Early Bird Design: Finding Beauty in Forgotten Furniture


Collingswood art teacher and Oaklyn resident Danielle Lange brings her fine arts background and a lifetime of thrifting to local living rooms.

By Matt Skoufalos

Danielle Lange. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Danielle Lange. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Do you have a piece of furniture in your house that doesn’t quite belong, but that you can’t bear to part with?

Danielle Lange wants to help you out.

“Why buy something new when you can use something you already have?” Lange said.

“You can make it match your house, but you have to have the vision and the skills to make it match.”

With skills honed by a lifetime of thrifting, the Oaklyn resident and Collingswood High School art teacher is taking her talents beyond the classroom with her own business, Early Bird Design, located at The Factory in Collingswood.

The name comes from Lange’s unapologetic love of being the first on the scene at a yard sale.

“I was always that person who would know what houses had really awesome pieces that they’d get rid of, and I would sit outside and wait,” she said. “I always was the first one.”

Danielle Lange. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Danielle Lange. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Finding a fresh outlook

Lange said she’s painted everything in her own house, gets mad when she drives by furniture left at the curbside, and loves rescuing a piece of bric-a-brac that has been deemed garbage.

Her love of repurposing comes from an upbringing in which her crafty mother was forever extending a dollar at flea markets, and her father, a machinist, was a font of how-stuff-works education.

Lange’s fine arts schooling at Rowan University helped her polish the skills that she eventually took into the classroom, while furniture restoration gave her an outlet for expressing different motifs—mosaic, upholstery, painting.

“As an art educator I’m so well rounded,” she said. “Depending on how I’m feeling, I might be doing mosaic on top of an old table. If I’m into sculpture I might pick up a small statue.

“The pieces of décor go off different times in my life,” Lange said.

Lange wants Early Bird Design to help people “like their own space” more, with just a lick of paint and a bit of fabric. She is particularly interested in working with pieces that her customers already own, but that could use a facelift.

“I love mixing old and new together,” she said. “I think it’s important to leave some originality of the piece there and not completely take it over.”

Instead of latex, Lange works with a chalk paint sealed in wax with enough strength to overpower even laminate or cheap wood furniture. She can sand it down for a distressed look, or accent it with other elements that give it depth and texture. Most of all, Lange said, she works to collaborate with her clients’ style and sensibilities to produce a result that will find its own place in their households.

“I love to collect things that mean something to me because I’m creating the memory,” she said. “I can remember what house I got it from at a yard sale. I can remember what market I got it from and the person who sold it to me. It’s a memory from what was going on in my life at that time.”

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