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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Career flip: Refurbishing furniture has changed photographer mom’s life amid pandemic

Necessity is the mother of invention, and a Spokane mother pivoted in an inventive fashion when COVID-19 altered everyone’s lives. Lower South Hill’s Mica McClung’s photography business slowed to a crawl in 2020.

“I was trying to figure something out,” McClung said. “I’m also a stay-at-home mom, which I’ve been since my son was born (in 2016). Flipping furniture was this random thing that changed things for me.”

McClung, 32, found a dresser on Craigslist during the spring of 2020. “When I saw that this really nice Pottery Barn dresser was selling for $20, I had this lightbulb moment,” McClung said. “I remember thinking this is a really cool dresser. If I can throw a coat of paint on it, let’s see what I could sell it for.”

The refurbished dresser sold for $250 on Craigslist in 10 minutes. “I knew that I was on to something when I spruced up the dresser, and it sold for that much that quickly,” McClung said. “The cool thing, like photography, I get to stay creative when I do these furniture makeovers.”

The side hustle has burgeoned. “I love it,” McClung said. “I’m drawn to mid-century pieces. I like restoring them. I give them a more modern look. I’ll paint them black and add brass, and that goes over well. I’ll take midcentury pieces and bring them back to life.”

The Ellensburg native, who moved to Spokane in 2013 with her husband Michael McClung, recently transformed a beat-up dresser by taking it back to its natural wood and sprucing it up with a paint job. After dropping $40 on the discarded object, McClung sold it for $280. Not a bad profit margin.

“It’s a business,” McClung said. “I’ve done well, but it does ebb and flow since my priority is my children. The mother of 5-year-old son Everett and 2-year-old daughter Eloise is fairing well enough that she may say goodbye to photography.”

“I may phase that out and just go with furniture. Photography is demanding,” she said. “With furniture, I work on my own schedule, and it doesn’t feel like work. I love restoring furniture. There’s nothing like making an old piece look great again.”

However, space is a challenge when business builds for McClung. “We don’t have a garage, and the way this is going, I may have to expand and rent out a storage unit,” McClung said. “But that’s a good thing. Expanding is good.”

Her array of items is expanding, as well. “I like to stick with dressers, but I have been flipping coffee tables,” McClung said. “The coffee tables are fun, but I love midcentury dressers. They are also more lucrative.

“I just bought a super cool set from the ’70s. I’m taking them down to the natural wood and putting on these beautiful handles. They’re cleaned up and being brought back to life, and that makes me so happy.”

McClung paid $100 for the dressers and expects to sell them for between $700 and $800. “It’s not bad at all,” McClung said. “I’m really enjoying this business. I hope what I’ve done helps other people figure out how to do the best that they can. Life gets stressful.”

Fortunately for McClung, her husband, who is a Spokane native, is a mental health counselor. “He’s fantastic,” McClung said. “He’s a good listener. He’s helped me a great deal just by listening to what I have to say. He was also able to keep his job during the pandemic.

“We’re lucky since we were never in a bad spot. Michael continued to work, and I found a new career during the pandemic. Flipping furniture has been this huge silver lining of the pandemic. I hope other people have found or will find their silver linings in the pandemic.”

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