By Polly Keary, Editor
In the Woods Street shop of Monroe Upholstery is a very eye-catching loveseat. The piece is covered in black crushed velvet and trimmed with black fringe at least six inches long, and the cushions are a bold leopard print.
That loveseat didn’t start in life out that way. But when store owner John Holmes had the impulse to create for himself the ultimate man-cave, he took a much more sober loveseat and utterly reinvented it.
Reupholstering can be a great way to hang onto a beloved heirloom, redecorate without breaking the bank, or even just repair damage caused by scratching pets.
About a third of the work that comes to Holmes is household furniture, he said. The rest is divided between automotive and marine work.
Holmes said that, while it isn’t terribly cheap to reupholster a large piece, it can be a good value when the item is of sufficient quality.
“A lot of furniture is cheaply made, so if you have a $500 couch, you might just rather replace it,” said Holmes. “But if you spent $3,000-$4,000 on an Ethan Allen couch, and you don’t mind spending a grand or two to recover it, you can use it for another 20 years.”
He has an enormous array of fabric samples from which to choose, allowing clients to completely redesign furniture for a new color scheme, if desired. But he can also usually get a fairly close, if not perfect, match to original fabrics. And sometimes he can graft fabric or leather from one part of a piece to another, covering smaller amounts of damage.
Currently he is working on a large black leather couch with one corner badly frayed by a pet. In order to get a perfect match for the replacement panel, Holmes took the back panel off another piece of furniture in the set, where it won’t be seen, and is using it to cover the damage.
For about $400 or so, he can also restore car seats, truck bench seats, RV seats or marine seats, he said.
His favorite kind of work is that which requires him to do a whole concept for a room or boat.
“There’s a boat I’ve been working on for four or five years,” he said. “It’s a 60-foot yacht, and we did every piece in it. We did the state rooms and the cabin, the kitchen, and now I’m finishing the canvas work. Those are my favorite projects.”
Since the recession hit, he said, he’s found that more and more car, boat and home owners are opting to hang onto what they have and keep it fixed up, rather than selling and trading up.
“Now people are saying, ‘I’ll keep the thing and redo it,’” he said. “The expenses are in favor of keeping it.”