When Kim Busby Reynolds and her husband moved to Hockessin from New Jersey seven years ago, they settled in a traditional 1890s farmhouse. “All the cherry colonial furniture we’d had in our old houses didn’t go,” Reynolds says. “So, we got rid of all that.”
Hunting for new furnishings at area antique shows and estate sales, she began painting a few to match her tastes. It eventually became a hobby that turned a profit on Craigslist. “Then they banned me for selling automobiles—I learned that a lot of competitors will [falsely] report you to shut down your business,” Reynolds says with a shrug. “So, I gave up.”
But soon after, a “for lease” sign posted in Centreville caught her eye while she was driving through town. “I thought, that’s such a cute little building.…I’d had a gift shop with my mom many years earlier and decided that maybe I’d open another store,” she says. Plus, her collection of painted furniture had outgrown her homestead and she needed a new place to sell it.
The Beehive (an homage to her late father, whose nickname was Buzz, and her mother Honey Busby) takes up two floors. The upstairs showcases traditional antiques and found objects—tables of various sizes and uses, a secretary, tufted ottomans, framed mirrors, twin headboards. Some are tagged with an “as is” price and a “painted” price, offering customers the option to purchase it in original wood form or have Reynolds paint it for them.
Others she’s already updated with a fresh coat of paint or simple upholstery. She points to a white wrought-iron bench with a vibrant floral Sunbrella cushion. “I kept the chipped paint, which gives it character,” Reynolds notes. “And the pattern makes it look more ‘French garden.’”
Downstairs, larger pieces display décor inspiration (lamps, lanterns, dishware) or collections of gift items like candles, soaps and jewelry. “Of course, it also became a gift shop,” Reynolds says with a chuckle. She’s got the poise and cadence of someone from the formal South, but she’s a West Chester, Pennsylvania, native.
The Beehive draws Delawareans statewide, and there’s a distinctive taste between north and south when it comes to interiors. “When I first started, black was the big color. Now it’s navy and white,” she says, also noting a contemporary farmhouse craze. “At the beaches, colors like palm green are more popular.”
And there’s the occasional outlier. “I have one customer who has a red, white and blue [motif] in her Cape Cod,” Reynolds says. “I’ve painted seven red pieces for her, and they look exquisite.”
For larger furnishings, Reynolds mostly relies on earth tones (grays, beiges) so “it’ll go in anybody’s house,” she explains. “If you do blue or green, then it limits your customer.…But the little pieces you can have fun with because then someone can use it as an accent piece.” She nods to a turquoise demilune table “perfect for a hallway or powder room or kid’s room.”
Reynolds also enjoys experimenting with various painting techniques.
She takes, for example, what was a basic cherry oak sideboard. After applying two coats of a flat pale-gray paint, she sanded the carvings and edges to make them more prominent. “Then I rubbed a white wax over them, and when I rubbed it off, it’s reflected in all the grooves,” she explains. Bright gold hardware elevates the look.
Reynolds has also been playing with 3D crackle. “I took this workshop in Georgia from the lady I buy the paint from,” she says, holding out a sample of crown molding painted ivory and crackled with gold. “How neat would this look around a mirror?” A riskier experiment was a credenza with an aqua base coat that came through when the white topcoat crackled.
While auctions went virtual with COVID-19, limiting inventory—or at least the confidence in purchasing quality pieces that couldn’t be examined in person—there’s no shortage of treasures in an area where older generations with an affinity for antiques are downsizing homes. It’s sure to keep Reynolds bzzzy—and shoppers happy.