Oliver furniture fixers cash in on upcycling

Group that supports people with developmental disabilities hits on novel idea to earn a buck and teach job skills

Mike Holt

Mike Holt

What’s old is new again, especially when it comes from a novel furniture business in Oliver that’s providing job opportunities for people who appreciate a hand up.

Since it opened in June, The Painted Chair has sold dozens of pieces that have been repaired and refinished by adults with developmental disabilities who keep the proceeds from items on which they worked.

The concept is known as “upcycling,” explained Bob Braaten, a support worker for one of about a dozen furniture fixers, who are learning all kinds of new skills.

“It gives them the opportunity to learn a semi-trade, something that they can market,” said Braaten.

“They’re at different levels. Some require a tremendous amount of supervision to do a project, but there are others that can work pretty well by themselves.”

The Painted Chair is operated by Hovanes Community Services with funding from Community Living B.C. Its permanent base of operations is a warehouse in Oliver, although the group also ventured out last weekend to the Santa Presents craft show in Penticton.

“The popularity is incredible, because people like that old, authentic stuff,” Braaten said.

His client, Mike Holt, has so far sold a TV stand, dresser and a few chairs, all of which he completely refinished.

“I took woodwork in high school, so I knew how to do some of the stuff,” said the 28-year-old Holt.

The dresser alone earned the Oliver man $50.

“It’s helped me get to Vees games and other events,” Holt said.

All of the items to be upcycled are donated. Once refinished, they’re fitted with tags that state who worked on them.

The Painted Chair warehouse also features used clothing for sale, and is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 5857 Sawmill Road in Oliver.