Teacher’s creative eye turns shabby into chic

Jennifer Hergott, owner of Uniquely Different, Shabby Made Chic. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson  

They just don’t make furniture like they used to, says a local woman adept at refinishing everything from 1980s oak tables to antique mirrors.

“Older furniture is more solid. There’s no chipboard and the construction is better. It’s made to last,” said Jennifer Hergott, owner of the new Uniquely Different, Shabby Made Chic store.

“If there’s any way to restore it, I’m down for it,” said the 32-year-old teacher.

Hergott grew up in Stratford where her father was a carpenter and she learned to appreciate the differences in wood types.

“I’ve always been creative and I taught myself how to refinish and upcycle old furniture,” she said. “I have an eye for what looks good together.  A lot of people can’t see the potential is something that’s old or damaged.

“I can help them decide how to restore or repurpose it.”

Hergott moved to Sarnia to attend Lambton College and eventually studied in London and became a teacher.

“I came back to Sarnia because I love it,” she said. As a supply teacher with the Catholic school board, she’s had time in recent years to work on pieces of furniture for herself and friends.

What was a hobby has become a full-fledged business.

Uniquely Different, Shabby Made Chic opened in April at the corner of Mitton and Davis streets.

“I love going out to thrift shops, auctions and yard sales to find good quality stuff that I get cheap,” she said.  “People also give me things they don’t know what to do with.”

Demand for Hergott’s creative eye grew so much this year her garage overflowed and she began looking for retail and workspace.

Her showroom has large items such as a seven-foot oak table and four big anchor chairs ($699), a small rolltop secretariat refinished in eggshell blue and black ($225), and an antique harp chair painted in green with a Parisian grey seat cover ($75).

But there’s also many smaller pieces including fancy picture frames, side tables, hurricane lamps and accessories.

Hergott also carries the work of several local artisans who make pillows, painted signs and china items. She is on the lookout for others who want to sell their work in her store.

“I love to do this and I love to be here. It’s not work to me,” she said.

The store also fits her teaching schedule since she has supportive family willing to run the till when she’s called to supply teach.

Each month, a portion of her sales is donated to Noelle’s Gift. Hergott went to school with Noelle Paquette, who was murdered in 2013.

“I work at a school where Noelle’s Gift provides breakfast every single morning. There was no question that I would support it.”

Hergott uses mineral-based Fusion paints, stains, waxing to create an antiqued look, stenciling and distressing. Sometimes a small change like switching up hardware makes all the difference, she said.

About half her business so far have been custom requests. Hergott said she is happy to brainstorm with customers to decide exactly what to do with their furniture.

Uniquely Different, Shabby Made Chic is located at 100 Mitton St. Call 226-932-1600.

Got a good business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.