A nomadic upbringing goes a long way toward explaining Michelle and Nicolette Parchini’s chosen occupation. As these sisters tell it, their parents moved frequently all during their childhood — “and it wasn’t in a 20-foot moving van,” says Michelle. “We picked up and left with just the necessities.” So it’s no wonder the two were drawn to making every house a comfortable home. And now they’re doing it for others.
Michelle, 37, and Nicolette, 30, live in Vergennes and Burlington, respectively. Just about a year ago, their employer, Ashley Furniture, closed its doors. The women, who had both risen to managerial positions, suddenly found themselves adrift. But it wasn’t long before Michelle said to Nic: It’s time to strike out on our own.
“We haven’t had any professional training; in our own minds, we’ve always had an eye for design and décor,” says Michelle. “We do it in our own lives — it just made sense to embrace the thing we felt most happy doing.”
And so their business, 2 P’s in Your Pad, was born, offering house cleaning, organizing and decorating services with an emphasis on going green.
OK, “green cleaning” you’ve heard of and perhaps already do. But what exactly is green decorating? In essence, it means recycling what you’ve got — in other words, “shopping” in your own house. That piece of artwork cloistered in an upstairs bedroom might come alive in the dining room, for example. An unused bench in the basement could, with a colorful coat of paint, be just the thing for an entryway. Changing sofa pillows or fabrics can freshen a living room; adding another light source — perhaps a lamp underutilized elsewhere — can literally brighten it. Sometimes just rearranging the furniture gives a room a new lease on life.
“What makes me feel passionate is the reusing, the repurposing,” says Michelle. “It’s more environmentally compatible. Before you run out and buy all new things,” she proposes, “let us reinvent your space. I think you would be surprised at the difference with a new pair of eyes.”
In an economic downturn, the Parchinis’ make-do philosophy has served them well. With a solid foundation of some two dozen regular clients, the sisters have found a niche in low-budget solutions to revitalizing homes. House cleaning is the “bread and butter,” acknowledges Nicolette. “And sometimes we do some ‘staging’ with items the person already has.”
“It’s kind of interesting when you start out like that,” adds Michelle. “There’s a lot of trust — when you go into a person’s home, you get to know each other, and we’re kind of constantly reevaluating the space, what it needs. And [the client] realizes you’ve got these other skills: decorating and designing. When you do the organizing, staging and housekeeping, it feels more organic and builds relationships.”
For the Parchini sisters, decorating begins with simplifying and paring down the excess. When she goes into a house for the first time, Michelle says, “I look around and see how people live. I look at the clutter and things like that. I believe that clutter is a reflection of the inner being — they have a lot going on; they’re busy or scattered.
“That’s definitely one of the biggest challenges people have,” she continues. “They tend to have too much stuff. So it’s editing, organizing, getting rid of things you don’t need or love, and arranging the things you do.” She suggests gathering up all the “stuff,” starting with a clean slate, and putting rooms back together with a more streamlined look.
In a living room with a wall of bookshelves, for instance, the sisters recommend taking out some of the books and instead displaying some favorite objects, perhaps collections. Also, allow some “breathing room” on the shelves rather than packing them. The effect is instantly to lighten and invigorate the room with more points of interest.
“There are so many things you can do,” enthuses Michelle. “Sometimes people just don’t know where to start. It’s simple enough to take a painting they love, or a rug handed down to them, and build a room around that.”
“You also are trying to find out how they use the space,” notes Nicolette. “Sometimes people sort of clump a lot of activities into one space when they might move some things to a different room.”
One idea that may seem radical to traditionalists: Repurpose entire rooms. For example, swap a master bedroom with a study. The former tends to be larger; why not make it a multifunctional space, such as an office and a sewing or art-making area, or a yoga corner? Why not stuff your queen- or king-sized bed into a small room? After all, its main purpose is for sleeping. What’s the point of all that extra space?
The “2 P’s” charge $25 an hour for housekeeping and $55 an hour for redesigning and decorating. “And that’s a steal around here!” declares Michelle, who notes that the sisters sometimes barter their services.
The most satisfying thing about their chosen occupation? “The transformation of a space,” says Nicolette without hesitation. “You walk into a slightly unorganized, not-put-together room … you make it into a cohesive space, and then you see the look on a client’s face. That’s such a great feeling.”
“It makes people feel better about themselves,” adds Michelle. “That whole home-is-where-the-heart-is thing is really true. I just think it’s really important to have a place to come home to and refuel. And when you have people come over,” she concludes, “there’s nothing like having them come in and say, ‘This is really you.’”
Mud season is over, spring has sprung, and all across the state Vermonters are … back in the dirt. Soil, that is. Tilling it, planting flowers and food in it, and, in the case of the Vermont Compost Co., selling it. In this issue we go indoors to consider low-budget decorating tips and eco-friendly window treatments; outdoors to visit a profitable Vermont farm and a wannabe eco village; and underground to a root cellar. Finally, master gardener Barbara Richardson talks container crops, because not all of us can plot our produce. No place like home.
- Pamela Polston
This is just one article from our May 13, 2009 Home and Garden Issue. Click here for more Home and Garden stories.