BAYLIFE NORTH   Mar/Apr 2014

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”  — you know these old sayings.  So when we say Karen Brennan has a soft spot for Junk, well it’s all relative.

Here’s the dictionary meaning of JUNK: anything that is regarded as worthless, meaningless or contemptible.  That seems a little harsh.  Thank goodness Karen is literally Junk’s Salvation. Her Deer Creek Junk business repurposes, recycles and beautifies special junk.  “I think of junk affectionately”, Karen says.

Karen creatively breathes renewed life into tired and forgotten items, making something new to love. She is truly inspired by the craftsmanship and detail from the past life of vintage and artistic beauty.  Her creations are extraordinary.  At every turn in her warehouse, you will be mesmerized by her talented craftiness.

baylife4If you know your way around a Pinterest board, you are vividly aware of how influential this movement has become with a new generation of crafters. Karen’s working workshop and store is located in East Jordan, and already she has changed some of her inventory and original ideas to accomodate the trend.  People and interior designers shop just for her unique, one-of-a-kind home decor items – creative lighting, wall decor, benches, headboards, shelving, and more.  But these days, there’s a “new normal” client, looking solely for the raw materials that Karen stocks to satisfy his or her Pinterest creative cravings; let’s call them Pin-Junkies!


A true original, Karen was doing this long before Shabby was Chic and Pinterest’s creator was even a thought (cofounder Ben Silbermann was born in 1982).  She grew up downstate in Williamston on the family’s 135 acre farm.  “My dad would take me to the farm auctions with him.  I’d pick up interesting things and started to appreciate old things”, recalls Karen of the beginnings of her lifelong passion for classic objects and frequenting flea markets for fun finds.  Her mother was an avid antique collector, as well.

She didn’t put this passion into practice for a while though.  “I graduated from Michigan Tech as a mechanical engineer and did that for 20 years”, she said.  It wasn’t until her dad sadly passed and she returned home to empty all those barns full of what others would see as doohickeys, scrap and trash, that she realized she had a treasure trove of antiques and architectural salvage ready to be molded into magic!

This is when she repurposed her career.

baylife6That was 10 years ago.  The pole barn on her Deer Creek property (hence, her company’s name) slowly became full of rare, uniquely put together items that people were custom ordering from Petoskey to Traverse City, and she would host barn sales.

Along the way, she sharpened her tool belt resume.  “I’m self-taught, but my father-in-law helped me a lot.  I’m not a trained carpenter, but I think it adds a subtle difference that things aren’t perfect” Karen says.  She proficiently uses a cut-off saw, table saw, hand drill and a drill press!  That’s way beyond a glue gun, people!  But that’s in there, too, when Karen adds finishing touches along with painting and distressing.  It all contributes to the individual style that has allowed her to carve out a unique niche in home decor.

baylife7Up until this point, her passion had been more of a mental and emotional outlet, not necessarily a financial one (like most artists, unfortunately). But now that her kids are grown and in college, she felt she could expand.  A year ago, Karen moved all her junk out of her pole barn and down the road a mile to where she bought the ambulance station building that now houses her Deer Creek Junk universe, 1600 square feet of Good Junk that’s open for business all year.

Karen had an amazing summer in the new space, and she nearly sold out of all the eclectic creations she had made. Since then, Karen has been collecting up her junk and working those power tools, getting ready for when East Jordan wakes up again.  She is excited to host some workshops and her Junkapalooza event again.

Deer Creek Junk is also known for garden pieces, so take a spring drive out and see Karen in action.  You’ll be amazed at how the old and ordinary can be transformed into the new and whimsical.  And if you’re a Pin-Junkie, you have just found a fabulous supply outlet and a wonderful lady to inspire your inner artisan.

Photography by Tatum Photo and Design

Northern Home & Cottage Home Tour

Home tour cover


# 6 The Doctor’s House

13722 Peninsula Dr., Traverse City // Cedar Creek Interiors, 231.933.4321, cedarcreekinteriors.com

If you’ve stopped at home #5 on the tour, then you’ll already understand the concept of “beauty is therapy,” as pioneered in Northern Michigan by Dr. James Munson, the first superintendent of Traverse City State Hospital (the present village at Grand Traverse Common development) and the namesake for Munson Medical Center. What kind of house did this man who believed in beauty build himself? Welcome to the gracious former Munson residence, built in 1880. Under the guidance of Cedar Creek Interior’s Kim Hooker, the Munson house has recently undergone a tasteful renovation that has resulted in a high-end home that preserves the home’s authentic core. Located on Bowers Harbor, this quietly sophisticated house still features elements from Munson’s time, including a glazed brick foyer, fieldstone fireplace and built-in buffet. Later owners added a beautifully landscaped pool and a charming sun porch. The new owners have given Cedar Creek Interiors carte blanche to update the home in keeping with its history. Watch for new period-style lighting, floor and wall covering and a completely updated kitchen. -E.E.


home tour houseIMG_2031

Northern Style

Home & Cottage 2012June/ July 2012

Deer Creek Junk collaborates with designer Kim Hooker of Cedar Creek Interiors of Grand Traverse on a number of projects.  Featured here in  Northern Styles are a bench made from a bed headboard, a door repurposed into a statement mirror and light fixture created from vintage soda bottles.

