I know a handful of people, myself included, who enjoy refinishing old furniture but only one who has had the talent and vision to take the hobby and scale it into a full fledged company. Meg Piercy has done just that as the founder of her business MegMade, Inc. Hallie and I recently paid Meg a visit at her Chicago showroom (which is any design lovers dream!) and got the full scoop on how she got her start…
What was the first piece of furniture you refurbished?
The first piece that we ever painted was a dresser from our neighbor that they were tossing in the alley. We were going to use it as a changing table for our son. Joe’s aunt was painting furniture at the time and taught us the basics. We didn’t end up using it as his changing table so we sold it on Craigslist. It sold in 12 hours! It began our addiction!
How did the idea of turning it into a business come about?
After seeing we could sell furniture on some classifieds we started to actively buy furniture to resell. We had no idea anyone was doing this at the time. At first we’d buy one and once we’d sell it then we’d replace it. After a while we lined our hallway and our basement with furniture. We did this for over a year and began to sell so many we had to open a storefront.
Is your background in design?
Its funny, my husband says I like to redo every place we’ve lived every 3-4 months, which is sadly true, but my degree is actually in international communications. Before moving to Chicago I was planning on moving oversees to do some consulting work over there, however, I ended up in Chicago and did consulting here! After consulting, I worked in fund development for a not for profit after school program called By The Hand Club For Kids, that helps under privileged kids get their grades up in hopes to send them to college. I did MegMade on the side to help out with bills and a little bit ago I was able to work on it full time.
My love for design started when I lived overseas for five years in high school. I loved everything about the architecture and design there and it inspired me. I would totally have pursued Interior Design or Graphic Design if I had known how much I love it. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. Worked out though thankfully.
When looking for pieces to refurbish what is your criteria?
There’s something about vintage furniture that you just can’t get anymore. The craftsmanship is exquisite and made to last. We only choose pieces that are of the highest quality, with easy gliding drawers, dove-tailing, no oder and of course good bones! We can always alter a piece significantly, but those are the main criteria!
Are there certain styles you gravitate toward?
We have four different styles we typically look for as we are buying furniture. We love Frenchy, MCM, transitional and traditional. These styles generally fall between the 1920-1970s.
Do you have a favorite piece MegMade has done?
This question is so hard because it seems like weekly we get a piece and we do it and I fall in love with it. I literally like hug some of them I get so excited about how they turned out. We get so many fabulous pieces its so hard to just pick one.
How long does it take for the average piece to be refurbished at MegMade? What does the process entail?
The average turn around time for an unfinished piece to get customized is 2-3 weeks. We have a super fast turn around time compared to many other refinishers because custom is such a large part of our company and we prioritize it.
Each piece will get sanded or stripped depending on the desired finish. We then touch up all nics and dings on the piece with a water-proof sealant. Then we use an oil-based primer which is amazing at preventing anything from coming through and sets a great foundation for the end coat. Then depending on what finish the customer wants it takes between 2-6 coats of the finishing paint/lacquer. It is an intense process and we are very proud of the finishes we are able to accomplish with our state of the art booth system and products.
I’m sure you get a lot of calls from people with DIY projects gone wrong. What are some common mistakes or misconceptions you frequently see when people try to refinish furniture themselves?
We get so many people bringing in pieces they’ve tried to do themselves and got too frustrated or didn’t like the finish. I think that TV shows and DIY blogs make it look much easier than it is. It is not hard to plop a coat of paint on a piece, but to do it where it looks nice and lasts is much more complicated. The common mistakes that we see are lack of prep work, obvious brush marks, pulling of paint, chipping, wrong, cracking and using the wrong kind of paint.
Don’t get me wrong though, we love DIYers, it just depends on the finish you are going for. We just always tell DIYers to keep practicing and that as you do more and more you will get better and better.
The thing that makes us stand out as professionals though is that not only do we prep it correctly, but we spray it so that it looks flawless and it is painted to last.
Not only are you a business owner, but you’re also a mom, can you take us through a day in your life?
I love the combination of working and being a mom. We have a good balance where our employees feel supported and our kids feel loved and valued. We’ve decided to just embrace the chaos of having a young business and two kids under three and a half.
Every day starts off a little different at the Piercy household depending on what time the kiddos get up, but lately its been between 5:30 and 6:30. We eat breakfast together and then we put Brooks down for his morning nap. Joe and I rotate playing with Wells while each of us gets ready. Then at 8:30 AM our Au Pair starts working and helps us get out the door. We work till 5-5:15 and get home by 5:30PM. Michele sends us pictures throughout the day so we can see the boys.
Prioritizing work and home time is super important to us, so when at work, we work hard and when at home we play hard! So once at home we play with the boys and then make dinner. Then we play some more and put Brooks down at 6:15PM and Wells down at 8PM. Then we go lay down and watch one of our shows or get some work done and go to bed and do it all over again the next day!
What’s on the horizon for MegMade? Do you see other locations? Other services?
We just celebrated two years as a store the first week of November, so we are pumped to be where we are already! We just added full upholstery, kitchen cabinet refinishing and interior design, which we are so excited about! It is bringing us closer to our goal of being a one-stop shop!
We are already in 30 states as we ship nationwide! We are thinking about opening a shop next where everything is mostly digital so that customizing is still an option. For now, we are working on perfection all of our process to make it a dreamy shopping experience!
So far our wildest dreams have come true, so here’s to dreaming some more!
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Find out what you are passionate about and go after it. We all have things we enjoy doing so make time to do it. That’s how we started MegMade. It was a passion that turned into a business.
If you’re in Chicago, this Thursday is the perfect time to stop by and check out MegMade while celebrating the season…
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]