A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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By Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

Even do-it-your-selfers need a helping hand from time to time. Not all of us can just watch an episode of Flea Market Flip or open our Pinterest apps and figure out how to turn a tired mahogany hutch into a shabby-chic desk.

Heck, some of us don’t even know where to find a tired hutch.

Local antique and vintage stores often sell and artfully stage restored and redesigned furniture – places like Loft Fifty 5 in Manchester, Rustique Reclaimed Furniture & Home Decor in Epsom, Glorious

Possibilities in Nashua and Peterborough’s Laurel & Grove and Twin Elm Farm Home Furnishings inspire shoppers who like one-of-a-kind pieces and DIYers alike.

They’re also shops that serve as inspiration and sometimes, instruction. Thrift shops, flea markets, yard sales and our own basements often provide the raw material.

There’s a ton of inspiration to be found at White Home Collections on Greenville Road in Wilton, both in the form of finished painted projects and materials for DIYers – like antique clock faces, vintage textiles and architectural salvage – to create new ones.

Lauren Tiso, a former kindergarten teacher from Amherst, is one of 40 dealers with a booth in the spacious, old farmhouse-turned-store. Her work includes transformed bureaus, mirrors and even an old, painted window pane into a cunning, country photo display with the help of twine and some aged clothespins.

“I get inspired by reading, yard and estate sales and stores like this and Vintage Whimsey & Co. in Amherst,” (which also sells painted items as well as the paints needed to do it yourself) she said.

Tiso’s advice for wannabe furniture transformers? Take a lesson.

“I took a class in chalk painting because I’m a hands-on learner,” she said. “YouTube just wouldn’t work for me. The first time I tried on a simple piece it was – well, ugly. I didn’t do it right. But that’s the thing. It didn’t matter. It didn’t ruin the piece. I just painted over it.”

Curiosity & Co. in Laconia offers a variety of workshops in both milk and mud painting, designed for everybody in the family, at the shop on Main Street. The store also sells beautifully repainted vintage furniture and home décor, as well as gifts, candles, soaps and cards. It takes commissions if someone is too busy or too hesitant to transform their own vintage treasure.

Amy Rothe, owner of Sage & Twine on Main Street in Contoocook, is also aware of the forgiving nature of this craft. The shop sells painted furniture and objects d’art created by Rothe. It also carries new and vintage home goods, gifts and jewelry, as well as the paints and tools needed for those who want to do their own furniture flipping.

Her advice for beginning DIYers? “Just do it. If you pick up something at a flea market, or at the side of the road, what do you have to lose? Even if it goes badly, there is always something you can save, even the leg of a coffee table may be turned into a candlestick.”

Advice might not be enough incentive for the nervous novice. That’s why Rothe, an artist and former science teacher, gives three-hour workshops on milk-and-chalk painting and finishing techniques and full-day classes. There customers bring in their own piece of furniture and transform it by the end of the day.

This year Sage & Twine will also hold two Makers Day Merriment Workshops – Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – where participants make four handcrafted holiday gifts. Lunch and snacks are included.

“Sometimes people start out these classes scared to death,” said Rothe. “But you really can’t mess up when you’re doing this and when they see what they’ve done, they get the bug.”

That’s how it happened for her. “I started doing this as a hobby,” she said. “When I furnished my house, I wanted pieces with character, not something from a big-box store … I’m a tree hugger. Environment first. So, I started taking old furniture and upcycling it.”

Rothe gets her treasures-to-be from estate and yard sales. She also uses social media, searching on neighborhood yard sale Facebook pages.

For DIYers who want to do good while doing well at repurposing, the Greater Nashua Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Amherst Street in Nashua not only sells donated, used furniture at yard sale prices, but also their own brand of chalk paint and a few items volunteers have repainted.

All profits go to support homeownership for hard-working, low-income families in the Greater Nashua area, while keeping good, reusable materials in use and out of the landfill.