Digital First Media

Clarkston resident transforms furniture into art at The Skeleton Key

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Creative mixes of styles and colors are on display at The Skeleton Key in Ortonville. Courtesy of Heidi McVeigh

Heidi McVeigh loves to use her imagination and creativity to breathe life into furniture and other household items. The mother of three was a postal worker, but retired because of a knee injury. While figuring out how to find new work she turned attention to her hobby.

“I’ve always been a creative person and enjoyed making things with my daughters. We sold repurposed furniture among other goods at craft shows and I thought this could be a new business venture for me,” McVeigh says.

When she decided to turn her hobby into a career, McVeigh started looking for a place to set up shop. She settled upon a quaint house in downtown Ortonville and turned it into The Skeleton Key.

“Looking at the place, I thought it had nice potential. Downtown Ortonville has a hometown, cozy feel,” says McVeigh, who lives in Clarkston.

The name for the shop came from her love of skeleton keys. She enjoys the design and concept of them, even adding skeleton keys to her own home décor. She says not only do they open many doors in a house, it’s also a metaphor for opening up to a variety of handmade arts and creative people.

The Skeleton Key is a marketplace for talented Michigan folks offering decor, vintage items, art, music and custom paint and design.

Some of McVeigh’s favorites in the shop are trashed pieces of furniture that she brought back to life. It usually takes her about two weeks to repurpose furniture, but says it depends on the condition and size of the piece.

Since her grand opening in August, McVeigh and her friends running shops on either side of hers — Sell Street Consignment and For The Love of Local, a women’s shop — are known as the South Street Sisters, offering a variety of goods for customers shopping in the area.

“So together we are three woman shop owners with the same vision,” she says.

McVeigh admits establishing the business was difficult, but she loves every minute of it.

“It’s my passion to do this,” says McVeigh. “I love meeting new people, seeing their vision for a piece, and creating the thing that they want is an amazing feeling.”

The Skeleton Key also has a small open art studio in which McVeigh offers DIY classes that teach techniques for repurposing items.

“Right now I’m open to new ideas for classes, and I’m looking to bring an essential oils class to the store,” she says.

Through Skeleton Key, McVeigh is involved in the community, where she likes to give back.

She has donated furniture from the shop to local churches, made gift baskets for auction, and is working with the Downtown Development Authority to bring events such as pop-up shows to Ortonville.

McVeigh’s three daughters, Megan, Madelyn and Mia, and her husband, Lonnie, also work in the shop.

“I like that the family is always together and the teamwork aspect. It’s great to have a job to do what you love,” McVeigh.

• The Skeleton Key is at 76 South St., Ortonville. The shop is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. For more information call 248-882-1641 or visit

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