Amy Howard’s 28 years of experience manufacturing high end furniture and developing beautiful, authentic finishes for Amy Howard Collection recently gave birth to a DIY finish product line giving devotees the tools to create luxury looks on a budget and the ability to “enjoy the bragging rights” themselves, as Howard says! I had the distinct pleasure of attending her class in Memphis recently, where the first lady of finishes walked us through her technique using her new Amy Howard at Home Toscana Collection.
Amy Howard created Amy Howard Collection, a high end, couture line of furniture, over 25 years ago with her husband Gene to fulfill her dream of crafting heirloom quality, hand-made and hand-finished furniture. Amy created unique finishes by combining the traditional furniture finishing techniques she learned while living and studying in Italy with her fine arts education. The finishes used on Amy Howard Collection furniture include gessoes, Boulle, caseins, gilts, antique mirror and more which are all created by artisans in the Amy Howard studio in Memphis.
I joined fifteen other women who were lucky enough to secure one of the coveted stools in Howard’s recent demo class to watch Amy and her husband Gene transform raw wood into a magnificent age-old finished product using her Toscana Collection right before our eyes in a matter of about 60 minutes.
As we went around the room and introduced ourselves it was evident that we all came to the table with different levels of finishing skills and intentions (for me, skill level=0). One woman hopes to refinish a piece that belonged to her late mother, giving it new life and honoring her mother’s memory for generations to come, another fan traveled from Nashville that morning just to attend the class. We had a fine artist, some decorative artists and other regular women like me who just enjoy watching HGTV and timidly imagining that we might actually be able to give it a whirl. We all shared an affinity for Amy’s designs and a reverence for Howard, a true master of her craft and ever- glamorous even in her apron.
Amy is truly blessed with the gift of teaching and her passion and enthusiasm for her work transcends. Somehow just watching the magic happen that afternoon inspired the confidence in me to try it myself one day and with her new product line, Amy Howard at Home, a DIY collection of finish products which Howard describes as the more “ready to wear” line in comparison to her couture pieces she reveals the tricks of her trade and really makes it easy.
Products in the new Amy Howard at Home line include:
- Toscana Paint- a water based paint which can be used in conjunction with other Amy Howard at Home Toscana finish products to create authentic finishes found on 18th and 19th c. French and Italian antiques. Toscana paint can be used on any natural wood product including furniture, cabinets, frames, mirrors and other accessories.
- All natural furniture stripper.
- Zinc antiquing solution-a two step process which patinas metal, giving it the look of aged zinc. Use this product to create table tops, metal wall finishes, counter tops, frames.
- Mirror antiquing kit- which includes all the products needed to patina mirror with an Antique or Mercury finish.
- Legno molding- a wood product used to cast Torchieres, frames, candlesticks, medallions, wreaths.
- Raw furniture- many current and retired pieces from Amy Howard Collection furniture line- a 300+ piece, high end furniture collection sold through designers and retail stores. Create the same luxury, designer look on a budget with furniture that is bench turned in America using only hardwoods with mortise and tenon joints and dovetailed drawers.
- Venetian Plaster-wall finish made with all natural ingredients and no VOC’s.
These beautifully branded, all natural products require proper education and experience therefore will not be showing up on the shelves of your neighborhood Home Depot or Lowes. Instead they will be sold through distributors who have been trained by Howard then given the “Certified Amy Howard at Home Studio” distinction. In these studios, they will conduct workshops, sharing the proper Amy Howard at Home techniques with students all over the country- similar to the workshops taught in the Memphis store. While we just sat in on a demo class, the longer, more in depth product driven workshops teach students a specific technique as they complete their own piece such as a frame or torchiere in a Toscana paint class, or a Laurel wreath in a gilding class. Along with the hands-on component, students will also learn a little of the history behind the techniques in the workshops.
In preparation for the launch, Howard has been working to educate and continues to actively seek distributors across the country, from Atlanta to Naples, Los Angeles to Natchez who meet the Amy Howard criteria: decorative artists with working studios. So be on the lookout for a workshop offering near you!
In our class we observed the Toscana Collection in action and true to form, everything you need (stripper, stain, legno gesso, paint, brush, antiquing glaze, wax, dust of the ages and instructions) is beautifully presented in this lovely keepsake box with a variety of color options. For $100, this is a fabulous gift for the DIYer in your life. Products are also sold separately and in larger quantities for bigger jobs but Howard cautions students to practice on garage sale finds and smaller pieces before tackling those heirlooms.
Together, Amy and Gene demonstrated each step of the finishing process and we all were amazed and empowered. They spoke about different pieces you might try this technique on at home from chests and cabinets to chairs and frames. If you are in need of a piece to finish well, they’ve thought of that too, and will actually be offering raw furniture at very reasonable prices in the studios ripe for your finishing touch!
As the class came to a close, Amy walked with us through her showroom pointing out examples of the Toscana Collection at work. The serene palette and luxurious textures throughout create an elegant, effortless ambiance. Howard believes that a home should be lived in and should inspire love. After all, “you can always recover furniture,” she says. Well, Amy, I am in love with everything in your showroom!
Amy Howard at Home products will be available in retail stores by the last week of October and available for purchase online at www.amyhowardhome.com which is packed with tutorials, videos, project ideas, before and after pictures, and room ideas.
The Amy Howard Collection is hosting their annual Holiday Open House Nov. 5 from 10am-4pm in the lovely East Memphis showroom located at 420 S. Perkins Ext. and there just might be openings for the Venetian Plaster Workshop on Nov. 12 from 9-12pm also held in at the showroom location – but call first to make sure! 901.547.1148
For more information about this new product line, please call Kristy Barton at 901.547.1448, ext 101 or email [email protected].