FAIR HAVEN – Leigh Heagney has always had the “eye.”
An artist, Heagney is able to look beyond what something is to what that something can be. “I love taking something someone else has put to the curb and making it beautiful,” she said. “It’s finding the beauty in something that was overlooked.”
Now, Heagney is helping others transform hidden treasures – whether they’re already in a home, at a flea market or sitting on a curb.
In January, Heagney opened Lotus Way, a lifestyle store in Fair Haven. Located at 825 River Road, the store offers clothing and accessories for individuals and their homes. The store is also the exclusive area retailer for Amy Howard at Home One Step Paint.
After years of overseeing furniture makeovers for her clients, interior designer Amy Howard introduced her own collection of paints and finishes in early 2013. “I bottled the processes and procedures that I’ve refined over the years to show how easy it is to create beautiful new looks at home,” Howard told Southern Living magazine.
Heagney, who has been painting furniture for a long time, was intrigued when she came across the Amy Howard line while attending the New York International Gift Fair at the Javits Center in Manhattan in August. “I had been looking to bring something different to the area,” Heagney said. “Amy Howard was just what I was looking for.”
An artist by training, Howard and her husband, Gene, launched The Amy Howard Collection in 1991, initially painting room divider screens that were sold to individuals and antique stores. Over the years, the furniture collection has grown to include more than 300 high-end pieces sold by retailers and interior designers across the country.
But Howard, whose mantra is “rescue restore redecorate” wanted to do more, especially after she discovered that nearly 10 million furniture and accessory items are being discarded annually. “We declared war on the dismissal of furniture that has potential for a second act in them,” she proclaims on the Amy Howard at Home website.
The Amy Howard at Home One Step Paint line is the Memphis-born Howard’s way of giving power to do-it-yourselfers. “I loved the idea of restoring furniture, of giving people an easy way transform furniture into something new.” That the products are all made in the USA, certified green and can be offered to consumers at a good price point also helped convince Heagney that this was a brand she had to bring to area residents.
So in October, Heagney headed to Memphis to be trained in the different ways the products can be used. Heagney was trained by none other than Howard herself.
“It is important to Amy that retailers understand the line,” Heagney said. “There are so many aspects … it’s not just paint.”
Indeed, it’s not.
The line includes One Step Paint (in 38 colors), furniture lacquer paints (in 17 colors), waxes (light and dark), powders, gilding supplies, antique mirror kits and much more.
“It’s such an easy-to-use line,” Heagney said. “In just a couple of hours you can have a brand ‘new’ piece.”
Unlike other products, the Amy Howard line doesn’t require pieces to be stripped or sanded before painting. “It’s just one coat of paint (sometimes two), some wax and you’re done. It’s that easy.”
That anyone can transform a piece is exciting to Heagney. “You don’t have to have a certain skill level,” she explained. “After you learn how the finishes work, you’re on your way.”
To show just want Amy Howard at home can do, Heagney opted to display the line in its own room, in a piece that was brought back to life with Amy Howard One Step Paint.
“I found the Henredon cabinet at the Englishtown auction and paid $25 for it,” Heagney said. “It doesn’t look like the same piece at all … it’s beautiful. I was able to give it new life.”
That design philosophy – the ability to give new life to pieces whose style life has expired – is appealing to Heagney, who is the former owner of The Design Studio in Rumson. “Many times you have furniture that has great lines but you no longer love the finish. Instead of putting it to the curb, you can give it new life with paint.”
The products work on wood, metal, plastic and more.
“With the lacquer paint, you easily add a punch of color to a room quickly and inexpensively,” Heagney pointed out. “For $18 (the cost of a can of lacquer paint) you can have a great accent piece for a room.”
And, if you want an older looking piece, there’s ways to achieve that look as well. “It’s all about creating what you want,” Heagney. “Instead of a manufacturer telling you want you can have, you can create what you want.”
Even better, that “new” piece can be had at a fraction of the cost.
“People’s styles change over time,” Heagney said. “And something you loved 10 years or so may no longer fit in your home today. But instead of throwing it out and sticking it in an attic, you are able to transform it into a piece that belongs front and center in your home today.”
To introduce do-it-yourselfers to the line, as well as to show them the various techniques for using the paints, Heagney has started offering workshops. During the three-hour class, attendees work on small molding projects to get hands-on experience.
“It’s a way to let people know that they are creative. It’s a way to get them inspired,” Heagney said. “Once they understand what they can do and how easy it is, I think they won’t look at things the same. Things that might have been put to the curb aren’t going to find their way there anymore.”
The next class is scheduled for Monday, April 21. Call Lotus Way at 732-345-0123 for class time and additional information.
Heagney said she will conduct private classes as well as group classes.
Heagney is excited about the venture.
“To me, if you bring something into your home that you love, you will always love your home,” she said. “I just want people to love their homes.”