Ballantyne artist Joyce Makar revitalizes old furniture

Joyce Makar’s favorite thing about her artwork is that it’s not work at all.

One man’s trash is an artist’s treasure in Joyce Makar’s opinion. The Ballantyne artist repurposes used furniture into art.

“This is like playing for me,” said Makar, who transforms tired furniture into vibrant collages of color and texture.  “If I could do this as a job, I would,” she added.

With every showing, Makar draws closer to realizing her dream of becoming a full-time artist.  She exhibits regularly at the NoDa All Arts Market ( and sells directly from her website.  Visit to see a full photo gallery of her artwork.

Makar is looking for studio space; her pieces have nearly overtaken her spacious Ballantyne home.  Along her foyer are antique windows she has reborn into brightly colored glass mosaics.  In the middle of her dining room are two highchairs featuring the beginnings of a tangerine and turquoise motif, one of her top-selling designs.

Throughout her home are funky reupholstered chairs, creatively stenciled tables, a chest-of-drawers decoupage’d in comic books and a desk covered with pages of old sheet music.  Her workshop is packed with her latest pieces, along with scraps of fabric, buttons, bottle caps, old LP records and many other seemingly mundane objects that await new life as a part of her next project.

“It’s so rewarding to start with an old piece of furniture and give it new life,” Makar said.

Unique and hard-to-find pieces are Makar’s delight.  Her prized possession is an old cherry wood secretary, stenciled to vibrancy and covered in pastel-printed scrapbook paper.  In contrast, even simple children’s chairs with an interesting cut-out can spark a distinctive design idea.  “Every piece has a story to tell,” she said.

Furnicharm began in earnest only two years ago, but Makar has created art since she was a child growing up in New Jersey.

“I had a notebook that I would take to school when I was 10,” she recalled.  “I was just playing around, but when people saw my sketches I got a lot of positive attention.”  As a teenager she took to painting murals and was afforded the opportunity to take college-level classes in commercial art.

Makar married and moved to south Charlotte in 1991 to raise her growing family.  “I remember (U.S.) 521 when it was only a two-lane road,” she recalled.  She has loved watching the Ballantyne area develop.  Even after 22 years, her neighborhood still surprises her.

“When we come home from vacation, we say, ‘It’s just so pretty here,’” she said.

Craftiness runs in Makar’s family: her mother sewed, her husband engineers fine jewelry and her daughter is a graphic designer.  The initial artistic inspiration came from her nephew.  “He painted a chair in art class, and I just loved it,” she said.

As soon as she could, Makar drove to Blowing Rock and bought 15 pieces of furniture. She transformed her garage into a workshop and spent the next six months creating her trademark style: contemporary and colorful, trendy and tasteful.

“I design as I go and let it take its course,” she said.  “If I don’t like it, I paint over it.”

Though her approach is unconventional, she maintains the time-honored tradition of solid craftsmanship.  Each finished piece is rock-solid, even if it “needs some TLC” in the form of wood filler, glue or sand to make it steady.

She lightly sands each surface to let the primer set perfectly before painting.  Finished work is always sprayed or painted with a clear coat or wax, giving a smooth and polished appearance.

“With pieces that I reupholster, I’ll take it down to the bones and replace old foam or cushions,” said Makar, who wisely coats the fabric with Scotchguard.  “I don’t make anything I wouldn’t put in my own home,” she said.

Makar enjoys creating artwork on commission and strives to surpass her clients’ expectations.  The smart ones say “Surprise me” and let her deliver.

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