Pam Haskins - Old Kitchens Refreshed
Feature image courtesy Pitter Goughnour
Display shelves. That’s all it took. She covered a few shelves with paint and, in doing so, uncovered a whole new woman – a woman whose abilities are sought after by tens of thousands of people. “It was God-given,” Pam Haskins said of the revelation of her talent. “I’d never taken an art class, but once I started painting, I like it better than sleep.” And it’s a good thing, too, because with so many painting projects, she has no time for sleep. During the daylight hours, Pam usually handles the business end of her enterprise – phone calls, emails, scheduling, ordering, paper work, etc. “But ultimately, I just want to put my respirator on and feel the vibration of the paint sprayer,” she said. “I just want to paint. I paint at night when there’s no interruptions.”
Pam’s bubbly enthusiasm seems to energize her as she refurbishes furniture, kitchen cabinets, and practically anything else that is paintable. At the time of this writing, she was using Dixie Belle paint on ceramic Christmas decorations for the first time.
“People ask me to paint things you wouldn’t normally think about – I’ve done faux beams in ceilings, I recently painted a pool table, I made a rustic metal ceiling in a Reynolds house, and am painting an expensive light fixture that was broken. I don’t feel intimidated because I’ve got confidence now,” she said.
But that wasn’t the case four years ago when she needed those aforementioned display shelves. In fact, Pam had never before thought of paint colors. When she and her family moved to Greensboro seventeen years ago, she said her husband, Rick, was the one who chose the colors and finishes in the house.
“I didn’t do that stuff; I was a computer programmer,” Pam explained. “I had a full-time job that paid well and had good benefits. Then we opened the store (44 Marketplace in Harmony Crossing), and after a few months, I quit my job to run the store.”
Almost immediately, customers requested a paint line to be offered in the marketplace of antique and art vendors; so, the Haskins decided on Dixie Belle Paints. Needing a shelf for the display, Pam found an old bookcase and painted it with Dixie Belle so customers could see how the finish looked. She said she was surprised at how easy the application process was.
“Being a computer programmer helps because you break each paint project down into steps just like programming,” she interjected amidst her storytelling.
Within two weeks of the bookcase display being in the store, somebody wanted to buy it. So, Pam painted a table to replace it, but someone bought that, too. “Then that kept happening over and over,” she said; “and, within nine months, I had to get somebody to work in the store because I had so many orders for custom-painted furniture.”
When she quit running the store to paint furniture, Pam’s family and friends thought she was having a midlife crisis that wouldn’t last long, she said with a laugh. But as the orders continued to pour in and offshoot businesses evolved, Rick quit his job to help her.
“The other day we were painting and he asked me ‘Did you ever know this was in you?’ I said ‘No, I’m just as shocked as you are,’” she said, adding that they’ve been married 25 years and their adult children also help out with the business.
Shortly after she began painting furniture, one of Pam’s friends asked her to redo their kitchen in Harbor Club. “I told her I couldn’t and she said ‘But it’s just a room full of furniture, and you do furniture,’” Pam said.
Fulfilling that request created an even deeper joy for painting as well as an increase in orders. With Rick’s help, she has been refurbishing one kitchen every month for several years and the requests keep coming. An entire project takes two weeks.
“As much as everybody loves doing furniture, nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to doing a kitchen,” Pam said. “Furniture is placed in one room, but the kitchen is the heart of the home. There’s nothing like it to see it when it’s done and I think ‘Wow!’ Every month, it’s the same feeling.”
Pam transforms kitchens around the lake area and all over Georgia; and, requests from people who offered to fly her to do their kitchens in states farther away have been declined because she can’t be gone two weeks away from her other projects.
She explained that kitchens from earlier decades have cabinets made of dark cherry or stained oak, but these days, people want bright and airy kitchens. At first, she used mainly white or cream colors, but she recently added color to the islands or other parts of the kitchen. She uses industrial paint finishes which she can layer, shadow or distress, and she also adds more flair with WoodUbend mouldings.
Pam’s kitchen remakes includes the drawer pulls and door handles, “and I love to do vent hoods,” she said. “I make wood hoods look like metal. Aged copper and bronze with zinc accents are the most popular.”
Rick and Pam have left their signature stamp on local restaurants and other commercial jobs as well, especially early this spring when restaurants had to close for the pandemic. And she now has room to spread the joy with the addition of her own studio on Harmony Road.
Pam’s favorite jobs are when a client hands her something, such as draperies or a piece of art, to match the furniture with. “As soon as I put the brush on the furniture, I know if it’s the right or wrong color,” she said. “And when I start, I can already see the finish in my head.”
That passion has become contagious as Pam holds “Furniture Finishing Boot Camps” and teaches others to transform their furniture pieces into works of art in three days. She said she came up with the idea in December 2018, and the first one sold out in 10 minutes, as has each one every few months since then. In the half-dozen camps that she’s led, there have been less than 10 people from Georgia. Attendees come from New Mexico, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, and most recently, Iowa. Pam also has flown to several of those states to hold boot camps there. And new ones have been added to the schedule at 44 Marketplace.
The horizons of Pam’s fan base also transcend the North American continent as her demonstration videos have 40,000 followers on her social media platforms, where everyone shares her joy of rescuing furniture. Her grandchildren call her live videos “Gam-Gam’s TV show,” and 6-year-old Ryker always tells her to “Throw up a ‘scribe” (meaning add an invitation for viewers to subscribe to her channel).
“We’re not curing cancer,” she said; “but when I can do this for people and make them happy, it’s a high like no other.”
This article, by Lynn Hobbs, appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Lakelife