Dear Reader | to the one who feels like it’s too late

Marian ParsonsRunning a Business79 Comments

I recently received this e-mail entitled “The turning of the tide?”…

“Dear Marian,

I wanted to pick your wonderful, creative brain for a moment and not as a reply on your webpage.  I began painting furniture not too long ago, my style is what I would call French farmhouse with an English twist.  Recently I have noticed that things have slowed down a bit for painted furniture and wonder where you see the trend going?  I believe even you have taken a small step back for reflection.  I have a lot invested and have a booth I am about to open this month and would like to think I am on the right track to building a business I can continue when I retire in the next 4-5 years. I would appreciate any insight you may have.”


Dear Reader (to the who feels like it’s too late),

I get asked a variation of this question a lot.  Is it too late for me to jump into this business?  To start a blog?  To sell painted furniture?  To rent a booth in an antique store or even open my own shop?  Is the market too saturated?  Has that ship sailed and I missed it?

I think the answer isn’t a simple yes or no, but I’m going to make a blanket, hopeful statement and say, “No, it’s not too late.”


I will make some qualifying statements, though, and share my thoughts behind that statement.

I know people are asking this question, because the market feels oversaturated.  Everywhere you turn there is a new blogger, new furniture painter, new small creative business popping up.  And it’s really, really hard to not compare yourself to all of them and the ones that are already established.


Here are a few practical reasons why I don’t think it’s too late…

  1. I have seen people jump into this business, very recently, and have seen their success.
  2. People are always going to need to furnish their homes, so I can’t imagine furniture ever becoming obsolete.
  3. The popularity of Fixer Upper has given an even bigger boost to home decorating, farmhouse style, antiques, etc.  It’s perhaps more “mainstream” now than ever.
  4. People are always going to look to other people for inspiration, ideas, and entertainment.  Blogs and social media will continue to change and evolve, but it’s just the how that will change, not the what. (Does that make sense?  We’ll still share our stories and how-to’s, but it just might not be in the same format.)


Now for the qualifiers.

  1. It’s most likely going to be an uphill battle, but don’t let that discourage you.  That’s true of almost all small business ventures or, heck, even trying new things.  You have to want it, dig for it, reach for it, and work ridiculously hard for it.
  2. You have to find a way to stand out from the crowd.  Your biggest asset is that you’re uniquely you, so embrace that.  I can’t tell you how that’s going to look, but I would encourage you to intentionally seek out your creative sweet spot and set up camp there.
  3. You have to keep a few windows open in case a door closes.  In other words, your business has to be diverse and flexible, so you can withstand changes in trends and the market.  I have four distinct aspects to my business – my blog, retail (antiques, home decor & furniture), products (the paint line, glitter, brushes, books, etc), and freelance work (photography, writing, styling, and design).  It may seem like I’m a crazy lady for doing that much, but it’s actually just good business.  I know I can shift gears as this industry evolves.  Diversity can be as simple as selling a variety of products in a booth or selling in a shop AND online or offering custom work in addition to pieces you paint and sell.


I wish I could assure each of you that you’ll jump in and be wildly successful, but I obviously can’t do that.

But, if you have a fire in your belly to write a blog, to sell painted furniture, to deal antiques, to turn your creative hobbies in to a business, then do it.  Go for it with all you’ve got and see what happens.

Because I can tell you one thing for certain…

You’ll never know if you never try.

All the best to you dreamers and doers,



PS – The pictures in this post were taken in Signature Finishes in Grafton, Mass.


PPS – While we’re on the topic of just doing something, I’ve decided that I like wearing antique petticoats.  I know it’s eccentric and they make my hips look even wider than they are, but I just love them and I’m going to wear them.  And that’s that.


Dear Reader | to the one who feels like it’s too late

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79 Comments on “Dear Reader | to the one who feels like it’s too late”

  1. The lacy petticoat with the leather boots is an interesting juxtaposition. I salute you for wearing what you love. Not everyone needs to wear boots with skinny jeans…hooray for going your own way! Am I overstating to think that it’s brave?

