Giving Old Furniture New Life

Lynda Gemme, the owner of Vintage and Vines in East Dennis, is one of those rare people who can look at an old piece of furniture and imagine something completely different. She sees potential that might completely escape the imagination of other people and, with this gift, she is able to take that old piece of furniture and create something new.

Gemme goes to auctions, antique shops and estate sales to find pieces that have solid wood, dovetail joints and character.

“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.’”

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.

“My husband taught me carpentry, and began with a small project, and I just took off after that. I love it, and I developed my own style,” she said.
It’s a skill that has served her well. People contact her all the time to take a look at a piece that’s been handed down, or inherited, or has just been sitting and collecting dust in a cellar. And with the holidays just down the road, there’s no better time to think about a personalized or custom piece that would make a perfect holiday gift.

“I’m growing a lot now with doing custom work on other people’s furniture. They’ll have their grandmother’s buffet in the basement, and I’ll give it new life,” she said. “A customer wanted me to come and look at a large piece they had in their house. It had these open shelves and a cabinet in the middle. It worked well in the space but was made of particle board, not wood. I actually sold them a better piece from my store that fit that space perfectly.”

If it’s not a quality piece, Gemme said, it isn’t worth spending the money to refurbish it.

“I’ll be honest with people when they bring it in. I’ll ask them if they love this piece. If it’s not real wood, you can only paint it, really, and make it look nicer. If they want me to do that, just give it an update, I can do that, and it will still look like a new piece of furniture.”

Gemme works with decorators and designers, as well as homeowners, with whatever vision they may have. She will help them pick out colors and fabrics. Although she doesn’t do major upholstery herself, she will upholster small seats like those on dining chairs. For anything larger, she can tell you who to see for that.
She’ll give customers some ideas on what kinds of pieces will work in their space, as well as how to reuse what’s still good and usable. Real wood, she emphasizes, is the key – reclaimed wood, older growth wood, anything with a story is the best.

There will be a special event at Vintage and Vines on Columbus Day weekend, which will include local artist demonstrations. Chris Baker will be carving with his chainsaw, Holly Shaker will be painting, Stephanie Rossi will be creating her felted-wool ornaments, and Sonny Gada will be designing beautiful floral arrangements (Sonny has a show on Chatham channel 3). There will be special sale items available, as well as cider and cookies to enjoy. This event will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The rain date is Sunday, Oct. 6.

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 is the Marketing Writer and Lifestyle Reporter for, and has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.
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