By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE One project at a time, Mary (Krienke) Otto is making houses into homes.
Otto loves building farmhouse style furniture, decorative barn doors for interior walls, hand-lettered signs, and other items that help create a “cozy, warm, and welcoming” atmosphere.
“I do a little bit of everything,” Otto said, explaining that she might be making a headboard one day, and a dining room table or bookshelf the next.
Otto also offers home decorating consultations, where she’ll visit people’s houses and help them find ways to beautify their space.
“I love doing that,” she said.
Otto is a 2000 graduate of Lester Prairie High School, and has a degree in drafting and design. She previously worked for RAM Buildings in Winsted, and also developed her skills by building two houses with her husband, Jeremy.
Otto’s business (which is called DIY Project Junkie) began as a side project to earn extra money three years ago. Otto started by making wooden signs, and sold them at a “wine, signs, and bags” party she hosted. Then, she had a sale during Lester Prairie’s garage sale days. Pretty soon, she began selling her work at MeshedDesigns in Hutchinson, as well.
“It snowballed from there,” Otto said, explaining that the business is now full time. It keeps her plenty busy, along with serving on the Lester Prairie School Board and raising three children ages 8, 11, and 13.
Otto grew up helping on her parents’ farm, and she hopes to instill a good work ethic in her children, as well. Otto describes the kids as “little helpers” who assist with sanding, staining, and other aspects of furniture building.
For Otto, being able to work from home is a “huge blessing.” In August, RAM Buildings constructed a new showroom for DIY Project Junkie on the Otto property, located at 18504 Cable Ave. in rural Lester Prairie. The building allows Otto to host occasional sales, and it gives people a place to pick up custom orders.
Right now, Otto’s showroom is decorated for Christmas, and is filled with sturdy furniture, fun signs, DIY Project Junkie T-shirts, and wholesale items such as pillows, towels, and table runners. Although the building is new, it has a vintage feel to it.
“I like the old with the new,” Otto said. Some of her furniture also has rustic elements, such as corrugated metal from old farm buildings.
Otto starts with new wood for her signs, and stains them to give a weathered, rustic look. Some of the signs are simple, charmingly lettered with words like “home,” “family,” or “pray big.” Others have humorous sayings, such as “Men to the left because women are always right,” and “I love you more than yesterday . . . yesterday you got on my nerves.”
A few of Otto’s signs incorporate detailed metal cutouts of windmills, trees, or other country-style images.
“AWI [Manufacturing in Winsted] cuts my metal for me, and Twisted Piston [Apparel in Winsted] makes my shirts You’ve got to support local businesses,” Otto said, adding that she also banks and advertises locally.
Otto enjoys making connections with community members, and she is generous in sharing her talents with others. This Christmas season, for instance, she will be giving a dining room table set (including benches and chairs) to a family in need who lives within an hour of Lester Prairie. Another organization is planning to provide food to go on top of the table.
Otto hopes people will have as much fun owning items from DIY Project Junkie as she has making them. To see more of her work, follow “DIY Project Junkie” on Facebook or stop by the Saturday, Dec. 2 sale. Otto can be reached at (320) 582-5115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holiday open house Saturday
• What: DIY Project Junkie’s next pop-up sale
• When: Saturday, Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Where: 18504 Cable Ave., Lester Prairie
• Info: Contact Mary Otto at (320) 582-5115 or follow “DIY Project Junkie” on Facebook.