“We have painted furniture in our antique stores too, the only difference is that it’s vintage painted furniture,” said Krenek, who owns Forest Park Emporium and Krenek’s. “People who are interested in antiques are also interested in artistic things. The painted furniture stores are a great addition to the street and help bring people in.”
Taylor owns the Painted Board Studio at 7418 W. Madison St. where she specializes in helping customers refurbish what is either a worn out piece of junk or a timeless antique, depending on who you ask. Those not interested in jazzing it up by covering it up prefer the more natural look, Taylor said, and fear that she’s masking the wood’s natural beauty.
What she actually does though, is find furniture on curbsides that is damaged and otherwise past its prime, and restores it. She makes it a policy to never pay even 50 cents for a piece of furniture that she paints.
“I think as I’ve gotten older and have started getting a few wrinkles, I find myself identifying with the furniture I work on,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t want anyone to throw me away just because I’d lost my looks.”
Jeanine Guncheon, who is the owner of Gallery Etcetera at 7349 W. Madison St., has been painting furniture since 1986 and is also an interior designer. Her work has been sold through such high-end outlets as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales.
Though painting over old pieces of furniture is a trendy practice these days, Guncheon emphasized that painted furniture has been around for about 1,000 years. The Scandinavians, who are known for their antique wood furniture, used to place natural looking pieces side by side with painted pieces. Painting was also a common practice with early American furniture, Guncheon said, but then it fell out of fashion. It’s been coming back over the last 20 years.
Rose Krogh moved to Forest Park two years ago and once took an oil painting class at a community college, but painting on canvas never quite caught on with her. Now she’s come to love painting on furniture. Her first piece was a table she purchased at a yard sale for $10 that she gave to her sister as a Christmas present. Her second piece was an old desk that she bought at an estate sale 15 years ago and had been sitting in the garage, because she didn’t know what to do with it.
Bobbi Allen has lived in Oak Park for 29 years and owns an extensive art collection, and is now adding painted furniture to her décor. In crossing the border from Oak Park to Forest Park, Allen described Taylor as an “incredible talent” and said Guncheon is a very well known artist with a national reputation. She has added Taylor’s paintings to her collection and is still considering a purchase from Guncheon. She’s also very pleased with a cupboard she painted in one of Taylor’s workshops and now has sitting in her bedroom.
“Jennifer offers such an encouraging atmosphere in which to be creative that it makes you want to try things that you haven’t tried before,” Allen said.
Taylor specializes in custom work. She’ll go into peoples’ homes and take a look at the room where they plan on putting a piece of furniture, collect colors and talk to an owner about his or her design ideas. Some owners will provide the specific piece of furniture they want worked on. It may be something they inherited from their parents or grandparents that has become run-down or just doesn’t match the decor in the house. They don’t want to throw it away, but can’t use it in its current condition.
Other people decide they would prefer painting the piece of furniture themselves and Taylor offers workshops to guide them through the process.
Guncheon and Talyor, though working in roughly the same medium, have distinct differences in their respective shops. While Taylor paints, Guncheon uses fabric dies, which create a more translucent effect. Taylor does only furniture, and offers classes. Guncheon works with furniture as well, but has more of a storefront operation; she sells gifts as well as painted objects such as bowls and trays, and offers an interior design service.
Painted furniture can be a beautiful addition to a home, Guncheon said, even if it has a very traditional and conservative look to it. The painted furniture item becomes something like a centerpiece, which only needs to pick up on one detail out of the room in order to fit in.
Both Guncheon and Taylor said they like sharing Madison Street and don’t feel like they’re crowding into one another’s customer base. Just as antique stores bunch together to form a district that will attract more people from further away, Guncheon and Taylor said they’ve created a little furniture painting district in Forest Park.