Interview – Danielle McDonald

Furniture Upcycler – Danielle McDonald


What do you consider the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

I love that I have the freedom to work from home first and foremost. Being able to do the school drop offs and pickups is wonderful and I don’t for one minute take that for granted. I am able to work from home, within the hours that I choose, and be there for my kids whenever they need me. What more could you ask for?

As for my work, I love that I can take a piece of furniture that was old, unloved and ugly and make it beautiful again and ready to be re-loved. It goes back into a new home as opposed to going into landfill where they are more often than not headed.

There aren’t too many challenges, but I guess that the biggest one is that I don’t have a guaranteed income from the security of a “normal” job. If I don’t work, then I simply don’t get paid. It’s easy to slack off when you work from home, so you always have to be on the ball.


If people were considering becoming a furniture upcycler what advice would you give them?

You really have to love what you do. You have to be passionate about this job, and if you’re not and your heart isn’t in it, it really does show through your work. Then you must master your craft and use the right tools to make the way you work more efficient. Since using the Annie Sloan range of paint and product, my job has become so much easier and far more enjoyable. I’m taking less time to complete each project which means that I can do a lot more in my allocated work day.


What qualifications, qualities or experience is required to become a furniture upcycler?

 I really have just taught myself how to do this job, but I have always been into woodwork and have a real passion for what I do and am always keen to learn different techniques.  I’ve done some painting classes and training and just asked questions when I didn’t know what I was doing. When you have a passion for what you do, the learning is the easy part.


What path did you take to become a furniture upcyler?

 I kind of just fell into this job. I painted my first piece when I had been suffering from a severe depression and I needed something to take my mind off the harsh realities of what I was dealing with at that time. I found the painting and the whole upcycling process quite therapeutic and it really played a huge part in my recovery. It turned out that I had a passion for this kind of thing, and I was good at what I did, so I decided at that stage to take a punt and try to make a living out of it. Since then I have shared my journey with my customers and followers and try to raise awareness of depression and anxiety and break the stigmas that these illnesses hold in our society. With my illness, I managed to turn something so horrible into something so beautiful and that’s the exact process I think about when upcycling each piece of furniture.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

An architect. Since I was a little girl I wanted to design grand homes, but I never made it that far. Instead I’ll create pretty things to go into lovely homes, and that’s good enough for me!


Were there any other careers you considered pursuing when you left school?

When I left school, I didn’t go to university and therefore had no real qualifications, so I just looked for work, any kind of work, like most kids did. I started working in the steel industry when I was just 18 and stayed there for the next ten or so years until I left that security of a “real” job to go and have my first baby. Since then, I’ve never ever gone back into the conventional workforce and have just worked from home.


Is this your first career? Can you see yourself remaining in this line of work forever?

No, this isn’t my first career and yes, I could definitely do see myself in this line of work, forever!


What are your standard hours?

As soon as I wake up, I’m usually on social media – my Facebook page – answering questions from my customers. I then would usually drop the kids to school and work until I pick them up again. If I have a heavy work load, I can then continue on after I have picked the kids up, and have also been known to be painting well after midnight if necessary.


Is there anything you can tell us about your job that people wouldn’t expect?

 It’s just so much fun, but I guess you probably could expect that!