Fabian said she has always been crafty, but she became passionate about restoring furniture after working with her father in his shop.
“I got my start with a small antique night stand that needed repair,” she said. “It was Father’s Day and I gave my dad the little table in hopes we could fix it and he would teach me.”
When her father realized she wanted to learn more about his passion, he was moved and excited. That time spent with him kickstarted her own woodworking passion. Fabian spent nearly every weekend working with her father at his home wood shop in Pickering – which became the place she would escape to after losing her job in November 2017.
“I was depressed . . . I felt lost, I needed a project. I bought an old Duncan Phyfe table and chairs because it reminded me of one in my grandmother’s house as a child. I wanted to restore it and flip it,” Fabian said.
Last January she restored the mahogany table to its original glory as her first solo project. The feelings of nostalgia that swept over her were very therapeutic. Her company name was born, Sweet Nostalgia – which represents those feelings.
“I loved working on that table. I couldn’t sell it, it’s now in my dining room. I was so proud and so was my dad.” It made her feel good and restored her confidence. “I wanted to see how far I could take it.”
And with that new-found confidence, Fabian launched Sweet Nostalgia. She now has a space at The Nooks in Port Hope, where in addition to her furniture restoration talents, she offers handmade cutting boards and live edge charcuterie boards, blanket ladders, centre pieces, and more – some items are made from reclaimed barnboard wood that is over 100 years old.
“One dresser, which is now for sale in The Nooks, had a note inside that said, ‘Bought in May of 1915.’ This older-style furniture is truly built to last,” she said.
“All of the furniture I work on is old. I like salvaging the warmth of the wood, combined with the modern look of adding paint. I love seeing the wood come back to life after a bit of love and care.”
She finds her furniture projects online and friends and family often let her know if they have furniture they no longer want. She obtains reclaimed wood and has an arrangement with a local warehouse that provides clean, recycled pallet wood for some of her creations.
For those who want to open their own business, Fabian said, “Do what you love but be prepared for a lot of long hours and hard work.”
But why buy restored antique furniture instead of new items?
“The quality will surpass anything you’ll find in today’s stores,” she said. “It’s all unique, not mass produced.”
By refinishing furniture, Fabian prevents it from ending up in landfill sites. She uses all-natural, food-safe glue and conditioning oils for her charcuterie boards.
Fabian is excited to be part of Port Hope’s new downtown shop, The Nooks, which offers a curated mix of hand-crafted treasures. Each nook is a mini storefront for creative entrepreneurs.
Fabian will support Victim Services of Peterborough and Northumberland – a confidential community-based service that provides immediate emotional and practical support to victims of crime and tragedy – this holiday season by contributing 10 per cent of her sales in December.
Brandon Walker is a media relations professional residing in Thunder Bay who is friends with Gayle Fabian.
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