manda McLeod has had a lot of Ikea furniture, much of which didn’t survive the disassembly and reassembly of three cross-country moves and life with small kids. But after her husband finished grad school and the family landed in Portland 14 years ago, she had more time to put her DIY skills to use (she went to high school right before they stopped teaching sewing, she says), restoring secondhand finds from thrift stores and estate sales. The house they moved into six years ago offered even more space to fill—and provided plenty of inspiration from its midcentury architecture and warm woods.
Friends took an interest in the pieces McLeod brought back to life. She said she started “finding confidence that I can make things that looks good, I can change pieces, kind of redesign them, if I feel like they need that.”
Soon others took an interest, too, and she’s since sold her work at Urbanite, Vintage Pink, the Portland Flea Market, and Red Snapper in Milwaukie, as well as on Instagram, where followers of @twicerefined sometimes weigh in on fabric choices.
For upholstering some of the retro pieces, McLeod was drawn to the woodsy, geometric fabrics she saw at the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store in Milwaukie. Combining the two vintage elements, she says, “brings the midcentury look into the next generation.”
Her midcentury fascination made her an instant fan of Mad Men. “I have to watch that show with my mouth closed,” she says, “because I’ll keep interrupting to tell my husband what the maker of the furniture in the background is.”
While McLeod tries to honor the integrity of a piece, sometimes she’ll transform an object entirely: a coffee table becomes a bench, or a sewing table becomes a vanity or a mini bar. In between, there’s the nitty gritty of cleaning, sanding, stripping, staining wood, removing staples (lots of staples), and re-creating upholstery patterns with new fabrics.
“Keeping the best of the design element but adding more modern to it, more relevant, more now,” McLeod says of the changes she makes, “that’s how furniture survives.”