  2. OMGoodness….I wore antique petticoats . let’s see….30 yrs. ago…..I think I still have one….and 40 yrs. ago I fell in love with antique blue canning jars…LOL…

  3. You have just encouraged me to keep pushing through for my sign business even though there seems to be hundreds of them. Thanks Marian

  4. I love the look! I would add to your story that it took you a long time, even with the fire in your belly, to develop your signature look. It really doesn’t happen overnight. Folks need to be committed for the long haul and all the trial and error that goes along with it.

  5. As you know, I am starting out late in life but I have had that fire in my belly for as long as I can remember. I’ve needed to do something different. Do something for me. Especially after my illness. Break away from the rat race and my career in HR that was fuelling my illness. I’ve always found your words very inspiring Marian and this blog is just another example. You encouraged me to re ignite the creative person hiding inside of me. I get so much enjoyment doing my furniture and interiors, but found a new love in sharing my journey through my blog, and weirdly, friends and family have said they love my writing style and should consider writing a book! I’m not sure about that yet, but I just wanted to say, it’s never too late. Don’t give up on your dreams. Realise them. Thanks Marian for all your inspiration xx

  6. How dull & grey the world would be if we all dressed the same, looked the same and liked the same things. Diversity is the spice of life. So glad you wear what you like and enjoy it without offering some sort of unnecessary apology. We all should embrace who we are. I think you look sharp. Whenever I see someone dressed ” as themselves” I immediately think “I would like to know that person”.

  7. Love the petticoat and your fearlessness in following your muse! Marian thank y ou for that invaluable advice. I think a lot of us needed to hear that. And I also believe if we follow our passion and work hard at it there will be a place for all of us because we all have a unique vision.

  8. And if you try and give it your all and it doesn’t turn out the way you had thought – you still spent time doing things you were passionate about and that is never wasted time.

    1. I have heard it said like this, “When you start a business, you never know what business you are starting.” Everything evolves.

  9. Great info for anyone starting out. I am a decorative painter and I have hand painted signs and sold them for the past 20 years. I am now pursuing fine art (I am always trying to learn something new) but my income is my sign business so I continue on with that (necessary). My blog has taken off with my online painting lessons and that is as much fun or more than the actual paintings.
    You are right, everything keeps evolving so keep flexible. Don’t dismiss trends because they are not your style, blend a trend into your work but make it your own.
    I love the petticoat, I used to sew my own dresses and skirts in the 80’s and I had one favorite pattern, it was a vintage type skirt that split in the front to reveal my petticoat beneath. The over skirt was simple to make so one pattern made a bazillion different looks depending on fabric.

  10. Love the petticoat! That outfit is rockstar good.
    Thank you for the inspiration. I used to be the lady that if I got the urge to paint my kitchen ceiling red I painted it red I had fun doing things like that and was often asked by others for advise. A few years ago I somehow became reserved in going with my gut feeling and I have felt bored. Lately I have felt the urge to bring out the old self and have fun with my decor (and my clothing) so thank you for this inspiration. Creators have to create!

  11. You rock that petticoat! You may just start a new trend! I popped over to grab a link for a post I’m writing for my blog about my favorite bloggers. You were the impetus to me starting my own blog in 2012, and you are one of just a handful of blogs that I still read almost daily. I’ve learned so much from you over the years and just wanted to say Thank You! Keep doing what you do!!! You’re an inspiration for so many!

  12. Great post! Words of encouragement for sure. Oh and love the petticoats! Maybe more on what you wear with them? I was thinking the other day how much easier it would be to wear casual dresses more. Plus I love “old” linens, looks and styles. There comes a point when you develop your own look and comfort zone. I see the hair is growing out also…. Keep up being you.

  13. Also not everyone wants to refinish. They are financially able to purchase good quality pieces because they know that the furniture is well built and unique

  14. love the petticoat skirt look, you look feminine and lovely. I’m still in my scruffy old paint splattered jeans but I just might try and dress a bit better too! ♥

  15. I think painted furniture is timeless! My mother-in-law had a gorgeous round, glass top coffee table (with flowers painted on top), legs painted a creamy white shabby chic color. She owned it forever. She also had a tiny accent table that was painted a boxwood green, with gold decal on the top. For 30 yrs. I lusted after those pieces and when we sold her home 5yrs ago, we were blessed with those painted tables. They are classics.

