What may be junk to most people is potential treasure for sisters Bobbie Schaeperkoetter and Amanda Cramer of Drop Leaf Designs. Always on the lookout for a “find,” they love to browse a flea market or weed through the annual spring cleaning day in April, hoping for a rundown vanity or dresser that can be transformed into a piece that adds character to any décor.
“We love Dumpster diving and junking together,” Schaeperkoetter said. “We see something on the side of the road and we’re not too proud to take it.”
DIYers to the max, the sisters in their early 30s have turned their hobby and passion for repurposing, redesigning and restyling old and second-hand furniture into Drop Leaf Designs, a side business that’s taking off thanks to word-of-mouth marketing and a Facebook presence.
“We don’t do a lot of rehab work, so if something needs to be re-stripped it’s not for us,” she said. “Mostly what we do is cosmetic with paint, although we do some reconstructive work like put in new drawer pulls or handles. It’s amazing what new hardware and paint can do to a piece.”
Always working on their own creations, they also handle custom work for clients, with a turnaround time is generally 2 to 3 weeks.
“We worked on a dresser that was passed down to a granddaughter and turned a vanity into an entertainment center for a woman who as a child had signed her name inside one of the drawers.”
“We’re really storytellers,” Schaeperkoetter said. “We return pieces that have been passed down through the generations and we help them remain part of the family’s history.”
Schaeperkoetter, a stay-at-home mom who home schools her two boys, and Cramer, an RN in the ICU at the University of Missouri Hospital, work independently from their own homes and each has a speciality.
“Bobbie can really do things with arm chairs, that’s one of her strong suits, but I’m google-eyed about mirrors,” said Cramer. “Some people find them so outdated and ugly but I’ve taken mirrors where the glass is broken or damaged and turned them into chalk boards or given them a vintage twist.”
Since October 2014, some of their restyled furniture for sale is on display at a small booth at J Street Vintage on Jefferson Street, a constantly changing hodgepodge of pieces. They also post photos of their completed projects on Facebook, where they interact frequently with their nearly 1,000 followers.
“This all started from one random project in my garage where I took an old dresser drawer and turned it into a wall shelf,” Cramer said. “We never expected our hobby to grow into a business with loyal customers and Facebook followers.”
Originally from Gerald, the sisters grew up in what they refer to as a large, boisterous family of crafters.
“My father was a woodworker and my mom painted many of his projects and we learned to crochet and sew,” she said.
The sisters enjoyed crafting and finding pieces for their own homes and were encouraged to go into business. Initially they rented a booth space in Rosebud, considered the antique capital of Mid-Missouri. When they moved to Jefferson City though they wanted to have a local presence.
Some of their customers brought one item to them and then returned again and again with more pieces of furniture, which they divvy up between them.
Both married, their husbands participate in Drop Leaf Designs primarily by helping unload their finds, which they haul in Schaeperkoetter’s husband Scott’s truck. He owns Signature Homes and built their home in the Ashbury Place subdivision in Wardsville, where they store many of their raw pieces.
“My husband, James, has good taste and he wants to be helpful but sometimes I just want my own hands on the project,” said Cramer, who has a home on the west side of town. “Recycling and repurposing is close to my heart.”
Both are passing down their love of crafting and restyling furniture to their children, who often go with them to shop flea markets and antique stores.
Schaeperkoetter’s oldest son, Brayden, 12, wipes pieces down and enjoys sanding them in preparation for painting, while Cramer’s daughter, Sophia, 8, prefers going over the color swatches and helping pick out the paint colors.
But it’s the sisters who text and call each other often to go over details of their company, meeting regularly for coffee or to divvy up pieces of furniture.
“We’re very close and we’re always fine tuning the business as it keeps evolving,” she said.
“We are sisters,” added Cramer. “But we love working on the business together. It’s a great way to spend family time together and we have a lot of fun.”
Drop Leaf Designs offers tips for choosing the best pieces.
• No major structural damage. Make sure the piece has “good bones.”
• Real wood is best, avoid particle board or laminate.
• The hunt is the best part, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
• Check all drawers for structural integrity and chairs that wobble.
• Pick pieces that “speak to you.” You have to be excited about the piece in order to get the results
* 1 cup paint
* 2 teaspoons un-sanded tile grout
Mix paint immediately prior to painting. For best results, sand between coats.