RUSSELL, Ky. – As a child, Darren Diamond got pieces of furniture at rummage sales and would drag them to his house. His mother made him leave the furniture outside.
“My mom would tell me I couldn’t bring the furniture in the house,” he said. “I’d tell her she would let me when I was finished doing what I was going to do to it.” What began as a hobby creating unique furniture pieces, repurposing and refinishing antiques has blossomed into a full-fledged successful business for Diamond, who opened Diamond Furniture Restoration at 519 Bellefonte St. in Russell, Kentucky, 13 years ago. He said the the shop is the result of a dream and necessity.
After graduating from Ohio University, Diamond said he moved to Indianapolis to start a job selling advertising for Hershey’s Chocolate. It was there he met Brad Turner, a renowned master furniture refinisher. “I spent a lot of time at Brad’s place in the evenings and on weekends,” he said. “I learned a lot from him, and my love for antiques only grew from there.” Diamond, as a child growing up in Ironton, said his dad had some friends who were laid off from Dayton Malleable. Those friends opened a furniture stripping shop around the corner from an upholstery shop where Diamond was working.
“I used to go over there with my dad, and I just loved it,” he said. “After selling advertising, every job I had kept getting cut, getting bought out or eliminated because of downsizing. After so many cutbacks in the ad sales business, I decided to try my hand at furniture restoration.” Diamond began renting a section of the building in which Diamond Furniture Restoration is located. He now owns the building and has used it to his advantage, partitioning portions for different processes, such as one for upholstery and one for woodworking. A 3,000 square-foot metal building across the street houses many of the business’ antiques.
“I have to do a lot of different things to make it in this business,” he said. “If I weren’t so diverse and just relied on stripping and refinishing I would not still be doing this.” Diversity in his business, Diamond said, is vital.
“I had been in business a couple years and noticed a lot of trends in magazines that things like farm sinks and clawfoot tubs were coming back and everyone wanted them. I thought, ‘There has to be a way to refinish those.’ “
Diamond then researched and found a place in Jacksonville, Florida, called Tub King and attended a two-week course that taught him how to refinish the tubs and sinks. Further, he learned how to refinish the tubs and sinks for people in their homes.
“It makes it much easier to refinish the sinks and tubs when I can go to someone’s house and do it,” he said.
Sometimes people bring a piece of furniture to Diamond and request it be refurbished, but he more often buys furniture, transforms it and sells it.
“Mainly I refinish and upholster things that have sentimental value to people,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of furniture painting lately, and we sell a lot of items online. We buy vintage chair frames and redo them because new furniture is expensive and not made really well.” Diamond said his crew takes vintage chair frames that are solid maple or oak with coil springs, break them down to the bare frame, disinfect the frame, re-rub it, re-cinch and eight-way hand-tie the springs.
“After all that, you got something,” he said. “It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.” After 13 years Diamond has built a network of clients and customers and clients who he knows like certain things.
“A lot of times I’ll get something and I’ll call my contacts, which are all over the place, and tell them I have something and ask them if they are interested,” he said. “Oftentimes I can sell something the day I buy it.” One thing Diamond said keeps him getting to his store around 6 a.m. every morning is the challenges that come along with what he does.
“It’s all different,” he said. “Sometimes people bring things in, and there are pieces missing so I have to research and find out what piece is missing and what it looks like, and that’s what’s cool about what I do. Once I master something I tend to get bored. This profession allows me to feel like, after 13 years, I’m going to art class every day because there are so many different aspects to it.” Diamond said he and his six employees are grateful to be part of a thriving downtown Russell antique district that boasts six different antique shops.
Sharon Easterling of Flatwoods, Kentucky, is a longtime antiques aficionado and was Diamond’s first customer.
“She walked in here and dropped off something to get re-done – she keeps something in here for me to re-do for her,” he said. “She told me, ‘If you don’t get greedy, you’ll be successful.’ So many antique shops have a bunch of the same things for sale and that just doesn’t make sense. I don’t sell things for what they book for or for what everyone sells it, I sell it for what I’ve got in it and that makes me be able to turn it quickly.”