Carrie Clarke – Chic n’ Shabby

This week I was invited to Carrie’s beautiful and much loved home in Yarra Junction where she runs her business Chic n’ Shabby. Carrie’s passion is painting furniture and bringing new life to it. Her quaint little shop is filled with her lovingly restored furniture.

Carries shop and workshop at home in Yarra Junction.

Carrie’s business has been largely shaped by the close bonds she has had in her life with her sister and husband and the heartache she has felt after losing them both. This is her story.

Carrie and her husband Jason’s connection actually started when they were both in the same prep class at Marlborough Primary school in Heathmont, Victoria in 1977. Although they didn’t take much notice of each other at primary school they kept crossing each others paths through mutual friends for many years afterwards.

A photo of Carrie and Jason at primary school together and an article from the local paper when they got married.

Carrie and Jason finally meet at the Croydon Hotel the weekend of Bathurst in October 1993. Carrie asked one of Jason’s friends if Jason was single. Jason’s reply to his mate when asked was “very single”. During the night they got chatting but went their own ways at the end of the evening. They ended up going out to dinner the following week and hit it off.

Three weeks later Carrie was looking for a place to live as her rental she was living in at the time was no longer available. Jason kindly offered for her to move in with him. Carrie was a little hesitant at first, but decided she would give it a go anyway and as they say the rest is history.

Carrie told me that Jason was actually meant to be at Bathurst the weekend they met but had a last minute change of plans and went out with his mates instead. For this reason Carrie and Jason both felt they were meant to be. Funny enough they didn’t realise that they went to the same Primary School until Carrie met Jason’s mum and stepdad and they put the puzzle together.

Jason and Carrie got married on June 14th 1997. A few years later they had their first child Jeremey. Jeremey was born 10 weeks premature. They spent 8 and a half weeks at the hospital and finally brought their son home which they were both over joyed about.

Jason and Carrie on their wedding day in 1997

In 2000 Carrie and Jason decided to stop renting and buy their first home together. With the help of both their families they got a deposit together to buy their beautiful home in Yarra Junction where Carrie and the kids still live today.

In 2002 their much loved daughter Abby was born. While the children were young Carrie continued working casually for years as a dental nurse around looking after the children. Jason was running his own painting business called Perception Painting. He painted homes and took great pride in his work. “Jason never believed in advertising” Carrie said. His work was his best advertisement and he got most of his jobs through word of mouth.

In 2007 Carrie was left shocked and utterly devastated by the sudden death of her sister Danielle (Danni) who she loved deeply. She took her sisters death very hard and struggled to comprehend and deal with her deep grief for a few years. “Jason was my rock through that very hard time of my life” Carrie said.

A few years after Carries sister passed away Carrie decided she wanted to find a new career path and do something that she loved as she had lost her passion for dental nursing. Her sisters passing made Carrie question her own life and the direction she wanted it to go in. In 2010 Carrie decided to look up some courses on her computer and decided to do an online Interior Design Course.

Carrie had always had a flare for interior design and would often paint her own furniture. The course taught her about colours and styles. Carrie used the skills that she gained and some advice from her husband to start her own business. Carries business opened in Dec 2011 and she named it Chic n’ Shabby.

Carrie initially started painting mirrors, photo frames and small stools and sold them at the Makers Market in Yarra Glen. Her friends and family would help her out at the markets. To Carrie’s surprise she did really well and couldn’t keep up with the demand. The style at the time was the distressed look but over time this look has faded out.

In 2012 Carrie stopped doing the markets and started running her business from home in Yarra Junction. They converted Jason’s storage space into her beautiful shop. It made it much easier for Carrie to run her business from home.

Carrie got into painting larger pieces of furniture after she started running her business from home. Carrie would find old pieces of furniture and bring new life to them, which she loved. One of Carrie and Jason’s favorite things to do was to go around to op shops, antique shops and junk shops on the weekend with their kids to find pieces of furniture that had character. Carrie would then get to work and restore and paint them to sell.

Life was going really well and they were both really enjoying running their own businesses when the family was delivered the hardest of blows. Her much loved and adored husband Jason died very suddenly in September 2015. His passing has left a massive hole in their lives and has been felt very deeply by all that knew him.

“Jason was a very gentle soul Carrie said”. He would walk into a room and light it up. Jason just had an energy about him that everyone loved. Jason adored Carrie and their children. He was the glue that kept their families together.

