4 minute read

Restoring Inspiration: Sam Maxson

Restoring Inspiration

Bringing new life to old pieces with Sam Maxson at Oak Park Furniture Shoppe.

Story by Natalie Caudle

"I’ve built a lot of confidence in trying new things. I want my kids to see that."

Not only can restoration expose the beauty in something long forgotten, it can also breathe in new life, making what was broken whole again. Bringing furniture back to its former state is a journey that strengthened Sam Maxson’s inner self and mimicked her trek with mental health.

With three littles playing at her feet and a worldwide pandemic shutting them inside, Sam needed an outlet for creativity and the space to find her identity outside of motherhood. Most wouldn’t turn to power tools as a modality of creativity, but something clicked for Sam when remembering her childhood. “Growing up, my dad was always in the garage or learning to fix things around our house, so I observed his attitude of ‘can do’ from a young age. I’m not afraid to try a new way to express my creativity, but have especially found it while working with power tools,” says Sam.

A church pew was refinished preserving burn marks from a fire it survived.

A church pew was refinished preserving burn marks from a fire it survived.

Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, according to the Office of Women’s Health. Due to social stigmas and cultural expectations, women often suffer silently, afraid to seek help from a therapist or medical professional. When most of the world came to a screeching halt, Sam recognized her need and got busy making personal changes. “I have struggled most of my life with mental health and the pandemic was a big mirror… It was time to face the heart of the issues,” remembers Sam. According to The Century Foundation, moderate to severe depression among adults jumped from 7% to 30.2% over the pandemic.

So, Sam converted her garage into a workshop, emboldened by the support of her therapist. Sanding furniture with a Play-Doh sculpting child at her side, Sam gave herself permission to discover who she was. One of the biggest challenges Sam faced was finding time to dedicate herself to her craft, only actively working for an hour or two at a time—stopping and starting each project to attend to her family. Sam slowly began to figure out how to push pause on the project and come back with the same energy and inspiration that had her “in the zone” just moments before.

Eventually, what began as a hobby grew into a business. Sam’s handiwork exposed her artistic talent and clients began seeking her expertise for their tired furniture pieces. “A project I loved was refinishing an old church pew from the Catholic church in Woodlake,” Sam says. “It survived a fire and the client and I decided to preserve the burn marks, to honor that part of its story.” Finding new ideas through blogs and instagram and following fellow artists, Sam is inspired by their work, which gets translated into a project with her own spin on it. Sam loves hunting down the next special piece in antique and thrift stores, to take furniture finds from ordinary to unique through different textures and varied techniques.

With the support of her husband Matt, Sam has continued to expand her business, tackling everything from a grey lacquered piano to an heirloom sewing table. With fistfuls of grit and talent, Sam begins each project with a light sanding to reveal the authentic wood underneath. The next steps of the process differ for each piece, depending on what she finds. “I’m not scared of trying and messing things up; most things can be fixed,” says Sam. “It’s really exciting to see how comfortable I am to take ownership of that creativity. I’ve built a lot of confidence in trying new things. I want my kids to see that.”

Sam’s business, Oak Park Furniture Shoppe, has exploded, with clients waiting in line. Each piece, painstakingly restored, mirrors the brave steps Sam took to reveal her own inner beauty that was buried and lost along the way.