Transforming Furniture, Changing Lives

A local refurbished furniture store uses its message of transformation to make a difference

By Rachel Burnham

Carter Averbeck has been interested in refurbishing old furniture ever since he can remember. “My mother hit the brakes for every garage sale and we were always going to auctions,” says Averbeck. “We wanted to have a home that looked like architectural digest, we just didn’t have the money for it, and this is how we did it.”

Four years ago, Averbeck started his furniture design company, Omforme (the Norwegian word meaning “to transform”), with a set of Louis XVI chairs from the 1980s destined for the landfill. The chairs were transformed with chameleon paint (a paint that changes colors depending on the lighting and angle of the viewer) and sold quickly. “Furniture styles don’t change that much, just the paint or the stain changes and that’s about it, but people don’t realize that,” says Averbeck. “Things come back, just with a new coat on it.”

Averbeck also wanted to help other people, so he got involved with Guild Incorporated, a nonprofit that offers integrated treatment and services to people with mental illnesses. “George Broostin [Guild’s development director] from Guild came into my life and just kind of went ‘Well yes, let’s do this together,’ and for the first time I felt like I had a nonprofit that was willing to put as much work into this as I was,” says Averbeck.

Now, once a month, recipients of Guild’s services come to Averbeck’s shop and refurbish furniture. Three pieces are reworked at every workshop and this past May, Omforme hosted an art show to sell the refurbished furniture and raise money for Guild. “The pieces have to go from trash to treasure in four to six hours,” says Averbeck. “The participants are having a fun time; there’s times when many of them have come back because they find it fulfilling. It just gives them a sense of self-worth, and we all need that.”