Don’t Throw Away That Great Old Piece of Furniture

When Lynda Gemme looks at an old, worn-out piece of furniture, she sees something that could become completely different and new from what sits before her. What might look like an aged, dark and dull family hand-me-down to most of us can have new life breathed into it in surprising ways through her vision for it.

Gemme, who owns Vintage & Vines, in East Dennis, took such an interest in refurbishing pieces of furniture that she had her husband, a finish carpenter, teach her the arts of carpentry, from which she developed her own style.

“For all birthdays and Christmases, he buys me tools,” she said, proudly. “I recently got a Festool track saw for Mother’s Day, and a chop saw for my birthday.”

Creating a new piece of furniture is a true labor of love for Gemme. She travels to auctions, estate sales and antique shops, looking for something that will catch her eye. She will look for brand-name furniture, because it’s typically made to last, she said.

Gemme works on making custom furniture in the back room of her store, which serves as both her workshop and painting area. She also uses part of the workshop, as well as a shed on the property, to store furniture.

“It has to be made of solid wood, it has to have dovetail joints, and it has to have character. If I can’t see it finished in my mind as something else, I won’t buy it. I’ll look at something and already even imagine the paint color I’ll use on it. Nothing is left as it is.”

Once she finds that special piece (or those special pieces) she becomes the artist who has a blank canvas or ball of clay before her. She deconstructs the piece carefully, finds other pieces that will complement it, such as new legs, new hardware, give it new paint, and make something new and fresh.

Gemme once purchased an enormous bench from Habitat for Humanity, which was about 14 feet long with cabinets on either end, and two cabinets stacked on top. It was bright red with flowers painted all over it (she later called this piece “Big Red”), she said.

“My husband had asked me what in the world I was thinking (buying this piece), and I just said to him, ‘You wait, you wait.’” The piece could open from the top and had storage beneath it, which she wanted to keep. She painted the entire piece a beautiful creamy-white shade, with a gray cushion on the top. Even a piece that large eventually caught the eye of a buyer and was purchased. It was, Gemme said, her most memorable piece so far.

People come from far and wide to have Gemme create something new from an old piece of furniture that was left to them by a parent or grandparent. She helps them see her vision for it, and then recreates something beautiful and functional as a result.

Lynda Gemme

“A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I’ve built this table or that bench. I’ve touched every piece of furniture myself, and customers like that,” Gemme said. “Sometimes I’ll buy just a piece of an old piece and make it into something. I once saw half of a bureau and made it into a bench. Another time, there was this desk, and the whole top was just a mess. My husband asked why I’d want that, and I said, ‘Because it’s two nightstands.’”

But she doesn’t only create something new. She also gives new life to older pieces as they are, if that’s what the client desires. “I do repairs on furniture, replace pieces that are broken or missing, clean them if they’re covered in mold, find hinges or legs or whatever they need.”

Vintage and Vines has two full floors, full of unique and beautiful furniture pieces. The items that decorate the floor and shelves and walls are set apart so that nothing feels crowded, but there is something to see no matter where you turn. The furniture is one-of-a-kind and re-made by Gemme’s own two capable hands.

Vintage and Vines is located at 1661 Route-6A, East Dennis, and you can reach the store at 508-385-5328.

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About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.
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