Hot Topics:

Crafting Vintage into Modern

Etsy couple spin quality finds into unique, useful décor.

Early in the morning on Oregon’s coast, Miles Harrison can be found in his garage tinkering with wood, computers and “whatever else he has on his daily agenda.” Meanwhile, his wife, Aimee, sips coffee while social networking.

This may sound like a nice start to a Saturday morning, but it’s actually a regular workday for the Harrisons.

Miles and Aimee manage their shop, Atomic Attic, on Etsy, where they sell a variety of upcycled, vintage, handmade and custom items. They describe themselves as “vintage hounds” who create décor that leans toward a mid-century style.

“We like to turn something used and tattered into something fresh and modern for our customers,” Aimee says.

Atomic Attic’s attention to quality craftsmanship is upstanding, and the store is perhaps best known for its upcycled pet beds made from vintage suitcases and Apple computers. Miles also uses reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old barn to create modern furniture and décor.

A small army

“One of the hardest parts about working from home is, since there is always work to be done, it’s hard to just sit and relax”

The Harrisons sold a few creations locally for a few years before they took their business online in 2010.

Aimee says the business not only allows Miles to showcase his talent with woodworking, but it also gives them the freedom to work together at home. They had set a goal to reach this point, and worked hard to meet it.

So far, the hard work has paid off. Customers give great feedback and send friends to Atomic Attic, plus some of the store’s pet beds are featured on websites like Mod Petlife and Barkton. The Harrisons also donate beds to be auctioned off by different coalitions benefiting feral cats.

Clearly, the Harrisons are animal lovers. The couple keep a “small army of cats” who model the beds for marketing. Aimee says the cats love the beds and would keep modeling them if they could.

“They think it’s always their time to shine,” she says.

The Harrisons also love dogs, but prefer the challenge cats pose.

“We enjoy their stubborn ways, independence and catty-tudes,” Aimee says.

All five cats have their own unique personalities and backgrounds. Min is a lover and requires two hours of snuggle time to get through every day. Cover Girl once belonged to a “carny” and is “partners in crime” with Melvis, who came from a couple with one too many cats. Penny expects to be treated like a queen, and Peter is the scaredy cat of the bunch. Both Penny and Peter were feral rescues.

“Both were found in a yucky alley near our local Bayfront,” Aimee says. “They’ve come so far and have grown into very well-mannered young ladies.”

The cats all put in their share of the workload for Atomic Attic and are paid, in return, with their own eMac and suitcase pet beds. The Harrisons also raise three children, which makes working from home even more rewarding.

“Vintage items have an honesty that we’re drawn to, unique character traits that the ‘new’ don’t seem to have”

“Being able to be with them every day is the best,” Aimee says. “Meanwhile, they learn great work ethics and know that you can work for yourself doing what you love to do.”

One of the hardest parts about working from home is being able to separate work from play, she says. Since there is always work to be done, it’s hard to just sit and relax.

“Setting a schedule and sticking to it has been a challenge,” Aimee adds.

Honestly vintage

Despite all this, the Harrisons make online selling and product selection seem like a snap.

“We just make what we love and would want to see in a store,” Aimee says. “That’s why we have a little of this and a little of that.”

Plus, they recognized the growing need for pet products, so upcycling vintage items into pet beds “just made sense” to them.

Their taste for vintage items is evident when perusing the couple’s Etsy store. You’ll find typewriters, luggage totes, figurines and retro-style lamps—not to mention the unique pieces Miles makes using that century-old wood.

“Vintage items have an honesty that we’re drawn to, unique character traits that the ‘new’ don’t seem to have,” Aimee says.

There’s a lot of pride that goes into everything the Harrisons do. They believe quality craftsmanship in these mass-production days is nearly nonexistent, and they feel rewarded when their products are later seen in someone else’s home.

Atomic Attic also experiments with new materials and techniques and takes orders for custom pieces—or the couple will “tweak” one of their products, if requested. Aimee says that’s what they love to do, making custom pieces that fit a person’s home décor and style.

Visit Atomic Attic.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • sigh

    Most true lovers of vintage are saddened to see vintage pieces taken apart and ruined for projects like these 🙁

    • Susan

      I was too but sometimes the vintage is unusable and given up on…so good to see someone find other uses for them…

  • Cindyandkev

    Its good being creative and upcycling is a credit to your work!

  • Susan

    Still not sure what upcycle is all about and I thought etsy was about vintage as it is and homemade items…can you explain this to me please!

Newsletter Signup