CHAMBERSBURG – On Friday, July 5, REmix Design celebrated the grand opening of its retail storefront in downtown Chambersburg (107 N. Main St.).
The new location will give owner Matusiak more space to display her refurbished furniture pieces, host a variety of classes and events, and demonstrate her own design consultation capabilities.
With the grand opening behind her, Matusiak has turned her attention to prepping the space for Old Market Day on Saturday, July 20.
REmix is located just outside of the area of Main Street that will be closed to traffic. To help steer people towards her shop, she will also have a booth set up on the next block.
Given her talent for recognizing and revealing the hidden beauty in objects that have seen better days, Matusiak is a perfect fit for a downtown that seems to have never fully recovered from being burned to the ground by Confederate soldiers in 1864.
Indeed, the very story of REmix Design is one of constant improvement.
The storefront itself, located in the quiet area across the street from the library, was recently completely renovated by local real estate entrepreneur Joshua Blankenship and his company Second Street Development.
Second Street Development may have provided her with beautiful wood floors and exposed brick walls, but the engaging retail space inside was all Matusiak.
“I want it to be interactive,” said Matusiak as she explained the potential combinations that were possible at REmix’s plant bar. “I think the more you engage your customers, the more successful you are.”
She was dismayed during the grand opening when people were shy about utilizing the bar. She added a sign that reads “Pick a plant – Pick a pot – Make a mess!”
“I think they thought it was just for private classes,” she said. “I made a couple of signs so that people realize they can pick any pot they want, any plant they want, and they can make the mess right here – and then take it home.”
The renovated space isn’t physically large, but through careful planning Matusiak has fit an impressive amount of plants, soaps, incense, tapestries, pillows and other decorations.
To maximize the limited space, objects often serve multiple purposes. For example, the tables that form the basis of a window display can be pulled into the center of the room for classes. And, of course, they are also for sale.
This planning took the form of 3-D computer renderings that Matusiak, who trained as an architect, created for her own store, which is a professional service that she provides for contractors, home builders, home flippers and homeowners who simply want to see what their new bathroom will look like before they start building.
“I enjoy showing people what a space could look like before it actually happens,” said Matusiak. “I did my whole store in a 3-D model before I started bringing stuff in because I knew that a lot of the stuff I have is heavy and I don’t want to have to move it multiple times, so it would just be better if I designed it in a model.”
But the first thing most people will notice is the plants.
“I’m really happy and excited to be here now because I can incorporate the plants into all of the decorating and all of the staging,” she said.
Matusiak had grown up in the mountains surrounded by nature, and she knew from an early age that she wanted to do something that would help the environment and promote sustainability.
She graduated from Penn State University in 2011 with a degree in architecture, but she had realized four years into the five year program that she didn’t really want to be an architect per se. Instead, she wanted to focus on smaller-scale design elements: the furniture, the lighting, the interiors of the buildings.
The epiphany occurred when saw a lead designer from Nike deliver a keynote address at an architectural conference. If a background in architecture could be useful to designing something like shoes, then it could definitely be applied to interior design.
Anything was possible through design.
Spaces could be transformed.
The old could be made new again.
That fall she began going to yard sales and auctions in search of furniture pieces to redo for fun. She began selling her pieces on a consignment basis in a shop on Lincoln Way East that was owned by Cari Kreps. When that store closed, Matusiak followed Kreps to her next project, the Vintage Market at the Old Red Barn (1293 Warm Spring Rd.), where she was one of the original vendors.
The Old Red Barn provided Matusiak with her first opportunity to decorate and stage a retail space of her own. She started out in a small space in the loft, but after two and a half years she moved downstairs and secured one of the biggest spaces in the barn. Then, nine months after that, she added a second space, and used it to set up a plant bar – a concept that has carried over to her new storefront.
Around 2014, Matusiak and Erin Gillespie of Junk and Disorderly appeared on – and won – the creative competition show “Flea Market Flip” on HGTV. The pair had met through Chambersburg’s close-knit world of furniture rehabilitators while Junk and Disorderly was running a pop-up shop at 1 N. Main St., which is now Square1, a Dominican-themed restaurant.
“We were up against another twosome,” Matusiak said. “Our challenge was the ‘Vignette Flip,’ so we had to create three separate projects that looked like they could cohesively fit into a room together.”
She added: “I always forget about it until somebody texts me or messages me, ‘I just saw you on TV this morning!’”
The name REmix Design pays homage to all of these stages of Matusiak’s professional development:
The “re” is a tribute to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto that she had grown up with plus the refurbishing and refinishing that she does to get the furniture ready for sale.
The “mix” is a reference to the different styles that she blends into her work – midcentury modern, industrial, bohemian and so on.
The “design” comes from her formal academic training that pulls it all together.
“It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but it all kind of happened fast,” said Matusiak. “I have a lot of support from my family and my boyfriend and the community.”
Matusiak is looking forward to introducing her designs and services to younger adults who she hopes will be drawn to the downtown area because of the restaurants and the farmer’s market.
She has noticed that despite their differences, the so-called Millennials and the Greatest Generation share a common fondness for the sturdy, deliberate feel of mid-century modern design.
“If you think about who had that stuff and who was an adult during that time,” she said. “It was the people who were in the Depression, and they knew how to live simply back then, so they eventually evolved that into their furniture style, which I think is pretty cool.”
She added: “I think that’s something that a lot of young people now appreciate because – in this world of more, more, more, consume, consume, consume – I think a lot of younger people are gravitating towards living a simpler life.”
The overarching goal of REmix is to encourage people to “respect their environments,” which for Matusiak has a bit of a double meaning.
First: Respect nature by repurposing items whenever possible and designing with sustainability in mind.
Second: Respect your immediate environment by filling it with carefully selected, quality pieces that will last.
Reimagining downtown Chambersburg has proven to be a tough challenge for generations.
If anyone can see potential in it, it’s Matusiak.
[Main image caption: Kendra Matusiak, founder and owner of REmix Design, presents the plant bar within her 107 N. Main St. storefront on July 15.]