Jennie Leigh Designs takes furniture from drab to fab
Jennie Leigh Gainey’s cheery new Greenville shop Jennie Leigh Designs is like Alice in Wonderland meets Ethan Allen.
Gainey takes old, dreary, and unfashionable pieces of furniture and transforms them into stylish, whimsical wonders—all with a coat of paint. She’s passionate about helping people repurpose their antique or attic pieces, a sentiment that resonates perfectly in today’s economy, when most people are pinching pennies.
She didn’t always paint furniture—she used to paint faces. This former makeup artist once powdered the nose of Matthew McConaughey. She then owned a TaeKwon-Do studio before a stint as a real estate agent. After her third child, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom, but her creativity could not be contained.
A year ago, wanting to redo a dresser that belonged to her grandmother, she was up all night Googling how to do it, then stumbled onto well-known European designer Annie Sloan’s paint line. She immediately became South Carolina’s distributor for the water-based, quick-drying, latex-free paint that requires no sanding or priming. She was hooked on the ease, the color palette, and the fabulous results.
A 16-year Greenville resident (she moved here after reading a travel article covering Main Street), Gainey opened the doors of Jennie Leigh Designs last October. The sunlight-filled shop features her “French-country, shabby-chic” vibe with numerous pieces of her painted furniture, along with a meticulously curated mix of gift items: antique china, hand towels, postcards, candles, soaps, and lotions—many made by local creative souls.
Although some customers bring “ugly brown furniture” to transform, she finds that once they know how easy it is to redo it, they often decide to do it themselves. Her once-a-month, four-hour workshop teaches four specific methods: crackling, distressing, texturing, and the two-color technique (the next one is Saturday, March 24). She also hosts “Girls Night Out” events where gal pals turn their own forlorn desks or dressers into statement pieces, all in an evening.
Gainey’s commissioned pieces take one to two weeks. But wouldn’t it be fun to DIY?