Walk into Michele Towns’ home, and you’ll immediately feel a sense of creativity. Our Chicing It Up star collects a little bit of this and a little bit of that from everywhere including garage sales, estate sales and clearance closing sales. By adding Annie Sloan paint, elbow grease and a punch of Michele, her bargain furniture and accessories come to life.
We see it on HGTV: the trash-to-treasure kind of décor. But exactly how does she do it? Keep scrolling to learn tips, tricks and secrets inside the creative mind of this talented DIYer. “If my husband doesn’t like our house this week, he knows it will look different next week.” — Michele Towns “If somebody said take $5,000, and go to a high-end furniture store to redo a room, I would say, ‘No, give me $500.’” — Michele Towns
1 – “I’ve started leaving the tops of pieces their original wood color,” Michele says. “If it looks good, why not?”
2 – One hundred fifty dollars on the piece, plus $50 worth of Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax equals Michele’s first work of art.
Hunting for treasure
“I just enjoy a good bargain,” Michele says about her Saturday morning garage sale trips and convertible full of old unique finds. “There’s no better feeling than getting $1,000 worth of stuff for only $80.” Her motto is if she can spray it with a can of paint, it better come home with her. T
Everything she repurposes is either something she already owns that she is sick of or something she has picked up along the way. “I sometimes buy stuff just because I like it, and I know I’ll use it one day,” Michele says. “The best is seeing something you’ve wanted for a long time for $5 at a garage sale.”
Although she says she’s always been into crafting and creating, Michele’s first personal DIY endeavor was an oversized Mediterranean-style cabinet that is on display in her formal dining room. “Nothing like go big, or go home, right?” Michele jokes. And this is where her obsession with chalk paint was born. “The finish on that was really glossy. That’s what so great about this paint. There’s no priming or sanding. You can paint with no prep work.”
The last hoorah
“I really love my house,” Michele says, “but my kitchen was the last thing that needed to be done, and we completed the remodel earlier this year. My husband, Kevin; my daughter, Lauren; her boyfriend, Patrick; and my other daughter, Maddy, gutted the whole room. I enjoyed it a lot because I watch way too many people do it on TV.” The whole project went smoothly with contractors coming when they said they would. “Kevin swears it was because they were afraid of me, but I was really nice to them,” Michele says. We’re sure the cookies helped, Michele! The Towns knew they wanted Bruce Hardwood floors because they had held up for 15 years in the other parts of their home. Kalin Sharkey from Show Me Cabinets was a huge help in everything from the cabinets to the overall design and layout of the space. Michele says she had a wonderful experience with Martellaro Granite, and she couldn’t be happier about her choice to install a gas stove. The remodel was complete after six short weeks and without a contractor because Michele knew what she wanted and had the connections in town. As much as she loves her new cooking and entertaining space, Michele’s favorite item is still the $15 piece of trim she got off Craigslist because she’s a true bargain girl at heart.
3 – “The box valance is actually a footboard from Itchy’s over on Providence,” Michele says. “I harassed him enough, so he gave it to me for only $10.”
4 – The fun and colorful pop to this room is an Anthropologie rug that Michele got for a steal at a local garage sale.
Chests For Children
It seems like Michele has in some way recreated or put her personal stamp on everything in her home, but she doesn’t just create pieces for herself. She got really involved with DIY projects when she donated pieces to Chests For Children, a fundraiser for the nonprofit daycare Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center. And when she’s not donating Mod Podged tables or toy boxes, she often has a project waiting in her garage for a friend or family member.
The Towns takeover
“I just got done recreating a master bedroom for one of my friends,” Michele says. “That was a lot of fun. They already had a beautiful Sherwin-Williams paint color on the wall and brand new bedding, but I got to add in painted picture frames, a handmade bench and some other fun projects.” Michele created all new pieces for her daughter Lauren’s place in Kansas City. “I did some really great furniture, if I do say so myself,” she says. Michele’s friends and neighbors are continually asking her for tips and advice on pieces. “You have a project you want to work on?” she asks. “Come on over, and we’ll get started. At the end of the day, it’s really all just stuff,” Michele says about her continual collecting and bargaining skills. “I do it because I like to have projects going on. Honestly, I can’t sit still.” For Michele, the whole process is enjoyable: everything from the “hunt and kill,” as she calls her purchasing process, to seeing her friends and family enjoy the completed creation.
5 – This was originally a fruit-patterned cabinet from back in the day that Michele spent $100 on. She had mirrors cut downtown for $15, purchased half-price knobs at Hobby Lobby for $5 each and added $15 to $20 of chalk paint. Voila!
6 – “I sprayed these lamps with Rustoleum paint,” Michele says. “They have tons of colors, everything from shiny to a hammered look. And those crystals? I got them at The Marketplace when they were closing. I’m pretty sure they’re Christmas ornaments.”
Tips from Michele:
If you’re thinking of repainting a piece, look at it and live with it for a day or two.
Sometimes, it takes me a couple days to come up with ideas, especially when painting. When I do decide on a color, I always put the paint on a poster board to hold up in front of the wall or furniture to make sure I’m happy with the color and look before I get too far into a project.
It doesn’t hurt to take some cookies or rum cake to someone who gave you a really great deal or helped you on a project.
Keep a supply of chalk paint on hand. There’s a cult of chalk painters here in Columbia, so we like to trade colors.
Don’t forget your 40 percent off coupon when shopping at Hobby Lobby!
Her biggest regret: “One time, I painted a room a bright yellow, which I thought I was going to love,” she says. “When it was done, it was the color of a highlighter, and it was terrible. That’s why I always do the poster boards now.”
Must-have tools and supplies
hot glue gun
lots of spray paint c