  16. Very sweet and encouraging post. ❤️ But the main reason I’m commenting, I LOVE the vintage petticoat. I’ve been in love with antique and fashions from long ago since I was a girl. I have a girl’s petticoat from family and put it one before wondering if I could get away with it? I may just step out there and make an Alaskan fashion statement. Blessings to you, Marian!

  17. Dear Marian!
    I LOVE IT ! ! !
    and LOVE your hair, it’s like angel hair, so beautiful ! 🙂

  18. I love your petticoat “look.” I collect and often wear petttie coats and vintage slips. They add warmth and body to dresses and outer wear, make great nightgowns or robes. I think you may have brought a great look to the masses! I really look forward to your always interesting blog and generosity. Bless your heart!

  19. Marion? You rock , make me smile, get tingly, want to do jumping jacks, stand on my head… You are a gift❤️.

  20. Marian, you look absolutely darling in antique petticoats. What a perfect style for the woman who personifies Miss Mustard Seed. Thanks so much for the picture of you.

    Your advice to aspiring designer-artist-bloggers is spot on. I hope anyone considering leaping into such a business will take to heart every last word of it.

    The main predictor of success in a creative field for most people is how hard, and smart, they’re willing to work, not the genre or style they choose. That’s why it’s tough to predict a person’s chances for success. Only they know how much of themselves they’re willing to put into an endeavor and how tenacious they’ll be.

    Your response is a classic that could easily become your standard answer whenever that question comes up in future.

  21. Hi Marian if there is anything that the world accepts now it is Individuality , good on you for continuing to evolve and express yourself creatively , always the encourager bless you for your real and loving way you answer your readers questions . A big thumbs up from Australia !!

  22. I don’t think the petticoat makes your hips look wide, much less wider. Also kudos to you for getting away from skinny jeans into something creative and interesting!

  23. Excellent post! Romancing what you love makes life twinkle.Adore the outfit.Looks good on you : )

    Victorian Trading Company ( )carries beautiful Victorian /Edwardian style clothing and home décor. You’ll find Petticoats there I’m sure. Happy Hunting!

  24. As always, thank you. A timely question and a thoughtful, encouraging and honest response. Have you thought about being a life coach, too? I need one. ?

  25. I like everything about you. So if you want to wear petticoats, l think that is fine. You are a talented woman who shares how you have used that talent to earn a living and become well known in creative circles . Some people are not as generous as you are about letting others in on “the how”. You are lovely!

  26. I think you look adorable!!!! Good for you . . . I never would have thought of wearing them, but I love that you are! XO

  27. I have a whole box of antique petticoats. I’ll have to try them out, but I don’t think I’ll look as good as you. Actually, I’m sure!!!

  28. I love anyone that can just be themselves ! I admire people for that. I have always had very tight naturally curly hair and never liked it. I was given the best compliment a few years ago when I was told but if you didn’t have your curly hair you wouldn’t be you ! That statement made me stop and think. This is who I am this is who God made me don’t fight it just be yourself . I love your petticoat enjoy when you wear it an just be yourself no reason to waste time wondering what others think .

  29. Your a natural beauty, continue to bU, I’ve been known to wear Victorian pantaloons, I’m with ya…

  30. Some very good advice. May I add that while painted furniture is still popular, what I am seeing more in the market is high-gloss lacquered painted furniture especially Mid-Century Modern pieces such as faux bamboo. Judging from my recent issues of HGTV, BH&G and House Beautiful, it seems MCM has made a big comeback and is red-hot right now especially with the younger crowd.

    I think the farmhouse/cottage style isn’t going anywhere but I do think MCM is giving it a run for its money!

  31. Love the petticoat! It looks like your most unanimous thumbs up in a while. I turned 60 years old this week. ? You think I’m too old for it – or maybe not yet old enough to be that unique.? ?
    As for mid century modern , I was born in the 50,s and the furniture was so boring that my mother kept none of it. I have seen it refreshed for today, but it will never make my heart sing. ?

