Linda Martin's Brown Eyed Gal Designs
● By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
As a little girl, Linda Martin delighted in painting the walls of her room. Like the rolling landscape of her family’s ranch in her hometown of Grenada, the colors would change with the unique touch of passing seasons. “My mother-in-law said I was born with a paintbrush in my hand. Not quite true,” says Martin. “I remember at the age of 15 watching as my hubby’s grandmother gave a flowerpot a coat of paint. I thought it was beautiful, and there my love for the brush and roller began.”
Brown Eyed Gal Designs grew out of Martin’s passion for painting. She now applies her gift with a transformative touch. The fifth generation Siskiyou County native takes pieces of furniture and tasks them for a new life. “I have been painting furniture and walls for years, amidst the gasps of family and friends,” Martin says. “I just think a coat of paint brings out the beauty in a piece of furniture.”
Martin’s experience in 4-H brought her into the world of arts and crafts. “We were always doing projects. We felt-covered everything,” she says. She continued painting while raising four children, working as a stay-at-home mom and homeschooling. In 2009, she began working at a local water bottling plant while finishing a college degree at Simpson University in Redding. The plant closed and two things happened at once. “I went to a vintage fair and was introduced to chalk paint. Chalk paint will adhere to any surface without the tedious task of sanding or priming,” Martin says. “I asked my husband if I should apply for a job I didn’t want, and with his support, he encouraged me to consider making a business out of repurposing furniture that is no longer wanted or in use.”
The test of her new career was renting space for three months in an antique mall. “I wanted to see if people would buy what I had created,” Martin says. “I couldn’t keep my booth full. I started going to local businesses and they told me they would love to sell this stuff.”
Searching Craiglist, antique stores and yard sales, Martin takes misfit furniture, looking for the unique and unused. She changes knobs, replaces glass with wire and recreates. Dark stained hutches, shutters, tables and bookcases become antiqued, distressed collector pieces. “Nothing is manufactured. I’m not into the cookie-cutter look,” she says. “I have a left-side brain competing with my right, trying to get them to compliment each other. In the end, I’d always rather be painting.”
Martin donates 10 percent of sales to Redemption Ridge, an organization which reclaims the lives and restores the dignity of young girls caught up in sex trafficking. Her work with furniture seems a metaphor for the charity she loves. “I don’t want to have this business if I can’t give.”
Living on their cattle ranch in Big Springs, Martin works alongside her husband, J.T., who helps her with the garage full of furniture and is her constant support. Her grandchildren have nicknamed them Cowboy and Gal. Together they continue the family tradition of ranching alongside her design business.
Martin will soon be a retailer of her beloved chalk paint and is looking to the future of doing workshops and demonstrations. Besides finding her own pieces, she does custom work for those wanting to transform their own furniture.
Every project is a child of its own. “When you buy my furniture, you are buying a one-of-a-kind piece. It has a history you don’t know about,” she says.
If you have a piece of furniture you are tired of, I have ideas. I love to do that.”•
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