TUTOR: Maureen Verstegen will be hosting different workshops on upcycling furniture through upholstery, paint and decoupage. Photos John Morin

STEPPING into Maureen Verstegen’s home, you can tell immediately that she has an eye for beautiful decor.

From bold and colourful lampshades to vintage chairs covered in floral-patterned velvet – the pieces on display are eclectic and filled with joy.

“People are really wrapped up in ‘does it all match?’” Maureen says. “But to me it doesn’t actually matter. I like to put things in that I like.”

She is often on the hunt for new pieces, scouring local op shops and even picking things up from the side of the road. If it has good structure and an interesting look, she’ll take it home and “upcycle” it through reupholstery, paint or decoupage.

COLOURFUL: Another workshop will teach students how to upgrade a lamp by recovering its lampshade.

“As I’ve gotten a little bit older, I’m more into saving stuff,” she says. “All of these old pieces of furniture are really well made, and I just don’t like to see [them] languishing.”

One of her favourite pieces is a set of drawers that came from the army base in Waiouru.

“The wood came from the old barracks,” Maureen says. “And obviously the soldier – he or she – didn’t want it to go to waste. So he used it to make this little set of drawers.”

“It was unpainted and I just gave it a bit of a sand, and a bit of an oil up, and painted that.”

Any old marks or inscriptions are usually left untouched, however, as Maureen likes to keep that part of its history in tact.

Maureen, who has been a teacher for 40 years, says that she has always enjoyed projects that were hands-on and involved a fair bit of problem solving.

“When I was teaching art, I liked making things,” she says. “I didn’t like painting and drawing, but I liked having that big mess everywhere, and getting hammers out, and looking at stuff and how they all go together.”

Although she has worked in art and education for many years, she only started upcycling furniture and giving workshops on the topic in the last two years.

After living in Papamoa for 34 years, she moved to Gisborne where she had purchased an old 1913 villa. Tasked with filling the larger space with more furniture, she began looking up different upcycling techniques on YouTube.

“I tried all the techniques on there,” she says. “Some of them didn’t work and some of them I just didn’t like.”

She eventually participated in a headboard upholstery class that was put on by Mollies in Auckland. Finding the process enjoyable and easy, she began applying what she learned to more and different types of furniture, getting better each time.

RESCUED: Roadside and op shop finds can get a second chance through smart and easy upholstery techniques.

Since then, she has started her own business – Second Time Around – and has also become a tutor for Mollies.

Maureen will be hosting a lampshade recovering workshop at Jayne’s Wool and Fabrics on Saturday, March 21. As part of Sustainable Backyards, she will be teaching a furniture paint and decoupage class at Pou Whakaaro on March 14. Another class focusing on upholstery will also be held at Pou Whakaaro on March 28.

The classes have proven to be a hit, often inspiring students to see furniture and the home decorating process in a way that is fun, experimental, and cost-effective.

“I find that people are often hunting for things, once they’ve been to a class,” Maureen says, laughing. “They’re in op shops looking for chairs, and sometimes we’re in the same op shop looking for the same chair.”

For more information, you can check out Maureen’s business on Facebook at “Second Time Around Whakatane” or email her at maureen.verstegen@gmail.com.

john.morin@thebeacon.co.nz