Thursday, August 27, 2009

Your Neighbors Can Give A Second Life

See this cute little duplex:

Don't you just love it? Tidy, nice curb appeal. Symmetrical. Perfectly quaint.

And isn't it perfect that inside this bungalow live fun, creative sisters. Twin sisters. Lynne and Julia are native Houstonians who have made The Heights their home for the last 15+ years. They were part of the 1st wave of former Montrosians to head for tree lined streets and cheaper real estate. How cheap? Well, let's just say they got this perfect home for under six digits. Talk about your smart investment. After renting a bungalow on Key Street for a few years, they saw this duplex and thought a house couldn't be more perfect for them.

Because they moved to The Heights at the very beginning of its gentrification, they were able to get a home that was affordable and also retained so much of its original character. Because they live in the Proctor Plaza neighborhood, historic and deed restricted, the house will always remain as close to original as possible. They have beautifully restored the inside and live very well in its two spaces. In fact, their clean, organized spaces even got them on HGTV! Featuring Julia's chic, simple living room and Lynne's custom cabinetry, this HGTV article shows how to be stylish and functional in a small space: Half the Space, Double the style. If you read the snippets below the photos, you'll find the really impressive thing about Julia's fireplace is that she built the custom cabinetry herself!

From the time they were young children, Lynne and Julia's mother encouraged them to be crafty. Knit, sew. What I call "Home Ec skills." As adults, the sisters took it beyond those basic womanly arts and got in to some serious DIY. Lynne clearly has some wood working skills. Her love of the hands on creative process lead her to take upholstering classes as well. Remaking furniture has been a hobby for the sisters for years. And then... they found and realized- hey! there is a market for what we love.

Some pieces in process at their workshop

Now Lynne, a corporate oil&gas travel agent, and Julia, the manager of an architecture firm, have taken their love of DIY and design to launch a new venture: l+j industries. l+j takes what some people see as old or worn out and breathes new life in to it. Furniture with solid bones and good style is broken down to it's bare soul and then carefully built back up in to something wonderfully unique. The sisters' love of mid-century style can easily be seen in many of the pieces they have saved from the landfill.

But their work is about more than just one specific style. Its about hours invested in browsing junk shops from junk shops in Pasadena to antique stores on Yale. Julia and Lynne look for great shapes and "really good bones." They think it's sad to see good furniture "look pathetic." They rescue furniture and give it a second chance. A second life.
While they love the mid-century look and are thrilled when they "see a glimpse of that blond wood" in a junk shop, they don't limit themselves. They want to offer new life to all good furniture. It all deserves it (and, again, keeps it out of the landfill). They are happy to offer unique pieces to all kinds of people via their etsy site. They have been pleasantly surprised to find that more pieces go to small towns than big cities. They figure people in small communities are looking for one-of-a-kind items. They have had inquiries from as far as Singapore about some of their pieces.

Before and After: Black & White Chair

Before and After: Habitat Chair

Lynne and Julia are enjoying doing something they love. They are also happy to be a part of the handmade revolution taking place. When they first started breathing new life in to old furniture, it was at a time when fabric stores were closing and it was often hard to find all the supplies they needed for a well done project. These days the sisters buy fabrics from local stores ( High Fashion Home is a favorite) and the internet. They have found great sellers on eBay and even a site where they can buy the ends of bolts from furniture manufacturers.
On deck for l+j: finding expanded studio space in The Heights. Lynne is also considering teaching an upholstery class along the lines of the one she took over 10 years ago. They'll continue to comb the shops around The Heights and get inspiration from blogs like Design*Sponge.

Lynne and Julia Schaefer of l+j industries

And, while Julia and Lynne don't really do curbside sweeps for furniture pieces, they do scour The Heights for boxes. They send their pieces Greyhound and need large boxes to pack them. If you have any of these, let us know:

A lover of mid-century style myself, I have a couple of beautiful Scandinavian chairs that I bought from the back of a truck when I took the wrong exit off 59 once several years ago. I am going to swing them by Lynne and Julia's and see if they can get them out of my attic and in to my living room. They are ready for their second life.

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