We had the good fortune of connecting with Denise Carballo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Denise, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor for me is a happy customer. After I finish a piece, I want my customers to fall in love with their furniture, and smile every time they see it. I also want them to feel thankful they invested in refurbishing it. Their happiness and gratitude let me know I’ve done my job and keep me going to do more. If I can have every client say “I’m so glad we did this, I love looking at it every day.” My work is done!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work is a labor of love. I get excited watching the process of taking old, outdated pieces and transforming them into stylish functional furniture. I have a saying I tell clients “think of this as a furniture facelift, not all the wrinkles will go away”. This helps remind my clients, these are very old pieces of furniture and not all damage can be erased. The longer I do this type of work the more my attention to detail grows. When I see a blemish in a finish coat, layer of paint or lump in fabric, I have to fix it or sometimes start over. This can take more time, but I want it to be right and I want my client to be thankful they spent the time and money using Refurbished with Love. A big lesson I learned is setting expectations for clients and myself. When refurbishing furniture it is important to set my client’s expectations to a realistic level. I have been known to say, “let’s wait and see what it looks like after I strip it. Then we can decide the style to take this piece”. Furniture that is 40, 60 or even 100 years old are all built differently, manufacturing has changed and hand made pieces always have their own unique measurements. Sometimes I don’t know what I will find until I take it apart. One thing is for sure, and probably is what sets me apart from other businesses is, I keep it real! Some furniture does not need to refurbished or reupholstered. Having your furniture refurbished and/or reupholstered is an investment in that piece and unfortunately not everything should be redone, it doesn’t matter how many DIY hacks are out there.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well lucky for me a few of my best friends do live here. I was gone for 14 years and Houston has changed a lot, but there are some things I would love to show people. First and foremost what I learned from being away is Houston has some of the best food around! Second thing I would tell my friends, when you come to visit come in March, the weather is the best, plus it’s Rodeo season. Here is how we would kick off the weekend:
It’s Donut Friday that means a stop at Shipley’s Donuts. The one off N. Main street near the Heights has the best donut holes and kolaches.
After Shipley’s we can walk off the donuts looking at art in the Montrose area. First stop, The Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel and then a picnic in the park across from the chapel. After that head over to the Museum District for more art and cool sights. I love both of these parts of Houston for their walkability and variety of restaurants and bars. I like Fridays because they are less busy.
For Dinner it’s Tex- Mex and margaritas at El Tiempo Cantina (they have several locations, I like the one off Washington Ave) – get the filet mignon fajitas. It’s great for a date night.
After dinner we head to Montrose for a late night drag show at Hamburger Mary’s (try to make reservations).
Start the day with lunch enjoying yummy crawfish at the Boil House on 11th street in The Heights area.
Then we can go shopping at antique stores like Blue Bird Circle on West Alabama street, The Guild Shop on Dunlavy street, and the Antiques Pavilion on Westheimer Street.
Before dinner we can stop at La Colombe d’Or Hotel bar for drinks and then it’s sushi for dinner at Kata Robata on Kirby.
Start with brunch at State of Grace – you have to get the cinnamon rolls.
Walk 19th street in The Heights for shopping and people watching. Make stops along the way for coffee or a cocktail at a local bar or shop.
End the weekend with an evening movie at the Rooftop Cinema Club in Uptown Galleria. They play classics like Pretty Woman and current films.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderful support group in and out of Texas. I have been in this business for 11 years now and learned a lot. My upholstery teacher, Johnny Thomas in New Jersey, was a big mentor for many years. He taught me tricks, tips and I learned the “no” projects. My friends and family are always my biggest helpers: they promote me, lend a helping hand when I need it and have helped me completely rebuild twice, like I had to do here in Houston in 2020. My parents were so excited for my return they immediately started helping me rebuild here and still do everyday through their support and love for me. It can be hard when you’re a one-woman show; sometimes you just need an extra set of hands.
I owe a few very big thank yous, especially after the past couple years we have all had, these three really helped me make Refurbished with Love number one.
First, to my best friend, Jessica Matos. I arrived in Houston right when COVID hit and she immediately told me to move in with her and her family at their beautiful lake house near Austin. I spent two months there. Being there helped me keep my sanity as I was going through some of my life’s biggest changes. There the two of us hatched the plan to get RWL off the ground and running back in Houston.
Next, is to my very good friend, Kelly Rogers. After I left the lake house, Kelly graciously let me move in and take over her entire garage during COVID, so that I could keep working and keep my business going. She’s always willing to lend a helping hand and I truly appreciate it. I’m sure she still finds random discarded staples from time to time in her garage.
Finally, to a special person who had to move away, from the moment I opened my studio space, he was rooting for my success, gave countless hours of free labor to help me grow, listened, gave advice, muscle, drove with me to several deliveries and walked numerous estate sales with me. My studio wouldn’t be what it is without him, his help was super impactful for me.
To all of them a huge THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
Jessica Matos Photography for headshots