When 19-year-old Kelsea McDonald decided a four-year college degree just wasn’t in the cards, she made the decision to turn her passion into her business instead. That passion is refurbishing antique and vintage furniture to give them a second life.
McDonald was introduced to antiques by her parents, who raised her in an 1860s Warsaw farmhouse. They scouted for home decor at resale shops and auctions. The first piece of furniture McDonald rehabbed was an old radio cabinet. She painted the body green and stripped the wood top to refinish it.
“Before, it looked like something you’d pile junk on in your barn,” she said. “And after, it was just beautiful.”
McDonald has been selling her creations at craft shows for over three years, but two months ago she opened her own storefront in downtown Pierceton. It’s called Kelsea Designs and occupies the former Blue Lion Coffee Shop.
With the help of her parents, Scott and Sirenna, McDonald stripped the store clean, removed the flooring to expose the old concrete and hung up old wooden gates originally from the fairground’s 4-H Goat Barn on the ceilings. She also used old wood to replace the store’s trim.
“My parents have been a huge help and encouragement,” said McDonald, who is an only child. “My mom helps me clean furniture while my dad is there is ask questions since he is a contractor. They never spoiled me growing up, but they always supported my passions.”
Another passion McDonald has is raising animals. She has several miniature donkeys, goats, a dog, lots of barn cats and a miniature zebu, which is a dwarf breed of cow originally from India. She was a nine-year 4-H member in the Leesburg Mighty Farmers and Goat Club.
In addition to running a business and taking care of animals, McDonald is a student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion where she plans to graduate with a two-year associate’s degree in general studies with a focus in fine arts. She hopes to continue running her business once she graduates and into the foreseeable future.
“I’ve had so much positive encouragement from the other businesses in Pierceton,” she said. “It’s nice to add to a town that’s known for its antique businesses.”
McDonald looks for solid wood furniture to refurbish from a variety of places including auctions, flea markets and other antique shops. She cleans up what she finds and makes it ready to use in her customers’ homes.
“My goal is to have a very clean store and to have furniture you can take away and use immediately,” she explained.
Her inventory includes end tables, dining room tables and chairs, rocking chairs, hutches, entry tables, stools, bedroom suites, vanities and wardrobes. She seeks out real wood and veneer furniture and avoids furniture made of particle board.
“I’ll often get pieces I’m not sure what to do with immediately, but then I’ll get an idea and run with it,” she said. “I love finding those diamonds in the rough.”
One of her most recent favorite pieces was a vintage, water-damaged chair, which she painted cream and reupholstered with a red and white floral fabric. That chair sold quickly, she said.
Eventually, McDonald would like to add furniture she builds to her store. She enjoys woodworking and has already made an end table, quilt rack, picnic table, TV stand and buffet herself.
“I’m really excited to be starting this business and I hope people will learn where I am and come check it out,” she said. “It takes a lot of effort to open your own business. You have to be really committed and willing to sacrifice. Right now, I’m paying off my truck, putting money into my business and that’s it. No going to movies, no dining out.
“It’s hard and sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. But this is my passion and I want to follow my passion.”
Kelsea Designs is located at 105 W. Market St. in Piercton and is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KelseasDesigns.