Sunday, March 6, 2016

How it all began.

I don't talk much about who I am and how Urban Patina came to be so I thought I would share a little of my story so that you have a better understanding as to how the heck it all began! {Bear with me as I try to articulate the things that have led us to this point. This post is the longest entry I've ever composed so I might ramble a bit!}


I’m Crystal and I'm the designer and maker behind Urban Patina. I live in a southern suburb of Minneapolis with my husband, Paul and our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Greta. Our home is in the Minnesota River Valley surrounded by farm fields and woods. Built in 1955, our little rambler was constructed with lumber from trees in the area, this is a feature that I've always been proudest of...but it's been insanely frustrating too...imagine if you can that none of the walls or floors in your house are level or straight...that's our house!

I've always been a lover of nature and the outdoors; we are fortunate to have a great mix of both right out our back door. When I’m in need of a break, I head out with Paul and Greta for a hike or snowshoe excursion on the river bluff. It's amazing what a good burst of fresh air can do when I’ve hit a creative roadblock or am stressed. Watching the critters, listening to the birds sing and taking in the beautiful landscape; these are the things that help me clear my head and get refocused.

Growing up I was always encouraged to try anything and empowered to succeed. My mom was always crafting, cooking, baking and decorating. She made our house a home with her creative talents and heartfelt touches. While I can’t remember actually willingly helping with any of her projects, I always had an appreciation for her knack of creating cute and unique decor from what looked like old useless junk.

Once I graduated high school, my search for the right profession ensued. The problem being that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. What I did know (and was told) was that I needed some sort of education...anything! So I started towards a degree as an architect, then a business major, and then I finally honed in on a career as a graphic designer. I was fortunate enough to land a job right out of school as a production artist. I was thrilled with the job as it was a great mix of computer graphics and hands on production of signs and banners. But as my career developed, less time was spent actually designing. You see, at my core, I need to create. So even though my career was advancing, I was still craving the opportunity to create more tangible things, things that rang true to me. I wanted to make things with my hands, not just a steady diet of computer generated graphics. To fulfill this desire, my mom and I started making crafts and selling at local craft sales, farmers markets and then even dabbled for a stint in a local antique store where we rented a space and sold our shabby chic furniture, antiques and handmade crafts. We enjoyed many outings scouring antique shops, auctions and flea markets in search of new treasures to transform, refresh and restyle for our sales.

Soon however, I found myself spread too thin, and I ran out of time to spend after hours on on my creative passion. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to keep creating cute projects {inspired by Martha Stewart, Country Living and BH&G}, but I was newly married, advancing in my career, and buying our first home. After a short hiatus I would once again be drawn back to hand work. This time though, I would start transforming bigger pieces. It all started with an old pine TV cabinet that I picked up at a second hand store. I had been looking for something to transform into some much needed storage for our entry and this piece was solid wood and well constructed. The problem was that it was just too rustic looking in it’s honey stain and country-esque knotty pine finish. I brought it home, cleaned it up, fixed some damages and painted it black. I added a clothing bar to the inside and now use it in our mud room for extra storage. What I didn’t realize was that this was the piece that would spring board everything. This was the beginning of Urban Patina. 

Furniture, lumber and any other materials that I think I can transform are on my radar these days. If it's solid wood, has good bones or is just plain cool looking, I'm all over it. The challenge of the hunt, the thrill of the score and the panic of how to transform the piece in a respectful manner are all driving forces behind what I do. It’s so rewarding to know that I've given a piece a chance to be loved once again and ultimately saved from the dump...this is how I define success.

I had been working for three years out of what was Paul's heated garage. He was a trooper and let me slowly take over the entire space. It wasn't an ideal situation by any means but I didn't have any other option and I wanted to make cool stuff. In the spring of 2015, with the support and encouragement from my parents, Paul and I built a studio on our property. The studio is definitely my happy place…both Paul and I can get lost in the shop for hours on end. The additional space has given us the chance to take on bigger projects and create more than was ever possible in our cramped garage. {and we can now park our cars in the garage again, seriously a huge win!}

The business has evolved since that pine cabinet in 2012. I still love to makeover furniture and create smaller home decor items, but I also love creating custom industrial inspired furniture, wall decor, accessories and more. I'm so very fortunate that Paul also has a passion for making cool stuff from reclaimed materials. I know that it isn't all that often that a husband and wife can work together, but we really like being together and collaborating on these projects. Paul's welding and fabricating skills coupled with my design and creative skills empower us to handcraft some pretty fun, one-of-a-kind products. Designing custom pieces can be challenging. You hope that what you create is something that someone will want or need for their home. We take a chance and hope that it's well received.

We often get asked if we have a store or how we go about selling our products. Well, we don't have a storefront, but Paul and I have grown this little business steadily by doing sales out of our home and vending at local pop up shows and boutiques.

Being a maker takes long hours, dedication and support from those closest to us. Some ideas work out perfectly and some just bomb. That's simply the reality. While it can be frustrating to work endlessly on an idea only to have it fail is part of the love for this type of business. I learn far more from my failures then my successes. I’ve learned that failing is a necessity in growing. My husband, parents and friends inspire and encourage me to push myself beyond what is comfortable and familiar. I look to Pinterest, magazines and other designers for inspiration but consciously try to create things that are my very own design, possibly made up of ideas that I have seen, but they are done my way and with my style. While I wish, hope and pray that people will continue to take interest in our creations, I also know that it will take more than a wish to keep Urban Patina alive and flourishing. 

What's next for UP? I really don't know. I haven't really had a plan this entire time, I've just kinda gone with it. I've tried to force myself to put together a plan but that seems really rigid and confining. I recently read an article on Wit & Delight by Kate Arends {you can read the whole article here.} where she said something that really resonated with me. She said, "I’m just going to put good things out there. We’ll see what happens next." This is what I plan to do. Together Paul and I will continue to make unique and quality creations; and will do so with love and passion.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do what I love. And I’m even more thankful for all the people that have encouraged and supported us along the way. 


I invite you to follow us on social media for more a more immediate look at what we are up to:

On Facebook at Urban Patina
On Instagram at @UrbanPatina



  1. You ARE the most talented and humble person I've ever met and I'm SO blessed to call you my friend.