As modern furniture becomes disposable, items from a generation back are still going strong at yard sales and in thrift stores.
Des Moines company Repinned is working to give those classic pieces new life by reworking them for modern living rooms.
How Repinned works
The idea for Repinned came when founder Riana LeJeune-Copeland was spending time with other young moms, sharing interesting projects they had found on Pinterest.
“People would show off a dresser they loved, but they didn’t have the space or time for a project like that,” LeJeune-Copeland said. “I thought, ‘I have the time.’”
LeJeune-Copeland’s mother does historic restoration, so she turned to her whenever she had questions, and roped her helicopter mechanic husband Justin Copeland in to the big tools. When he was downsized in early 2013, she convinced him to join her in the business, launching Repinned in March of that year.
“I always say we’re unlikely entrepreneurs,” LeJeune-Copeland said. “We were motivated to start a business because we needed money to buy diapers.”
They started off selling completed pieces on Craigslist, before deciding to do a tag sale to create more of a name for Repinned. The couple completed 10 pieces and put up a few signs around town.
The first day was slow, but by the end of the second day they sold every piece. A Doctor Who Tardis they had made as a Pinterest project attracted visitors who wanted to stop for a picture (they’ve since made and sold several) and the couple made enough to pay their mortgage for the month.
Repinned started with the couple buying items used, refinishing them and selling them one by one, but now the business largely consists of clients bringing pieces to them to be refinished.
“When we started out in my basement, I would find something and paint it cobalt blue, hoping someone would want that specific dresser,” LeJeune-Copeland said. “As things have progressed, we’ve switched to more and more custom work, which means we don’t have to keep a big inventory.”
When a client brings Repinned a piece, LeJeune-Copeland goes over it and presents them with several different color and fabric options, so they’re involved in the process. The pieces are often things that have been in the family for some time, so the couple want them to feel like they’re involved in giving it new life.
In 2014 their work was featured on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” and Richlooms Fabrics recently named a Repinned design as one of its Best Nine Designs of 2016. Repinned regularly works with interior designers, and recently Hubbell Realty has started working Repinned designs into Des Moines lofts and apartments.
New life in a dying field
When LeJeune-Copeland started researching upholstering, she found that most people doing it in Des Moines were older men who didn’t take on apprentices so as to avoid competition.
She found assistance in learning her craft with a job at the skydiving jumpsuits company Firefly Unlimited in Des Moines, and joining forums for upholsterers.
“A lot of the people I got in touch with were upholsterers in Europe, where it’s treated as more of an art form,” LeJeune-Copeland said. “If I had a question, I could jump on a forum and write to them.”
Learn your value
Early on, Repinned was doing projects for a lower cost to attract business. It kept the couple busy, but it also meant a lot of work for not enough money.
“A big part of learning this business was figuring out what our worth was,” LeJeune-Copeland said. “We did an entire dining room set, which took us weeks, for $200 because we didn’t know what to charge.”
A stitch in time
For now, Repinned is just the Copelands, but in 2017 the couple is looking to bring five employees into the company, some to help Copeland with refinishing, some to help LeJeune-Copeland with upholstery. The business will also start shipping its products this year, spreading Repinned products around the US and overseas.
Down the line, LeJeune-Copeland hopes Repinned can expand its physical footprint beyond its small space in the Beaverdale neighborhood.
“”We need a larger place, and my vision is to have a location with a showroom where people can come in and see stripped down versions of amazing vintage pieces, as well as our own designs and custom frames. We want to revitalize Des Moines, and we have a lot more upholstered pieces to go out and save.”
Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.