  32. You are seriously the cutest!! I love your encouraging soul and you drive to succeed!! I totally agree with the “fire in your belly comment”… you are fabulous and an incredible cheerleader to all of us.
    P.s. … I love the pettis 🙂
    Much Love,

  33. Hi Marian,

    First of all, thank you for writing this post. It really hits home for me. I know that many readers feel the way your “Reader” from this post does, including myself. I too have had the same thoughts (over saturation) and have discovered this hobby as something that fills a hole in my life. The initial reason for me wanting to start sharing my hobby on social media and on a blog was for documentation for myself. I wanted to see the progress over time of where I started and watch it evolve; and If I happened to make some money off of my hobby, then that was a bonus (or even inspire others). Thank you for continuing to inspire us, and for answering this question that many of us have asked ourselves!

    p.s. Rock that petticoat!


    Amy Darling
    DIY Darlings

  34. Thank you for your inspiring post. Your blog is by far my favorite and, in my opinion, the most genuine. You stay true to yourself without trying to be trendy which creates fierce followers! My mom made costumes out of my grandmother’s old petticoats for me. I loved to twirl around in them but, sadly, they’re long gone. Keep wearing them! I bet you like antique jewelry also. It has so much detail and the quality is amazing.

  35. You’ve given such great and encouraging advice, Marian! I think it is important to come back to the heart motivation of why we do what we do. I know for me, I just love designing and creating and need an outlet whether I get “likes” or not. “I want to make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life.” And maybe in the creating someone else will be inspired.
    Thanks for your inspiration over the years. You look adorable in your outfit!

  36. You go girl! Rock those petticoats. And thank you for caring enough about the rest of us to take the time to respond to our questions and fears!
    Jennifer Phillips

  37. Thank you so much for those incredibly encouraging words. I needed to hear that and you expressed it in such a deep heartfelt way. I am 44 and have begun the process of starting a design/DIY blog (I’m talking bought my domain name and template…everything). I haven’t published yet, but you don’t know the times I have thought to myself “you’re too old to start this” or “everyone is doing it and there’s already so many bloggers doing the same thing”. I have even had some family to be very discouraging in the same way. So from the deepest part of my heart (and I’m actually tearing) Thank you for those words. I needed it and God knew I needed to see it. I have always been a hard worker and always tried my best. I know I can do this! Thank you, thank you!!!

  38. Your “Dear Reader” Series has always been my favorite part of your blog. Its inspiring, informative, thought provoking and reflective regardless of your style. Even though my own style has moved more to MCM, I still enjoy reading your blog and seeing all the inspiring things you do in your home and in your business.

    For the past few years, I thought my style was French Farmhouse. I bought a farmhouse dining table and chairs, loads of ironstone (a few pieces even from you) and even some industrial farmhouse pieces but there was something very wrong. I loved it in everyone else’s house but not so much in mine. It finally hit me it! I wasn’t following my own heart.

    Then I happened to see a book called “Modern Mix” by Eddie Ross. This book changed it all for me. It was love at first sight. I fell hard for faux bamboo, lacquered furniture and all the clean lines of Mid-Century pieces from the 60’s which happened to be the era I grew up in. So sometimes finding your own style and what speaks to you is done the hard way through trial and error.

  39. You are adorable in your outfit! Love the petticoat and that darling top!!
    Thank you for the encouraging words.


  40. Marian, that Petticoat is beautiful and so are you!
    I don’t do Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any other “social media”, so thanks for doing a real blog. It’s not a generational thing, I have younger friends who are the same way.
    To the Reader: it’s never too late!

  41. I also dreamed of the same business & blogged on & off for a couple of years. In my mid forties, I jokingly hatched what seemed a far fetched plan, over a cocktail on holiday 2 years ago. Then after several horrid life events in my family & to friends, the first step in my ‘plan’ manifested, to my complete surprise and I resigned from my job as a management accountant for a multi-million pound company. I’m now 10 months into trading. The feed back & support from my customers is amazing. There is another similar business across town, who sell Britains best known paint brand, but my style is different and I’m gaining my own following with a different brand of paint & hope to stock MMS next year. I’m not taking a wage yet, but I am getting known for commissions and am now booked up until next February. Reading your blog kept my dream alive and now I couldn’t be happier! x

  42. Your blog post is very encouraging. I just turned 69 and about 3 years ago got into the painting furniture craze. I now have 2 small booths in an antique/collectibles/mercantile shop where 1 is for mostly vintage/antiques and the other is more for painted furniture & crafts. There are many dealers/artists/crafters in this mall, and I learned early on not to try and compete with them but, instead, to find my own way and do my own thing while, at the same time, supporting and cheering on everyone else.
    You’re right, it never is too late to follow that dream and there is no such thing in my mind as failure. Those dreams may not always “pan out” but I suspect, in many cases, that dream may lead you down another path that brings joy. Bottom line is – go for it!

