Monica Patel and Amanda Vivian met three years ago when they joined the same DC Fray flag football team. When DC Fray suspended the league at the end of summer 2020, the two friends, both in their late 20s, found themselves at loose ends.
“It was COVID,” Amanda, or Mandi, recalled. “We couldn’t do anything —we didn’t even have football to occupy us on the weekends.”
So Mandi and Monica, or Moni, did what you’d expect two young football players to do: they started a furniture refurbishing business out of Moni’s back yard.“I kept seeing people do this on TikTok,” said Mandi, “and I kept sending them to Moni, like, Moni, we could do this. This looks really fun.” That day, she came home and there was a table on the corner near her Capitol Hill home. “I was like, “come and get it! This is going to be our first project.”
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Nearly a year later, that business, Moni&Mandi, has finished more than 45 pieces of furniture. Some are products of their creativity, some are commissions, but all showcase their love of color and design.
The results—a bright orange modern barrel armchair; plush, midcentury modern dining chairs covered in crushed fern green; a cabinet done in geometric black over natural wood; or a candy-pink night-table and chair set —-are sold via instagram on their @moniandmandidc account.
Pieces sell quickly. Mandi and Moni learned the arts of staging and photography from TikTok (one photo features the two in bubblegum pink wigs). Furniture is photographed as mis en scene, staged to help people see how each piece —whether antique, vintage or bold— can fit into their homes and their lives. “We try to show people what their house can look like if they acquire [a] piece,” Moni said. Most people are a bit scared to go outside the box and use different colors —it’s nice to see what you can do with it.”
The business started out of a love of color and design and a desire to restore the beauty of furniture that might otherwise be wasted. The work is beginning to fill in the daily spaces around their full-time employment, Mandi said. In their day jobs, Mandi works for a heath care not-for-profit and Moni is a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Redesigning cabinets in geometric patterns and recasting chairs in candy pink may seem a long way from those roles, but Monica said that it compliments their chosen professions very well. “We’re very stressed in our jobs,” she said. “A lot of this is us being able to drill things or hammer things,” she said. “It has been very helpful in our lives.”
They pick up pieces from online sites and Facebook Marketplace, selecting that unique intersection of potential with pricing. They also find their pieces on curbs and street corners, rescuing articles whose quality is still visible beneath the varnish of age.
That quality is clear even from the passenger seat, said Mandi. Once, when Mandi and Moni were driving to a friends house with Moni’s spouse, they forced him to swerve and pull over —they had spotted a large, stuffed chair on the side of the road that just had to fit in the car.
Not only do they resurrect furniture, they also use leftover paint that District residents often have difficulty disposing of once their projects are complete, matching the colors to the pieces they will best enhance.
A piece will sometimes dictate the way it will be redone, Mandi said, with the state of the wood or upholstery shaping its own future. Other times, they have a vision right away, or will take the opportunity to experiment, trying out colors and designs reminiscent of other projects they’ve seen on social media.
They do most of the work at the same place they store their furniture: Moni’s Trinidad home and backyard, where her spouse is often enlisted to help with furniture moving and customer pick up.
Through experimenting, they have learned a great deal about upholstering, carpentry and painting, moving from brushes and rollers to spray technique. “Everything is about trial and error,” said Moni. “We’ve had our fair share of error.”
Now, they are receiving commissions through their instagram page, @monimandidc, helping customers to meet their visions. They’ve been asked to come out to a home 45 minutes outside the District to reimagine a set of heavy china cabinets.
They’ve also branched out, refurbishing and donating furniture to The Purple Stars Foundation, which works with unhoused people in the District. When the District matches an unhoused person to a new place to live, they often aren’t provided with furniture to make it a home. Through the Purple Stars Foundation, Moni&Mandi are hoping to do a little to help make a house a home.
They’re young, they’re savvy and they plan to build up their craft and their business to meet the standards of their own creativity and passions. “We’re going to be the hot young furniture girls,” Mandi jokes.
But they also want to ensure their customers, past, present and future are as happy with the work as they are. They diligently monitor and respond to messages on Instagram and Facebook, where they meet most of their customer base, sell their work and arrange pick up and delivery.
Do you have a refurbishment project in mind, or are you in search of something newly reborn? Connect with Moni&Mandi on Instagram @MoniandMandidc and on Facebook facebook.com/monimandidc. You can also reach them via email at [email protected] or by telephone at 202-618-2224.