Furniture Dump

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Kate Avery's trash-to-treasure addiction began innocently enough. A then newlywed living in Plainville, she was intrigued by the out-of-nowhere piles of used furniture appearing curbside one day.

"I asked a neighbor and she explained it was bulk pickup week, " Avery explains. "I asked if that meant the stuff was free while it was waiting to be trashed, " Avery continues. "I had seen a Chippendale-style highboy in the trash heap so I went back and picked it up."

That chance encounter with a throwaway served as the germ of creativity for the now very successful artist, woodworker, painter and carpenter who owns Heir and Space, her East Hampton home-based furniture restoration business.

"I'll do anything to keep it out of the fire, " she says explaining how she takes discarded, outdated furniture she culls from assorted secondhand shops, flea markets, roadside and more, then transforming them with a combination of elbow grease and design into showroom-worthy pieces.

"I bought new furniture when I was first married and it was falling apart within months, " she said. "The old stuff, it's real and it's well made and it can be brought back, " she said, underscoring her business and personal mantra. "And then you have something that has quality."

Lest you think Avery is some fly-by-night, do-it-your-selfer with a paintbrush, think again.

A former visitor services manager at Hartford's Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Avery moved on to work for one of the premiere antique dealers in Connecticut, Nathan Liverant and Son LLC. At that Colchester business she fine-tuned her furniture appreciation skills with duties that included merchandising displays, meeting experts, researching and writing lengthy provenance reports on early American antiques.

"I learned almost everything I know about antiques there and much about running a small business from my time with Liverant, " she said. "It was a wonderful experience but I came to the point where I had to choose refinishing or staying with the antique store. I couldn't do both anymore."

Rarely is Avery dealing in rare and valuable antiques when it comes to her business these days, rather focusing on the affordable. Her castoffs arrive looking more like junk than jewels until she works her magic, with most big pieces starting at about $350. While some are restored and then placed on the market via her popular blog (heirandspace.blogspot.com) and social media sites, others are custom pieces that clients have requested after seeing samples of her work.

When scouting for salvageable furniture, Avery explains, "I look for both when I am out. "You never know what you are going to find where.''

On a recent visit to one of her favorite haunts, a beat-up hutch with broken glass and missing drawer hardware catches her eye.

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