I’m home after a busy week in Birmingham, helping out at Design Industry by Grant Trick.
It’s always eye-opening to be there, and see a business so completely different from my own.
My focus now is education. But as a professional, my target market has been reupholstery for the retail client – sofas, chairs, cushions etc. No designers. Nothing from scratch. Invest in what you have, or rescue something wonderful, that was my message.
Grant works to the trade only, no retail customers. He creates a lot of custom furniture – very large, very unique, very decadent. He does homes, but also restaurants and other public spaces.
He’s very passionate about good design and tries to get me fired up about it, too.
Alas, the truth is, I’m not particularly passionate about design.
Mostly, I just think homes should be comfortable, and we should throw less furniture away.
But Grant is an inspiring force, and he certainly got me thinking . . . He speaks animatedly about the need for professional, design-forward upholstery work – and he’s quite right.
If consumers see only old-fashioned work, they’ll naturally conclude that reupholstery is an old fashioned option.
This is something we forget, I think, in our enthusiasm for preservation and restoration. . . it’s equally imperative that we communicate custom upholstery as a viable option for modern, design-forward homes.
And by WE, I mean WE as a community. None of us can be responsible for communicating EVERYTHING, after all . . .
We like to fight about what is best in upholstery: this or that, apples or oranges. But the truth is, we need apples AND oranges. We need a whole produce section. Restoration AND innovation. Big AND small. Retail AND trade only.
I couldn’t do Grant’s job. I couldn’t appease that part of the market. I frankly wouldn’t want to try. So I’m glad he’s there, representing upholstery like a rockstar, bringing this craft to the front lines of luxury design. I am glad he inspires me to look through a different lens.
And I think it’s important what I do, encouraging reupholstery as an option, creating visibility and appreciation through education, helping aspiring professionals do their best work. I hope I inspire Grant to look from a different angle, too.
But I don’t think Grant should change his business to retail reupholstery or education, and I didn’t race home to compete in the luxury design market.
We’re each doing the things we’re excited to do, we’re making the contributions we feel passionate about making.
We’re bringing upholstery to two very, very different markets.
As we fight for the future of professional upholstery, homogenous is probably the worst thing we could be. Consumer tastes are hardly one-size-fits-all – we need an industry as colorful and varied as the market around us.
So when someone brings a different flavor to the table, say hey, THANKS!! Thanks for being over there, doing what you’re doing!!! That’s pretty great!!!! I’m glad we do this differently!!
For example . . .
Thank you for showing the world that “dated” furniture can be reimagined into something wild, wonderful, and bold.
Thank you for understanding a niche – and then meeting it so well that everyone takes notice
Thank you for working to bring more natural products to the upholstery market, for bringing our trade into the larger, louder discussion of circular design.
Thank you for fighting to preserve and share our most time-honored techniques, and for knowing how to rescue and restore our most vulnerable treasures.
Thank you for rocking at automotive upholstery!
Thank you for rocking at marine upholstery!
Thank you for rocking at commercial upholstery!!
Thank you for working daily to make our community more visible and connected through social media.
We need young people with energy, ingenuity and tech savvy. We need experienced people, with skills and knowledge and wisdom.
Not one or the other – BOTH.
And when they connect? LOOK OUT!!!
We need people excited to connect with artists, with architects, with weavers, with woodworkers, with welders, with drapery makers, with designers, with students, with EVERYONE .
Professional upholstery is so much stronger and more visible as a diverse community. We’re relevant to more consumers. We’re connected to more potential partners.
We’re so many more mirrors, shining brilliantly in different directions.
So whatever you’re doing? Do it with pride. Do it with integrity. Be AMAZING. Reach the consumers you are uniquely qualified to reach.
And if your upholstery neighbor is rocking a different flavor of awesome?
Hand them a high-five and a hat – Because the party just got a little better for everyone.