Vera McKeown’s new store offers old made fresh
BY GLORIA J. KATCH
Special to the VOICE
It’s a treasure trove of collectibles— antique-looking furniture, wall hangings, mirrors and book covers— all designed by V. The “V” stands for Vera McKeown, who recently opened her Creations by V store at 1400 Pelham Street, just south of Church Hill in Fonthill, but perhaps the moniker should have an additional “4U” tagged at the end, as it’s her personalized custom design service that keeps her business booming and passion flowing.
McKeown loves refurbishing something old and turning it into an exquisite conversational piece. Conversation being the key point. Every knickknack and furniture item tells a story, she says.
“I love taking pieces of furniture and bringing new life into them. It’s like they’re saying thank you for keeping me around a little longer.”
McKeown appreciates the sentimentality in wanting to keep some memorabilia or keepsake handed down through the generations by a client’s grandparent, for example.
McKeown is often asked to refurbish items such as chairs, cupboards and coffee tables, which she does at the back of her shop, with the help of her husband, Terry Keagan, who picks up customers’ items and brings them to their house, or her store to refinish. She recently spent some time at a customer house, refurbishing an entertainment center that was too big to move. However, after the project was completed, McKeown made a new friend, painting and chatting away.
McKeown tackles most jobs at the store, which allows her to greet and assist customers wandering into the shop. While the work can sometimes be labour-intensive, like distressing, which takes four steps to acquire a variety of vintage looks, McKeown says she finds her job, “peaceful.”
“I’m in my own little world, and I love it. It relaxes me.”
Over the last little while, she has noticed improvements in her work which has helped build her confidence.
“The end effect is always the best,” she says, adding that she wants to learn new techniques and styles.
Today’s paint techniques have expanded to include finishes that reflect everything from art-deco, pop, classical and contemporary styles. Distress painting adds that vintage, barn and shabby chic look, and some pieces of furniture have several different techniques applied to them for a unique, one-of-a-kind design. Sometimes this includes distressing the top of the table, cabinet or dresser, then painting the sides with another texture or solid colour. Stencils and transfers of flowers, sayings and snippets of poetry topped with a finishing stain, oil or wax can add spice to any piece of furniture.
McKeown will offer design advice to someone, who isn’t quite sure what they want.
“You kind of get a feel for the home,” she says, adding today’s modern look includes mixing contemporary and classical styles together.
“I’m not a big fan of the contemporary look, because it’s a little too sleek for me. It doesn’t have that lived-in look.”
She prefers to infuse some character, colour, pop and personality into the home by creating that special piece for her clients.
After many years of dabbling with decorating and design, McKeown decided to follow her dreams. A recent painting class became the catalyst for a life-changing experience. After being in the restaurant business for 30 years, McKeown felt it was time for a change.
“When one door closes, another one opens,” she says, and soon after she was turning the key in the lock of her new business, which is in a prime location in the heart of Pelham.
“It’s perfect, it’s quaint,” she says. “I like Fonthill.”
A lot of people drop in to shop or browse, and it attracts curious spectators walking by.
“I’m getting great feedback. It’s been so positive.”
After attempting to run her business from her Welland residence and Marketplace Online Shopping, McKeown noted most people buying collectibles want to “touch and feel” the products, so opening a store has brought success.
The other aspect of her business involves that dangerous word —“shopping.”
“Who doesn’t love shopping?” she asks.
The store is packed with items, as McKeown constantly hunts for fresh stock at antique dealers, flea markets and secondhand stores. She admits it requires storage space and some “restraint.” She also carries a popular brand known as 1803 Candles, a large selection of Fusion Mineral Paints and brushes, decoupage glue, and metallics for those who want to refurbish projects themselves. In the future, she will be hosting a DIY “Welcome Board Workshops” to teach interested participants in the fall.
McKeown says she recently purchased a sewing machine, and is now “hooked” on creating her own custom-made pillows. For people like McKeown who follow their passion, there are so many ideas, so little time.
For more information, see www.creationsbyv.com