Northern Styles A 2012Northern Styles B 2012


DCJ_homepics3Welcome to the new Deer Creek Junk!  It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since my first barn sale.  The journey has been enlightening, challenging, gratifying, scary, forever changing, and best of all…fun…everything it should be.  The adventure continues with the relocation to a new, dedicated, publicly located building.  Repurposing an abandoned EMS building to the studio/workshop of Deer Creek Junk seems appropriate.  I hope you will stop by online and in person for some creative fun and inspiration.

Deer Creek Junk Repurposes with Passion in East Jordan

DCJ_homepics2Charlevoix County News – March 28, 2013

By Krystal Birgy

EAST JORDAN – Clever creativitiy meets cast-away furnishings at the newly opened space of Deer Creek Junk in East Jordan.  Located at 320 State St. in what was what once the community’s EMS building.  Deer Creek Junk serves as a working studio and warehouse.

Owner Karen Brennan says customers can discover an assortment of itmes at her storefront, with “everything from salvage finds to finished, repurposed, one-of-a-kind items to inspire your cottage, vintage or industrial style.”

Working out of her home since 2003, Brennan takes trash and turns it into treasure.  Her eco-friendly, functional art uses old doors, fences, windows, and tables and reinvents them into purposeful, shabby chic benches and more. From chandeliers made out of vintage soda bottles, to shopping carts re-envisioned as crafting supply carts, Deer Creek Junk repurposes it all.DCJ Ribbon cutting

“Even though an object may have ended up in the junk pile, it still contains the essence that gave it character,” says Brennan.  And sometimes it is the very essence behind and object that inspires a transformation.  “Everybody has a piece of cool something in their basement or garage, whether it is a piece that has memories for them or not” noted Brennan.

Repurposing such objects can bring a memorable piece from someone’s past out of storage and allow it to be seem and used on a daily basis. It is this kind of custom work that Brennan hopes to do more of at her new location.

In addition to custom design an building  and finishing services, Deer Creek Junk will also offer do-it-yourself workshops for individuals or small groups and monthly JUNK-A-PALOOZA events.

IMG_1183“I want to focus retail sales on the once a month events.” said Brennan

At these monthly JUNK-A-PALOOZA events, Brennan will open her doors for three consecutive days for a special sale. Up for grabs will be a selection of architectural salvage pieces and raw materials, such as doorknobs, wire, crates, and bottles for the do-it-yourselfer, as well as Brennan’s repurposed designs.

The first JUNK-A-PALOOZA sales event is set for May 9, 10, 11, with hours from 4-8 Thursday, 10-6 Friday, and 10-4 Saturday.

To check out Deer Creek Junk’s merchandise or to discuss a custom project, contact Karen Brennan at 231-675-2606 or by email at Karen@deercreekjunk.com.  Deer Creek Junk is open year round, most days Monday through Friday, afternoons and Saturday mornings, by chance or appointment.

For up to date information and photos of sample projects, follow Deer Creek Junk on Facebook or visit http://www.deercreekjunk.com

Discards to Decor: Deer Creek Junk has new site

Petoskey News Review,  April 1, 2013DCJ CCI Wheels

Michael Morrow – staff writer

EAST JORDAN – Deer Creek Junk, which repurposes salvage items for home decore use, has a new showroom in East Jordan.

Karen Brennan, the owner of Deer Creek Junk, applies her style and take to repurposed materials, architectural furniture, salvaged art and extraordinary finds.  She offers a wide variety of products and services, ranging from custom creations to salvaged item left in their natural state.

Brennan is an engineer of many years, by trade, and now lets her creative side flow.She notes “that the two are not as far apart as people think.”  She has operated Deer Creek Junk for nearly a decade now, mostly hosting in other showrooms and barn sales.  It eventually became necessary for the business to acquire its own showroom space, and an area for Brennan to work.

Deer Creek Junk now has such a space at 320 State St. , East Jordan.

Brennan not only can spot decorative potential in otherwise discarded items, but also offers classes and guidance on how to create these designs on your own.  “There is always that one piece in people’s homes that they have meant  to work on many times over the years, something they just can’t throw away, and I offer some incite and encouragement to finish that project.” She said.  A sign displayed on a wall in her shop reads “Live with the Junk you Love” – summarizing the special appeal of some items.

The process behind Deer Creek Junk has been one created from Brennan’s lifetime of experience, rooted in her parent’s collecting and antiquing.  When the time came to clear out her parent’s barns, Brennan “found items that just shouldn’t be destined for a landfill.”  This developed into her passion for the “junk” that can be found almost everywhere.  Some of her one of a kind items were located alongside the road. Brennan’s carpentry, painting and repurposing skills were self-taught over the years, and she stresses, “you shouldn’t strive for perfection with these items, that kind of spoils the look.”

Brennan’s creations have been used by several designers around the area and are currently being incorporated as style elements by Cedar Creek Interiors in Traverse City.

Following the recent showroom opening, Deer Creek Junk is now open year round, during afternoon hours Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings “by chance or appointment.”  Deer Creek Junk is also featuring monthly JUNK-A-PALOOZA events throughout 2013.