Giving Creation New Life
Frankenstein Furniture’s Husband and Wife Team Works to Restore Old Treasures
Writer & Photographer / Joshua Deisler
As a steady, quiet snow fell across Indianapolis, Michelle and Craig Smith were loading up an old rocking chair into their car. From their shop, they drove the chair to Butler-Tarkington. On that Valentine’s Day, the wayward snow blew across the streets, and Michelle thought about how much she loved her husband Craig. And as they drew near to their destination, she remembered the old chair’s story.
But the old rocking chair had once been in desperate need – it was covered in layers of paint and had worn down from year’s of use. It was just one of Craig and Michelle’s many projects as owners of Frankenstein Furniture.
Located in SoBro, Frankenstein Furniture has been breathing new life into old and damaged chairs, tables, cabinets, dressers and more for five years. The shop, which has earned the Angie’s List Super Service Award for five years straight, finds its home in the Smith’s back garage.
“It’s your basic dump,” jokes Craig from his living room sofa. He reminisces about his first experience in the furniture business. Years ago, Craig found himself scanning the classifieds and noticed an ad for help wanted at Broad Ripple Refinishing. The manager asked Craig if he had ever worked on furniture. Craig replied with a quick ‘no,’ but added that he could do a good Rodney Dangerfield impression.
“I actually got hired on for my Rodney Dangerfield impression over my being able to fix a chair,” says Craig. “I don’t know how the hell that happened.” But as time went by, Craig mastered his trade.
Years later, when both Craig and Michelle lost their jobs, Craig said, “To heck with it. I’m gonna start my own business.” And so, Craig began doing what he loved to do, turning his run-down garage into a furniture shop.
“Craig had the talent, and I had the backup talent behind the scenes,” says Michelle as her dog Emmett rests his head in her lap. She rescued the dogs from LUV a Dog. “We foster [dogs]. It’s such a cause that’s dear to both our hearts,” she says, reaching for her other dog Joon, who carries a half-eaten bone.
“Some people think Frankenstein is our last name and call me ‘Mrs. Frankenstein,’” says Michelle, chuckling about their shop’s unique name. “We bring your furniture back to life.” What may have ended up in the trash is restored, repurposed and renewed.
Craig loves the old horror movies, so he liked the sound of Frankenstein and furniture. “There’s repurposing often in what we do. There’s using a part from somewhere else to replace something,” says Craig.
Customers often send a picture of their needy furniture, and Craig and Michelle will reply with a free quote. Craig picks up the furniture and drops it off upon completion. The shop is usually booked for at least two months straight.
Throughout the restoration process, Michelle phones the customers every week to update them on the progress of the furniture and even writes thank you notes to every client. Her everyday tasks include answering phones, sending emails and scheduling their busy calendar.
In the shop, Craig is now restoring several pieces, including a 1920s pedestal table and chairs that will be stripped, stained and finished. He does everything by hand, including the staining.