Probably the hardest part of her furniture business for Kaiti Finken is having to part with the tables and dressers and signs she has re-created.
“I want to keep them for myself,” Kaiti said. “I would need a bigger house.”
With her dad, Joe, and her fiance, Conor Harper, and some help at times from her mother, Stacie, Kaiti has created a business they can all enjoy on evenings and weekends. They work out of their garages in Blair, where Kaiti grew up and graduated from Blair High School in 2008. Conor is an Arlington 2007 graduate and he and Kaiti are both attending the University of Nebraska Omaha.
After their first show last summer at the Washington County Fair in Arlington, the Finkens found their business, Kaiti’s Crafted Furniture, had gone from 150 likes on Facebook to 750 in a week.
“We enjoyed it,” Kaiti said, of showing their furniture at the fair and handing out lots of fliers. The team decided to aim for a couple of craft shows every month.
They learned as they went along, how much time goes into creating the pieces and taking them to shows, making it a long Saturday and maybe Saturday and Sunday.
A few weekends last fall, they would sell almost all their furniture at a show and have to work very hard to get enough pieces ready for the next show. That’s when Stacie lends a hand and Joe might spend every possible spare minute finishing orders for customers.
Kaiti said she has always liked making things and started with small projects as a child. Those projects were helping to stain baseboards or retiling a floor when Kaiti was 6- or 7-years-old, her mother said. Kaiti worked her way up to larger projects.
“She’s very creative and always has been,” Stacie said. “She was always daddy’s little helper.”
“We find furniture from garage sales and thrift stores,” Kaiti said. People might give them furniture cast-offs, such as dressers and sofa tables.
They get used pallets and other wood, and use those pieces to make headboards, book shelves, large decorative signs, coffee and end tables and other pieces.
“I get a lot of pallet ideas from Pinterest,” Kaiti said.
Headboards have turned out to be their biggest custom-order product, either painted to match a bedroom or stained. They have sold more than 80 headboards, Kaiti said.
Because Kaiti began a master’s program full time in counseling and everyone has a full-time day job, they plan to pick fewer craft shows to take their work during the upcoming season. Once the weather turned nice enough to work in the garage and for paint to dry, they began working this spring on pieces for custom orders, which is at least half of their business, Kaiti said.
Joe said he enjoys working on the older furniture, which often requires fixing a drawer or touching up or replacing hardware, along with the sanding, staining and painting. He said they try to use existing handles for dressers because that’s where the cost can add up. Kaiti said they prefer the older-looking handles that can’t be found now.
“We try to keep it as original as possible,” Kaiti said.
If the dresser isn’t simply stained, it may take on a new color, such as the popular ocean blue, true teal or burnt orange.
“It’s a team effort,” Kaiti said. “We couldn’t do it without each other. I’m not going to run a saw.”
She prefers to do the creative part of it: choosing colors and designs, refinishing, painting and staining. She handles the Facebook page and books the shows and enjoys working with customers.
The team said they like seeing old furniture transformed into amazingly pretty pieces.
They try to recycle and repurpose wood and make their projects in the way that makes sense to them, Kaiti said, and it requires sitting down at a table and problem-solving how to best do that. Joe keeps notes and diagrams for how he makes bookcases or other pieces with pallets.
Of all their projects, the rustic-looking garden benches take the longest to build, Kaiti said.
“We make them so you can sit on them,” she said. “We are all about repurpose, reuse and recycle.”
The creative team plans to pack their furniture and signs in the 19-foot trailer and haul them to the Pilger rest stop craft shows the first Saturdays in July through October.
They will not be selling all of their work. They plan to keep some things to use themselves as they prepare for Kaiti and Conor’s wedding in the fall.