As the brains and braun behind Tweed, Courtney Breitenbucher has built a her business by re-imagining and redecorating vintage pieces. Her designs always keep the integrity of the original piece but add an unexpected graphic or pop of color, putting new spins on proven classic pieces. After a few years in Nashville she returned to her native Chicago to set up shop. She may be new to being “the boss” of her own business, but Courtney is no stranger to making Chicago a more fashionable place to live one piece at a time.
Hi Courtney! Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and where do you currently live?
My name is Courtney Breitenbucher, I grew up in the Chicago area. I went to school outside of Nashville for five years and then came back to Chicago. Right now I live in Oak Park, just outside the city. I’ve been a lover and admirer of all things vintage for some years and I’ve been redesigning, refinishing and rescuing furniture for just over a year now.
What is the best thing about living in your neighborhood?
Oak Park is great! It’s the very first suburb to the west of Chicago, so I really have the best of both worlds. I have a part-time job downtown so I get the hustle and bustle of the city, but then I have quiet, tree-lined, historic Oak Park. I am definitely a city girl but I really value my green space.
Tweed is a great name for a shop. Is there a story behind it?
Aww, thanks! I picked it because for me it evokes a feeling of warmth and charm and history, so I feel it embodies a lot of the personality of the brand. It’s also short, simple and easy to remember which was important to me. I think it’s perfect for me but I’m so glad other people like it too!
How did you get started in vintage furnishings?
It started with a piece I refinished for my first apartment in the city. I had never done a project like it before, but I happened to walk past an old, dusty record cabinet at a thrift store and immediately saw what I could make of it. By the time I was done with the piece, I was addicted to the feeling of working with my hands. Since then, I’ve gone through a couple of different transformations as a brand, I focused on event design and DIY crafting for a while and picked up a love and an eye for home accents that I’ve blended with original condition vintage pieces and vintage that I’ve re-imagined.
Do you have any favorite memories of “treasure hunting” for vintage pieces?
Well, some of my favorite treasures have actually been smaller unusual items like a vintage string art kit still in the shrink wrap or vintage terrarium kit. I love finding vintage handmade crafts such as a round mirror in a brown macrame frame, a hand-painted kitchen canister set from the early 1980s and a four-foot tall macrame Christmas tree wall hanging that I’m pretty sure I squealed about when I saw it.
How do you go about redesigning a vintage piece? Is there a process that all your furniture goes through before you start to restyle it?
When I’m looking for a piece to redesign, I spend time examining the quality of the piece and the architecture of the piece. I tend to pick up items that have lots of cool lines or molding from which I can build a color scheme. I also like getting really versatile pieces, my average customer is an apartment dweller so pieces that offer storage, pull double duty or that are apartment-sized, are pieces I love to find. From there I either know exactly what I want to do with it almost immediately, or I fret over it for what can sometimes be months. I like to add little surprises to really make the piece feel special, like using fun paper to line drawers or including specialty light bulbs with lighting fixtures. I try to maintain as much of the original personality as I can, I generally only paint a piece if the wood isn’t in good condition or to cover that old wood grain laminate they used to love putting on top of a piece made of solid wood. Seriously, what was with that??
Where do you go locally to discover hidden treasures?
I use just about every resource I can. Trekking to and stalking thrift stores, estate sales, salvage stores. I like to go out to Kane County Flea Market where the vendors that set up outside usually have reasonably priced furniture. Multiple stops in a day is key, I never just drive to one store, I like to pick one store that is the farthest away I’m willing to go for the day and hit as many stores as I can on the way home. I also do a lot of buying on weekends with my mom and sister, we take our vintage camper out of the city and spend a weekend camping and hitting every store, sale, auction, or antique mall we can find.
Whats the most rewarding thing about owning your own business? What’s the most challenging?
When I was working in Public Relations, I really enjoyed working with startups and small businesses, because I loved being a part of building something from the ground up. Now that it’s my business and my vision that I’m cultivating, the whole process has been three times more rewarding than anything I’ve done before. I’ve never worked so hard on something and if feels great.
My biggest challenge as a business owner has been having the confidence to make decisions on my own, I’ve never had complete control over every aspect of a business before. I’m constantly weighing different options and worried about making the right decisions, from the smallest decisions like paint colors to big decisions like looking for storefront space. I still do a lot of second guessing and doubting of my abilities but then I have to remind myself that I’m my harshest critic and that the only way to know for sure if something will work out is to just take a leap of faith.
What is the best part about interacting with your customers?
I love watching my pieces go home with someone that is just as excited about finding it as I was when I finished it. When I take bigger risks with color or pattern than usual, I see the vision of what the piece could be in the right space, so when those pieces finally find homes, it feels great knowing other people see my vision too. I’ve also had customers who come to me, looking for pieces they have been looking for themselves for years. I’ll start scouring all of my resources and when I can finally track down that piece for them, it’s really exciting for both of us!
From where do you draw inspiration?
Mid-Century is really popular right now, and being reproduced and modernized by lots of companies, I visit a lot of home stores that sell new furniture to get an idea of what’s popular and then I try to find it vintage and update it myself and put a little Tweed personality into it. I also get sucked down the Pinterest rabbit hole looking at pictures of other peoples homes and projects, I get a lot of my color inspiration from there.
Do you have any favorite websites you like to visit?
Before I even started doing the furniture thing Apartment Therapy was a website I loved to browse. At Home In Love, A Beautiful Mess, and Oh So Lovely Vintage are a few of the others I find myself drooling over.