She was just doing what she liked to do as a hobby, Gail Haroldson said. The only problem was that hobby - decorating and repurposing old furniture - was taking up too much space. The solution? Take an old, unused granary on the family farm north of Minneota and turn it into a studio.
The best part about refurbishing the old granary, Haroldson said, is that she gets to keep doing things she loves.
"The hunt to find a piece is exciting. Taking it home and turning it into something is exciting," she said. Seeing someone happy with something she's made is all part of the thrill, too.
Gail Haroldson and her granddaughter, Jacquelynn Moon, show off some of the furniture projects Gail has been working on in the old granary.
Left: The rafter spaces in the granary offer a little more room to display finished projects like repainted metal beadsteads and a revamped chair.
"I don't refinish furniture," Haroldson said of her hobby. Instead, she re-does or reinvents the pieces she finds. Reinventing can mean anything from giving an old dresser a new paint job, to reupholstering a funky, old chaise lounge or making a folding table out of a leaf from a big dining table.
"I usually have about three projects going at the same time," Haroldson said. "When one project is drying, you start working on something else."
The granary, now painted a cheerful shade of yellow, had stood on the farm for years, Haroldson said. It was probably once used for storing grain, but by the time Haroldson and members of her family tried to clean it out, it had become more like a junk storage area.
"All the credit goes to my family," Haroldson said, for helping to haul everything out.
"It was just stuffed with stuff," she said - pretty much up to the granary's windows. "I found an original treadle sewing machine. I can't wait to make something out of that. There was also an iron crib," as well as other old furniture and odds and ends.
It took a lot of work, but the shed was cleaned out and repainted. Now, Haroldson uses it to show off finished pieces of furniture. Lately, she said, she's been working on projects to decorate her granddaughter Jacquelynn's bedroom in a princess theme, and she's also gotten interested in adding decoration to old mirrors.
Haroldson said she's always had an inclination toward collecting old things and turning them into something new.
More recently, she said, "I found out my grandmother was the same way."
It must be something that runs in the family, she said, because her grandchildren also like spending time with her looking for new "pieces" or working on projects.
Haroldson said she looks for old furniture in places like thrift shops and flea markets, or sometimes asks permission to check out abandoned farm sites. An old lighting fixture Haroldson repainted for her granddaughter's room came from the Habitat for Humanity Re-store in Marshall.
Sometimes a furniture find will turn out to be a challenge, she said.
"This one isn't finished because I'm not sure what to do with it," Haroldson said, opening up a vintage stereo cabinet she had started by repainting. Inside, the cabinet still had its original radio dials, and a compartment with a working turntable.
"At first, I thought I would take all of this out," she said, but now she thinks the cabinet might be more appealing to a music lover as it is.
Along with revamping the granary, Haroldson said she's turned it into a small business, which she's calling Fancified Finds. The name, she said, was inspired by a customer at her husband Harold's mechanic business.
"He said, 'Your wife is always fancifying something,'" Haroldson said. It seemed perfect.
Haroldson has hosted a couple of shows of reimagined furniture and home decor so far, and she said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. She's also made a Facebook page for Fancified Finds, and plans to put together another show in the spring.
She said she'd like to include some plants and garden decorations along with the interior pieces.
"I'll start out small," she said.