Formerly a lawyer and an architect, they now spend their days repurposing furniture. Frances Wu and Sharon Huang formed RaReR – Repurpose, Recreate, Revive – after meeting as fellow parents at Murch Elementary School.
Both were in transition from their careers and had dreams of having an art business. Wu’s Berkeley background drew her to the idea of salvaging old products, while Huang’s design background gave her an eye for the unusual.
Eventually, they came up with an idea to use old furnishings as “canvases” for art. They routinely scour vintage and secondhand stores, junk yards, and estate and garage sales for old pieces with “good bones,” then redo them with a modern twist. Using colors that pop and old items for new purposes, they aim to infuse their creations with a taste of the unexpected.
For them, the fun is in taking an old product and giving it a new look – and often a new purpose. Their first product was a line of chairs with a lattice of leather belts as seats.
The Psychedelic Firs, as they are named, have been a big draw at recent markets, described by shoppers as “clever” and “unique.”
“People are intrigued by them,” Wu says. “They’ll ask if they can sit on them. The answer is, of course! Functionality is at least half of the equation.”
Other innovations have included an ottoman made from the waistbands of jeans, updating a traditional milk glass lamp with a tangerine lamp shade and robin’s egg blue stem, or converting a traditional dresser into a peacock blue buffet. The nature of the business is such that everything RaReR makes is one of a kind.
As word of the business has spread among their friends, they often receive gifts of old furniture on their doorsteps – items people find on the street or are trying to get out of their homes. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
RaReR also does commissions.
“A lot of people have things laying around their house, like that old table down in the basement or armoire in the attic – but just never seem to get around to redoing it,” Huang says. “We can help with that. We talk to them about color and design so they get exactly what they want.”
In addition, RaReR is sometimes asked to be a personal shopper, to find “just the right piece” – a narrow bench, corner cabinet, and so on – for clients who don’t have time to shop themselves or who don’t know where to look.
There is no brick and mortar store in its near future, but look for RaReR at DC-area flea markets, craft shows and boutiques. They can be reached through their website at RaReRdesign.com.