    1. I think doing your own thing and doing what you love is the key. When someone starts painting everything this year’s “IN” color (even if she hates the color) or chevron or animal prints or making a bazillion chalk boards for the same reason, then I think the business is doomed to failure. Following fads never creates stability. You are only pandering to the fad followers, who are not loyal since they change their decor like they change underwear. Thrift stores are a huge reminder of the fickleness of fad followers. If what you do is unique, beautiful and classic (like the little black dress), there will always be people out there who are kindred spirits and will respond.

  43. What a great post!!! I just opened a store this year, mid-March, and have not looked back or regretted it for one moment….I am happily exhausted & have loved every crazy moment!!!! There were many doubters & “Debbie-downers”, but I didn’t listen….because I wasn’t even looking for a store front to rent, I had quietly been talking about it in my mind….lol….and one day I drove by a store with a “For Rent” sign in the window & two days later I had signed a lease….I have been busy to the point I can barely keep up, & busy during times when the locals thought I should be slow…turns out this very small resort community needed and wanted a store like mine….I have full support of the town as a whole, and other retail stores as well! We are all working together in the community to be a destination spot for tourists and locals …It was the scariest thing to do, but at the same time I knew it would be okay….I expect that there will be slow times in our Northern Michigan town, especially in the Winter, but I have planned for that! Meanwhile, I was lucky to have the support of my parents, my mother has helped a lot with ordering of small items for the store, & my “significant other”, who does beautiful wood work & builds wonderful things from reclaimed goodies, he has been on board from day one & tells everyone he encounters about our store!!! So, I say, it is never too late, and even if I fail, now I will know….I would rather know, than wonder “IF”….It has been the best adventure I have ever been on… 53!!!

  44. You’re amazing Marian! You seem to write the exact right blog exactly when I need it, even if I don’t know it at the time 🙂 Thanks for always sharing your thoughts!

  45. Never ever too late! I did decide to not get too much into the painting side (we have around 40 others that paint/upcycle in our area), other then doing complimentary pieces to the upholstery work I do. And of course painting the wood areas on chairs as needed. I could open a shop in town if I wanted and do very well, but there is not enough time in the day.
    Find your twist and take the risk. Its worth it.

  46. Great message, Marian! I am an antique vendor in two shops and it can be a bit daunting trying to figure out what to buy, how to stage, etc. I get asked similar questions from women who would like to do this either as a hobby or a business. My best advice is to be true to yourself and to buy from the heart and not impulsive buys. A friend (now fellow dealer) told me one time that you will know to buy something when it hits you in the heart.

    A trend I have noticed in our area is that folks like furniture that is not painted.

    Could you share where you bought your pretty top? You look adorable!


  47. I have a vintage shop in my small hometown that I’m just getting started. There is also a couple of “flea markets” in the area. It seems they have a lot more foot traffic from the neighboring rural areas. Would it make sense to also have a booth in one of them until by business picks up?

  48. Great post, Marian!! Thanks for your always wise and encouraging words…you never know whose heart you might touch or how you might spark someone’s creativity or confidence 🙂

    Love the petticoat look on you, btw ~ very flattering and unique! Just awesome. I noticed a fabulous vendor at the Sage Farm Antiques Fair who carried vintage style clothing, but alas, I did not have time to try anything on. Maybe next time…

    Best wishes,

  49. Loved this post Marian…it truly spoke to me as I am currently very down about my furniture business and, like your reader, also wondering where I go to next.
    I have been very lucky as I have been the only artist painting furniture locally for a few years but a couple of ladies have recently started a trendy new business doing exactly what I do, and although I absolutely believe that there is more than enough business for all of us, they are marketing themselves very well and seem to be everywhere!!
    I am much more private and have been successfully working away at my business for about 6 years now without much marketing or exposure, but I now realise that I am going to have to work more on my “brand” and get some serious exposure.
    I am considering getting a booth at a local market and your post is just the motivation and push that I need.

    Thank you

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