NICHOLASVILLE — Steve and Andrea Kohlman's garage looks as if someone raided a warehouse of vintage furniture with an updated color palette, on-trend fabrics and professionally staged accessories.
The collection includes a variety of reworked furniture pieces in shades of lime green and distressed aqua that pop out at the casual observer; nearby sit a pair of ottomans covered in trendy French-language fabric (and at $60, a bargain).
The cause that the Kohlmans sponsor with the sale of this refinished furniture — gleaned from garage sales, charity stores and ads — is Waves of Mercy mission in Port-de-Paix, Haiti. They call their venture Repurposed Soul, and all of its profits go to the mission, which provides medical care, church, schooling and nutrition. (Go to Mercysaves.org)
According to Repurposed Soul's Facebook page, "Waves of Mercy is responsible for affecting thousands of lives in the Twa Rivye area by providing a church, free schooling, housing for street boys, a nutrition program that serves a nutritious meal five days a week to 165 children who are the poorest of the poor as well as many other essential things."
To make her point, Andrea Kohlman shows a visitor a small clear cookie jar in her living room. Out of it she lifts what looks like a tiny mud pie: It's called a "mud cookie," she explains, and is indeed made of mud, oil and salt. Haitians sometimes eat them to ward off hunger pangs, she said.
That is a motivating factor in raising money to distribute food and medicine, she said.
An intensive care unit nurse at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, Andrea began visiting Haiti in November, 2009. Now she visits several times a year for seven to 10 days helping to distribute food, medicine and medical care.
"I just fell in love with it from there," she said. She and her husband met at a Louisville church. Steve is local response director at Southland Christian Church. They have two daughters: Ellie, 8, and Claire, 5.
Since starting their nonprofit organization in early 2012, the couple has been able to donate about $7,200 to the cause. They would like to give far more in 2013. Reworking furniture seemed a natural fit when they were looking at ideas to finance their interest in mission work.
In their house, you can find several examples of work Steve has done with repurposing furniture. He refinished a cabinet in the living room after finding it in an old school in Sadieville. He stained it black to look like a Kentucky barn and put a picture of horses above it. The combination reminds him of his grandparents, who lived on a farm and owned horses, Steve said.
Steve also refinished a blue dry sink in the house foyer that he found at a garage sale for $20, distressing it to bring out the yellow tones beneath the paint. Toys for the family's five small dogs are stored in a converted whiskey crate.
"We started to look at pieces you couldn't find in the stores," Steve said. "I enjoy doing interior design. It's a hobby of mine. It's nice to use a talent for something good."
He examines color trends coming up in stores such as Target and on the Web network Pinterest.
The couple have a few pieces stored in their bedroom for future transformation. Steve brings out a small chest and looks it over. Sanding, painting it antique white, changing out the knobs, distressing: It may be two hours work, he figures.
There's also a chair that will be sanded and painted a light blue, then distressed enough to highlight details such as the turned legs, and its seat covered with a patterned fabric.
Soon it will be garage sale season, time to scour the neighborhoods for furniture finds. His older daughter Ellie has volunteered to help pick out fabric to update their purchases, and he can't wait to find new bargains.
"The more we get out there, the more babies can be fed," Andrea said. "The whole point is just to share love with anyone we meet there. God uses every single person who has gone with me on the trip."
Repurposed Soul repurposed furniture, new spring decor sale
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: 120 Bernie Trail, Nicholasville
For more information: http://on.fb.me/XzK07b