All that’s old is new again: The creations of Kathy McMahon


Kathy McMahon with a repurposed piece created for her booth. She converted this old door into a potters/gardners stand or as a stand for a guest bath that could have a bowl sink added to it. Photo by Kathryn Acree.

Kathy McMahon is a self-described “queen of recycling.” She incorporates that into aspects of her clothing, her jewelry and her furnishings.

“I just love the fact that you can take old things and do something else with them,” McMahon said.

Embracing a growing trend in interior design, the Renaissance Consignment Boutique owner has recently opened a booth at Greystone Antiques & Marketplace called Renaissance Marketplace to showcase furnishings she creates that are “repurposed” or “upcycled.”

A door or piece of a wood pallet can be refashioned into a table or stand. A surveyor’s tool can become a piece of art or a lamp.

“The idea of creating furniture this way is so great because recycling has been lost in decorating in the last 15 years or so,” McMahon said. “So much of what was being sold was made of particle board, for example, or just not really high quality materials. Repurposing antiques instills that quality again.”

McMahon spends a lot of time enjoying what she calls “junking.” She and a group of friends load up for the weekend, hitch up a trailer and head out to uncover antique treasures in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and her other favorite spots in the Deep South.

“A lot of people look at old items and see an ugly thing and get rid of it,” she said. “It’s fun to have a vision of that same thing and make it look really good.”

McMahon said the most important thing she looks for in a piece to be refinished is “good bones,” meaning it’s made of high quality wood.

“If you’re going to put the time and effort and money into refinishing it, it must consist of quality materials,” she said.

McMahon uses the example of a fireplace mantle she found on a junking trip that is fully refinished and available at her booth. “It looked terrible, it was covered in mud,” she said.  The mantle has been repurposed to give it the distressed, aged look while still boasting quality wood that will last.

A warehouse connected to Greystone Antiques & Marketplace houses McMahon’s working area. When she buys an item on a junking trip, she has a vision in mind of what it will become.

“I have some tools I’ve made that make the wood look like it’s dented or has worm holes,” she said. “I’ll rub different chemicals and waxes on there to create different looks.”

McMahon encourages a visit to her booth if you are new to the idea of repurposing and upcycling. She actively follows blogs and other online sites for tips and trends on new techniques for refinishing old furniture.

“These old pieces are worthy of having a way to be reused,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be able to once again have furnishings of the quality of how things were once made.”


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