Gina Fitzmaurice moved into a new home last month, and she wanted to mix her modern furniture with vintage pieces that had been painted and distressed.
The stay-at-home mom was willing to do the work herself, despite her husband's warning that it would take too long.
"I was actually on Craigslist looking for a table to refinish or paint, and I saw her stuff, and it was exactly what I wanted," said Gina, 30, of Chesterfield, Mo.
Gina was speaking of Veronica Neff, who owns a business called Knott So Shabby in Columbia.
Veronica refurbishes vintage and antique furniture to make it "shabby chic," "French country," "antique farm house" or "cottage" style.
She often uses contrasting colors and occasionally hand-paints whimsical designs.
"All the wood lovers out there are going to want to kill me because I'm painting wood," she said. "But there's plenty of furniture to strip and refinish for those who want it."
Veronica, 37, operated out of her home in rural Columbia until November, when she opened a shop on Main Street that's open three days a week.
The rest of the time, she's busy working in her garage and keeping an eye on her five children, ages 3 to 16.
Gina traveled to the shop recently with her 13-month-old daughter, Sierra. It took less than a half-hour to make five purchases.
"I have a feeling I'll be addicted to your place," she told Veronica.
Gina's biggest buy was a cottage-style dining set with four chairs for $250. It had been manufactured in 1921 by Meier and Pohlmann Furniture Co. in St. Louis.
Veronica used a dark walnut stain on top of the table and painted the legs "old ochre" (off white) before distressing and waxing them.
"It's a technique that you use to make it look old and beat up and shabby," she said, noting tools of the trade range from sandpaper to wet cloths.
Gina also bought an "old white" cane-back chair with a burlap seat for $65; an "antibes green" harp table with an old white drawer for $45; a "Florence" (turquoise) drop-leaf side table with stenciling for $70; and a "peach" metal vanity chair upholstered with a quilt square for $20.
"I usually price my stuff according to what I would pay," Veronica said. "I'm very conservative. I like to reuse and recycle."
As Gina was leaving, Sue Erb walked into the shop. She wanted advice about refurbishing products and techniques.
Sue, 52, of Mehlville, Mo., is working on an end table for her daughter's room.
"I follow (Veronica's) blog," she said. "And then I found out that she has a store, so I decided to come over and take a look. A lot of people try to do this, but she does it really well."
Veronica grew up in Valmeyer. She trained to be a paralegal but ended up staying home with the kids. Her husband, Kevin, works as a power lineman when he's not helping her repair or haul furniture.
Veronica started Knott So Shabby about a year ago in California, where the family lived from 2006 to 2011.
Kevin, 32, was skeptical at first. He's a wood lover who always preferred natural stains.
"The shabby chic grows on you," he said. "We have cherry wood cabinets in our kitchen, and I'm almost ready to let her (paint and distress) them."
Kevin has been most surprised by how fast the business has taken off, despite its location in a small town.
Veronica gets most of her furniture through Craigslist. She's very selective, usually opting for solid-wood antique or vintage pieces with character.
"I get attached to each piece because I spend a lot of time with them," she said. "My husband laughs at me because I have to have a dream to decide (the color or style)."
Veronica has found old documents, photos, newspaper clippings, even a leather-bound diary taped under drawers of dressers and china cabinets.
She also does custom work for people who want to refurbish furniture they already own.
"That's what I love," she said. "You can bring something back to life after it's been stored in someone's basement for 30 years. All you need is a little bit of paint."
At a glance
What: Knott So Shabby
Where: 235 N. Main St. in Columbia
Hours: 12:30 to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment
Information: Call 618-281-6002 or 626-848-8652 or visit knottsoshabby.com