Giving old furniture a face lift has been a longtime hobby for Erin Oakley, who recently opened Upcycled in the former Dixie’s Christian Book Store building on East Andrew Johnson Highway.
The new store offers antique and refurbished furniture, brought back to new life with a fresh coat of paint, as well as art and artisan crafts by local vendors.
“I started building birdhouses at about seven with leftover wood, and I’ve just always liked painting building things,” Oakley said. “My father and grandfather both built houses and furniture, and they were painters and artists.”
Oakley is joined by her daughter 15-year-old Cicely, a Greeneville High School student who also enjoys painting furniture and making candles in the shop.
“Cicely and I both got the creative bug,” Oakley said.
Family dog Wilma also joins Oakley at Upcycled. Oakley co-owns the business with her husband Dr. Jaime Oakley of Summit Medical Group, who Oakley said also dabbles in furniture restoration but has more of an administrative role with the business.
Originally from Canada, Oakley first moved to the area in 1997 as a student. She attended Tusculum University, then Tusculum College, on a golf scholarship. She later went on to earn her master of business administration with a focus on small business at East Tennessee State University, and she has previously taught skiing and snowboarding.
Until Upcycled opened in mid January, Oakley said she has been a stay at home mom and worked on furniture as a hobby.
“I would just refinish things for myself or for family,” Oakley said.
She said that friends and family have also helped with providing furniture pieces for Oakley to fix up and sell.
“If they’ve had something they want to give away, they give it to us,” Oakley said. “People also bring things in here, and if it’s something I’m interested in, I buy it.”
Oakley recommends those hoping to sell a piece call ahead to discuss before hauling it to the store.
Otherwise, Oakley said she looks for furniture to fix up on the internet, often through local Facebook groups, as well as thrift stores and garage and estate sales.
“I try to find unique pieces that have potential to be refinished or reused,” Oakley said.
Oakley said she is particularly interested in pieces made with real wood.
“I like real wood, whether or not it has been painted. I can always sand or strip it,” Oakley said, but she said that is not all she would consider.
“I would like to keep sort of a variety in here, where people can keep finding new things,” she said.
In addition to repainting furniture, Oakley said she reupholsters and builds pieces.
When it comes to antiques, Oakley said she tries to preserve more than remake.
“I try to keep the integrity of the piece,” she said. “If it’s really old or it’s a good quality antique that’s in good condition, I wouldn’t do much.”
Whether it is a new piece, something older made into something new or an antique she aims to preserve, Oakley said her work is a labor of love.
“I fall in love with each piece. Each one is an important project,” Oakley said. “It seems weird to have a store and start selling them, but it makes me happy to see other people find joy in it, too.”
Upcycled also offers local products through vendor spaces, and Oakley said she is looking forward to renting the spaces to local and regional artists.
Three spaces are currently occupied, and there are others available.
Upcycled is located at 2244 E. Andrew Johnson Highway. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
For more information, visit https://upcycled-furniture-maker.business.site or call 423-791-3518.