I inherited my love of fine arts from my father, and my love of decorative arts and interior design from my mother. Life would have been so much easier had I inherited their athleticism, too (they were true renaissance folk).
Growing up, our home was an artistic collectible and antique museum. One of my dad’s hobbies is oil painting (as was his mother’s) and Dad also collected prints. My dad has an uncanny knack with displaying art (most people hang art too high – the key is that the focal point of the artwork should be at eye level. Whose eye level is the knack). My mom collected 20th century discarded treasures and “encouraged” me to move out of the house at age 21 so that she could remake my bedroom into a 1940’s room complete with an imaginary inhabitant who left her period eye glasses and elbow-length lavender gloves on the vanity (next to some vintage postcards, of course). My mom frequented the Sally Ann (Salvation Army/Thrift stores) where she collected green Depression glass, antique irons and much more. She also had a modern sensibility and in the late 70’s painted one of our living room walls chocolate brown when everyone thought it was unwise. It looked amazing.
After growing up in this environment, I took my own path initially with a varied career starting with teaching English in Japan, Vancouver and Nunavut, followed by a stint as an HTML editor, and finally the bulk of my career was spent in IT sales and marketing in Vancouver and Toronto. In my early 40’s, my interest in home decor and the history of furniture and home design became irresistible. I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go and it made a very strong impression on me:
“And it started to dawn on me, I suppose, that a lot of things I’d always assumed I’d plenty of time to get round to doing, I might now have to act on pretty soon or else let them go forever.”
(from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro)
At age 46, I dashed my career trajectory to take a traditional upholstery course in England. Now I’ve augmented my Communications and Marketing career with a new hobby in furniture restoration and reupholstery. It’s the best of both worlds.
I was recently told by an industry insider that in the last 10 years, approximately 150 upholstery businesses have closed in the greater Toronto area alone. The craft of upholstery is no longer taught in Canada; yet in my view it’s the kingpin of interior design and creature comfort. Re-upholstery is eco-friendly and resource conscious and it could prevent heaps of imported cheaply-made furniture from ending up in landfill. We all grew up with Grandmothers who resolutely saved everything from string to margarine containers for recycling and up-cycling purposes. They grew up in a culture of “waste not, want not” after living through the depression. In recent years; however, we’ve seen unquenchable consumerism advance from clothing to home appliances to furniture. Now, the vast majority of furniture is produced to be discarded after a few short years (hint: they want you to buy again soon). Re-upholstery and well-crafted artful furniture construction can prevent this material and monetary waste. (Note: You can see the results of consumerism by looking at photographer Chris Jordan’s work here and here.
I try wherever possible to recycle and repurpose. My husband and I built my upholstery workshop in our backyard with a door, two windows and all furnishings sourced “street-side”. Yes, someone had discarded them for garbage pickup (or for the taking on their front lawn) and they were given a second life by us.
If you have a sturdy piece of older furniture, a good upholsterer can restyle it, rebuild it with higher quality foam/materials, and rejuvenate it with gorgeous yet durable fabric of your choice. I hope you consider re-upholstery before your next visit to Ikea or the Brick. Feel free to send me any questions you have about reupholstery and I’ll do my best to help.
Thanks for reading!
January 28, 2013