Jason had a great sense of humor and they always joked between themselves. One of Carries funniest memories of Jason was that he always joked with Carrie every anniversary and said “I should have gone to Bathurst”. Carrie loved Jason’s cheeky personality.

Carrie and Jason

Even thought Jason worked 7 days a week he found time to volunteer as a scout leader in Yarra Junction. Scouts would have had to closed down if Jason hadn’t taken on the job, that is just who he was. He was the scout leader for 6 years. Jason also played footy at Woori Yallock. He played in the veterans team for 10 years.

After Jason passed away his football team stopped playing sadly as they said it just wasn’t the same without him. The Woori Yallock Football Club presented Jason’s framed jersey at his funeral. During jason’s wake at the Woori Yallock Football Club all of his team mates signed his jersey. Jason’s framed jersey hangs proudly in his garage at home. Jason always said that his footy team was his second family.

Carrie and her children struggled through their deep grief and shock for a few years and still do to this day. Carrie said she knew the grieving process as she had experienced it many years earlier with her sisters tragic passing but it still hasn’t made it any easier.

Through all of her grief Carrie continued to run her business Chic n’ Shabby. “I feel closer to Jason when I am painting and working in my workshop in his garage” Carrie said. I listen to his music and dance sometimes while I paint. It helps Carrie keep alive that deep connection she had with her beloved husband.

Carries workshop where she feels closest to her late husband Jason.

In 2017 Carrie stumbled across a range of organic paints called L’essentiel. Carrie initially started using them herself and she thought that they were so good that she decided to stock them for her customers. The full range of paints are certified organic. L’essentiel Botanics Furniture Paint is Australian owned and made. The products are made from clays, chalk, minerals, and pigments creating a silky smooth consistency which is easy to paint and gives that professional finish every time.

L’essentiel Botanic Furniture Paints.

Carrie feels a real connection to this line of products as Jason himself looked into organic paints many years earlier when he was a painter. He was concerned about the health effects of paint on himself and his clients. At the time that paints were just not developed enough or financially viable for Jason to use. Carrie feels that she is honoring Jason’s memory now by selling a range of organic paints through her business.

Carrie stocks around 30 different coloured chalky based paints. These paints are porous so they must be sealed to maintain their integrity. Carrie stocks 5 different types of seals, depending on the finish you are after. The range also includes 5 different coloured all natural organic stains and mineral acrylics that already have the sealer incorporate in them. Carrie also sells a wide range of Cling On brushes and Madeline wax brushes at her shop.

In August this year Carrie started running BYO Furniture workshops on the weekends. They run on Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 2pm. The cost is $120.00. It is a hands on workshop where Carrie teaches you the basics of furniture painting. You will also learn about l’essentiel Paints and finishes and how to use and apply them to different pieces of furniture. You will need to bring your own piece of furniture such as a mirror, small stool or a photo frame. Check out Carries website Chic ‘n Shabby for further details on her Furniture Painting Workshop.

Carries Furniture Painting Workshop

Carrie’s shop has so much character and you can see how much love she puts into every pieces of furniture that she paints. Her shop is full of beautiful pieces of furniture ready for sale. Carrie is a perfectionist and will not sell a piece of furniture until she is 100% happy with the finish.

Carrie also does commission work on request. People often search her out to bring new life to an old pieces of furniture that is dear to them. They are often pieces of furniture that belonged to a much loved relative that has passed away. “The pieces are often out dated and I give them lots of love and brings them back to life” Carrie said.

Carrie is a beautiful lady who has been through so much but she has found that painting has been the best therapy for her to work through her grief. Carrie feels painting is like meditation for her as she struggles to quiet her mind long enough to meditate. Painting has given Carrie purpose and helped her find the strength to keep going for her children and herself.

Through the immense loss of losing both her sister and husband Carrie has grown stronger and feels she has much more compassion and empathy for others. Carrie chooses to keep her sisters and husbands memory alive by talking of them often. “I always feel they are with me and they have both taught me so much” Carrie said.

Inside Carries Quaint Shop

Chic n’ Shabby is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 4pm. Weekdays are by appointment only. The address is shop 1, 9 Station street, Yarra Junction. Carrie would love you to drop into her shop. Carrie is very welcoming and loves a chat. She told me that a lot of her customers have actually become friends over the years.

About Noelene Davidson

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