Made in the Tri-States: In retirement, southwest Wisconsin resident finds niche refurbishing furniture

As far as retirement gigs go, Dana Boltax readily acknowledges she picked one that is keeping her particularly busy.

“I put more hours into this than I did for my actual job,” she said with a laugh. “But I don’t mind it. As they always say, ‘If you do what you love, you never actually work a day in your life’.”

A couple of years after moving to southwest Wisconsin, Boltax is relishing her active retirement and overseeing the rapid growth of her business.

Boltax Design Studio takes furniture pieces that are old, worn or broken and transforms them into something new and different. The business conducts work on dressers, cabinets, drawers, chairs, mirrors, tables and more.

For Boltax, no two projects are the same. She said she connects with customers and embarks on projects in a variety of ways. Often, Boltax will spearhead the process, tracking down a piece of furniture she likes, redoing it and putting it up for sale. In other cases, a customer comes to Boltax with a specific piece of old furniture they would like to have redone.

In other instances, a customer will come to Boltax with a more open-ended request, asking her to find a piece of furniture that can ultimately be turned into what is desired.

As an avid lover of old furniture, Boltax appreciates the process of seeking out and discovering old, antique pieces.

“Hunting down the furniture is one of the most fun parts of the job,” she said. “I love going to estate sales and auctions and looking for something interesting.”

Refurbishing the furniture often is a time-consuming task. But Boltax noted that sometimes the tiniest touches can make a world of difference.

The process always begins with a thorough cleaning, through which the dirt, dust and grime are removed from the surface and the interior of the piece. In the majority of cases, she repaints the piece. Boltax sands and primes the items, before applying a high quality paint that will be resistant to any chips or scratches.

Boltax Design Studio also will take parts off of the furniture items or put new parts onto it, depending on what is needed to give a piece its desired appearance. Sometimes major components must be changed. In other cases, changing out something simple — like the handles of a drawer — can completely transform the look.

Boltax said the condition of the furniture upon arrival, and the ultimate goal for the end-product, can be vastly different depending on the customer.

“Sometimes I am taking something that looks old and I’m making it look more modern,” she said. “In other cases, it is the exact opposite. I am taking a piece that is relatively new and giving it a more weathered, distressed kind of look.”

Boltax said that working on furniture began as a hobby. She started working on pieces about 10 years ago, back when she was working full-time in the information technology industry. She retired from her IT position a couple of years ago and moved across the state to her home in Stitzer.

She operates the business out of her home, which is located on a sprawling piece of farmland. Her house includes a sizable shop in which the majority of work occurs. It also features a large storage area, in which Boltax has amassed an impressive inventory of old pieces that can be perused by customers.

Boltax markets her business online and, despite being new to the area, already has connected with a large number of customers.

Local resident Carly Wittman has commissioned Boltax to work on three pieces of furniture, including a large dining room cabinet and a pair of dressers.

Wittman said it didn’t take long to realize that Boltax has a commitment to quality.

“Her furniture is always solid wood,” she said. “It is different from the pressboard stuff that you find in retail stores. It’s high quality and built to last. And she paints and finishes things in a way where it will not break or chip.”

Wittman has prominently displayed the various pieces on which Boltax has worked. They’ve not only spruced up the rooms’ appearance, but provided fodder for conversation among her guests.

“These pieces of furniture are the centerpieces in their rooms,” she said. “When I show people around my house, I get lots of questions about them.”

Boltax retired from her IT job in June and has only been fully committed to her business for a couple of months.

“Sometimes I stop and say to myself, ‘It’s amazing that I used to work a full-time job and do this on the side’,” she said with a laugh. “But it is great to be able to focus on this now.”