Pittsburgh artist turns her talent to old furniture – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If it’s abandoned, discarded or on the auction block, artist Beth Salak wants it.  She rescues furniture and breathes new life into it.

“Sanding is the most important part,” said Ms. Salak, the owner of Vintage 73, a new shop in Crafton Heights. “I used to hate sanding, but now I love it.”

She has come to see sanding as the elixir of life when it comes to making something old new again.

She finds her furniture at auctions, estate sales and even at curbside.

“Usually it is the stuff no one else wants,” she admitted.

For example, Ms. Salak found a solid old wardrobe with the look of  mid-century modern minimalism on the side of the road.

“I couldn’t pass it up,” she said.

“I think it’s from the ’40s,”  said her husband, C.J. Salak, who fixed its door.

With a little TLC, some paint and a lot of sanding, she revived the reject.

Located at 1514 Stratmore Ave., her shop is leading a renaissance in the neighborhood, where several other businesses plan to open this year.

“Stratmore Avenue and Crafton Boulevard is a busy intersection, and this area has a lot of potential,” said city Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who came for Vintage 73’s ribbon-cutting Aug. 5.

Ms.Salak wanted to express herself in a way that would also enhance and help her community. She and her husband moved to the neighborhood from Bethel Park two years ago.  

“I have always loved painting,” she said. “I paint everything.”

And she means it — She paints rooms, furniture. You name it, and she will paint it.  “I was mainly a housewife painting on the side until I decided to do this,” she explained.  

It was a $25 dresser found at a flea market that got her hooked on furniture restoration. She cut out and painted the Empire-style dresser and turned it into her kitchen sink. After taking off a coat of white paint on a recent find, she discovered another coat of old green paint that she left in place on the top and sides.  

“I sanded the drawers down to the wood and will add new hardware.”

She is deciding whether to add a hand-painted motif such as ivy on the front of the chest. 

Her new store, though, includes more than her work. “I didn’t want this shop to just be about me, so I have invited some local craftsmen and artists to include their things in the inventory,” said Ms. Salak.

Photographer and craftsman Tim Salinetro designed and built some rustic hanging lights, and Mr. Salak built crosses out of reclaimed wood to offer for sale.  

“If it is not old or vintage, I want it to be hand-crafted,” she said.

Along with her restored dressers and antiques, there are baby blankets made by a local woman, as well as soy candles and American Girl-style baby doll clothing, all handmade. 

“I feel like I am meant to be here. It was God’s plan,” she said.

Vintage 73’s store hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday noon-6 p.m.

Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2613, Twitter: @pasheridan.



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