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Meet Denise Ocello of Refurbished with Love

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denise Ocello.

Denise, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up in Houston, TX I started refurbishing at an early age. I would paint random tables and chairs fun colors for my bedroom. My father is an architect and I grew up watching him build custom furniture for the house and reupholster our couches. The process of DIY was a natural thing for me to try. Then, I quickly realized my expensive taste in furniture was more than I could afford.

That’s when the real furniture hunting started as I began to find old and outdated piece left for garbage that I could transform. When I moved to Hoboken, NJ I lived across from an senior community high-rise and there would always been great quality furniture by the dumpsters. So naturally, I picked it up and brought it home. My friends started to see what I was doing, liked my eye for style and started making requests for me to find them furniture. That is when Refurbished with Love started! I was lucky to take my natural talent and hobby, turn it into a career and a way of life.

As my clientele grew and demands for my style became more frequent, I decided to leave my corporate public relations job and use my gift to help others beautify their homes. Word of mouth soon spread throughout the New York metro area, and I was asked to be on the HGTV’s show Flea Market Flip. Even though we lost by two dollars “the cost of a load of laundry” as my wife says, it was fun experience and great way to challenge myself on a short timeline. In 2018, I began refurbishing furniture on both coasts. My wife was relocated to San Diego for work and I was able to grow my clientele here. I will be honest the sunny warm weather of San Diego makes working outside more enjoyable. We moved here full time in January. Since June, I have quickly grown and am lucky to work with interior designers, home decor stores and participated in flea markets, house fairs and have clients all over San Diego. This May I was also on News 8 San Diego morning news talking about refurbishing and getting included in the community.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It wasn’t a super rough road, but it did take a lot of hustle which can get exhausting! I had to work hard to build my clientele and spread the word about my business. It was a lot of work on both coasts! I continually have to educate clients on when and why to refurbish and what is worth the cost.

While growing my business, I also had to decide what was worth my time to refurbish. There are a lot fun DIY Ikea hacks out there, but that is not my line of work. My process takes time and several steps. At first, I was afraid to say no to work, then I realized I am sending a mixed message on the type of work I want to do. I want to refurbish quality pieces that my clients will fall in love with. Two years in, I decided to focus on only refurbishing and upholstering vintage pieces that are family heirlooms, antiques, designer furniture or estate sale gems.

As I started to grow more I learned a lot business lessons about billing, taking deposits, giving estimates and filing taxes, all the things people do not talk about. For example, I learned a big lesson about giving a quote for labor cost when I hugely under quoted myself. I got a request to recane an antique army bench. The client sent a picture of the bench and the broken caning. I looked at the picture and gave a quote. What I didn’t notice was the bench was hand weaved caning, not sheet caning. Those are two major different processes. Hand weaving takes several hours, ten times the amount of work and is always triple the cost. I gave a ridiculously low quote and it took me three times as long to get it done working around the clock. The lessoned I learned there was I have to see everything in person before I give a final quote, pictures are just an estimate. Clients do not always now what they have or the how it is made, therefore, I need to see the item in person to give the best estimate and detail of work needed. Since then, I ask for several pictures and tell all clients I need to see it in person before sending a contract.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My business is Refurbished with Love. I help clients fall in love with their furniture again. Whether it is a family heirloom, designer furniture or an estate sale find, I transform vintage and out dated furniture into unique statement pieces for their home.

I specialize in vintage and antique from midcentury modern and art deco to today’s traditional and farmhouse chic. I thoroughly enjoy the transformation process, whether it’s stripping away old paint to reveal beautiful wood grain or ripping off old fabric and upholstering a new modern design. I also sew custom cushions for banquette seating and midcentury modern furniture.

I am known for my “traditional with a modern twist” sense of style. I try to put that passion in all pieces I refurbish.. I love the idea of using different textiles for upholstery. I love Mexican blankets, frazadas blankets from Peru and lately Turkish rugs. I have an example of two in the pictures.

What I am most proud of is the happiness my clients have after I have refurbished a piece of their furniture. I can see a client several years later and to see how love much they still love their furniture from me and it is the best feeling.

What were you like growing up?
I talked too much! Haha! I was always in trouble for talking, which is funny, because today I am very comfortable with public speaking and in front of a camera. I guess teachers didn’t see that in me then. I always tried to make friends with everyone. I remember in middle school teachers would always make me sit next to the students who didn’t talk to others and listened to instructions, but I always managed to get them to talk to me!

My parents like to say out of their three children, I was the most strong willed and independent. I guess that explains why I was never afraid to move away or start my own business. I am also the most social and always wanted to make friends.

As a child of the 80’s, I loved listening to records and playing dress up, but one thing I remember is I did not flowers on my clothes! I always wanted to dress myself. One time in elementary school it was picture day and my parents dressed me in a red dress that I did not want to wear. So what did I do? I packed my favorite purple lacy dress in my backpack, changed at school and wore that in my school pictures. But I wasn’t so smart, because I forgot to change out of the purple dress at the end of the day and when they picked me up, they noticed I was in a different dress. There’s that strong will again! Haha!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jessica Matos Photography

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