Local Home and Garden Shop Owner Helps Bring New Life to Furniture
Writer / Jamie Hergott
Cheryl Susemichel loves to breathe life, color and vibrancy into whatever she can, whether it’s a garden or old furniture. Her shop, Secret Garden, offers a host of items such as home decor, thoughtful gifts, high-quality garden tools, and other garden items. Some may not know that Susemichel is a trained Fusion Mineral Paint retailer and hosts classes on repurposing old furniture by using a fresh coat of Fusion Mineral Paint.
This class is the most popular class she offers, and it’s called “Bring Your Own Piece.” The concept is simple – attendees choose a piece from home they can bring. Students have to be able to carry the piece into the shop all by themselves without a dolly. There is only so much room and time, and Susemichel wants to be sure she can be thorough. They also have to purchase their paint from her.
“People are able to bring in a piece of furniture a family member gave them that’s old and outdated, or even ugly,” Susemichel says. “They don’t like it and they hide it in a basement or spare room. They are able to bring it to Secret Garden and transform it into something they love, and can now enjoy it with their main decor in their home.”
The class is popular and fills up very quickly. Each class consists of around six people (due to COVID restrictions), lasts a couple of hours, and covers a wide swath of ground when it comes to repurposing furniture. The first step is to identify what the pieces are made of, such as wood, veneer or laminate. This step is important so that pieces can be prepped appropriately for painting.
“Then we talk about the paint,” Susemichel says. “Fusion mineral paint is a perfect fit for my store and my lifestyle. It’s nontoxic, lead-free, virtually odorless, and contains no volatile organic compounds. It also does not contain ammonia, formaldehyde, mercury or heavy metals. It’s naturally UV-protected because it’s made with minerals from the earth, and comes in 50 beautiful colors.”
Susemichel, who is currently a retailer for the paint, says the paint is ideal for the shop.
“People who love to garden and people who love to fix up their house are generally interested in chemical-free options,” she says. “It comes in beautiful colors. It can be used indoors without the worry of ventilation. It’s that safe.”
The paint can only be purchased from a Fusion merchant and is not sold at big-box stores. Secret Garden offers the full line of Fusion Mineral Paint in the store, and also on the Secret Garden website.
Susemichel had one customer who was asthmatic and had quit painting several years ago because it would send her into an asthmatic attack. She took a class, wanting to try the Fusion Mineral Paint, knowing she’d leave if the paint started to bother her.
“It did not bother her at all,” Susemichel says. “Now she buys old pieces, paints them and sells them. She has her hobby back.”
The paint has a built-in topcoat. Once pieces are painted, they dry quickly but need three weeks to cure. After that, pieces are water resistant. They can be outside or have a sweating glass put right on top, and it won’t hurt the newly refurbished piece.
The paint is good for more than small pieces of furniture. It can be used for nearly anything – outside furniture, larger inside pieces, or even the ever-changing color of kitchen cabinets. In fact, Susemichel also offers a class called “Painting Kitchen Cabinets.”
“I ask that they bring in a door from their bathroom vanity or the kitchen,” Susemichel says. “I show them how to properly paint the piece so they can then go home and do their entire bathroom or kitchen properly. It saves people literally thousands of dollars.”
Susemichel had one customer who had received a quote to have her kitchen cabinets repainted. The quote came back at $5,300. The customer decided to take Susemichel’s class and do her cabinets herself. This customer did two coats of Fusion paint on her kitchen, and only used 2.5 pints of paint at $19.99 per pint. Each pint covers approximately 75 square feet.
“She was the happiest person in the world,” Susemichel says with a laugh. “She took all that money she didn’t spend on her kitchen, and she spent it on a vacation. You can take one class from me, go home, and paint anything and everything you want.”
Susemichel also teaches a “Finishing Techniques” class. This is where she demonstrates different finishing techniques to embellish furniture such as staining, glazing, distressing, transfers, stenciling and embossing.
For this particular class, attendees don’t need to bring anything at all. Susemichel provides small boards for people to practice different techniques.
“Many that attend that class have already come to my other classes and painted some furniture,” she says. “Then after learning some finishing techniques, they go home and add details to those pieces.”
Several people have taken classes at Secret Garden and turned their hobby into a career. One example is Lauren Hellmann. She was recently able to quit her job to paint full time. It all started with a class at Secret Garden.
Several professionals use Fusion Mineral Paint as well, including several vendors at local antique malls.
Susemichel’s “Transfer Class” is similar, yet attendees create a piece in class and get to take it home. In this paid class, she shows attendees how to make a lazy Susan or a serving tray with handles. Pieces can even be personalized with names and dates, and she says they make perfect wedding gifts.
Susemichel loves using her shop to give others the tools to create. She’s loved gardening since she was a little girl, and feels it’s important to garden even in a small yard. That’s why she also teaches gardening classes, including topics like planting herbs, how to transplant and care for house plants, how to find out what plants need, and how to prune the roots of a plant.
“It’s extremely important for people to teach children how food is grown,” Susemichel says. “I started this shop because people needed good tools to use to be successful at gardening. Life began in a garden, and it’s something that’s very therapeutic. When you’re in the garden, nobody bothers you. It’s time by yourself.”
Similarly, Susemichel sees painting as another form of creativity and therapy, which is why she teaches the painting classes at her shop. She’s convinced the process of taking something ugly and making it beautiful is good for the soul.
“It’s important to have the right tools and the right products for painting, just like gardening,” Susemichel says. “Those things make painting and gardening easier. When people are feeling depressed, they go paint or they garden. Then they’re happy.”
Secret Garden is located at 12621 Shelbyville Road, Suite 24B in Louisville. For more information and class schedules, call 502-245-4567 or visit secretgardenshop.com.