Confessions from a Chair Stylist

I’m a chair stylist. It’s taken me a while to really pinpoint exactly what I do, and I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way. Yes, I know how to upholster furniture. That knowledge came to be by taking two long courses in upholstery. And, I’m still learning. But here’s some things I’ve learned along the way…

The first thing I learned was that just because someone could upholster doesn’t necessarily mean they have a good sense of style. There were plenty of people in my courses that were amazing upholsterers (better than me, in fact), but had less-than-luster taste when it came to putting fabrics on chairs. However, style is something that can develop over time. Looking back over the past five years I can see definite growth in this area. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned so much. The truth is, these things just take time to develop. 

When I first started out, I took just about any upholstery job that was handed to me just to get the experience. The pay was pretty low, but I was still learning my way. What I realized over time was that just doing upholstery jobs didn’t make me happy. I liked working on certain styles of chairs. And so, I began hunting these chairs down so that I could style them for clients. I found that type of work made me much happier. 

I also found that I enjoyed hunting down fabrics for my clients. I love spending time in fabric stores. My phone has tons of pictures of fabrics that I find. And, I have many Pinterest boards with various fabrics so that I don’t forget about them. When a client wants only blue fabrics, I’ve got it covered, but its taken me years to build up such a library. And I’m still working on it every week.

I’ve learned that people get annoyed when I tell them I can’t upholster a chair that they presently own. On occasion, I do accept chairs like this, but in general, I like to pick my chairs. And I’m not just an upholsterer. I’m a chair stylist. What that means is that I like the work of figuring out what fabrics to use on a chair for a particular space. I enjoy offering that advice to clients, partly because I’m good at it. It’s a problem solving challenge for me. For me, upholstery is the means to the end. I don’t like just doing the work. I like the planning of the work, which makes doing the work so much more enjoyable for myself. When someone has a chair picked out and already knows the fabric they want, then why do they need me? They need a good upholsterer, and there are some great ones out there who love doing those jobs. 

It’s taken me a while to come to the knowledge of what I am exactly. Yes, I do upholster, but I’m not just an upholsterer. I am a licensed interior decorator, but I’m not just a decorator. I’m someone who sees chairs as the jumping off point for decorating a room. For me, it’s all about the chairs. I’m the stylist who takes chairs and reimagines and revamps them so that they become the showpiece of the room. Some people start with accessories, others start with rugs. And still there are some who start with paint. But me? I start with chairs. I am a chair stylist.


10 thoughts on “Confessions from a Chair Stylist

  1. So true, Wendy! Then there are clients like me who always have a vision for a chair that is totally off the wall! Many thanks for my beautiful chairs, they make my house a home! Now, can I fit just one more chair in??? I will do some thinking!

    1. Well, your ideas are super fun to do! I’ve loved them all! And its also fun to make other people’s visions come to life. 🙂

  2. I could not have said it better myself, this is exactly how I feel. Although I am at the infancy of my career when people want me to cover their dining chairs in fabric I would NEVER pick it takes three times as long due to lack of motivation.

    1. I feel your pain, Kelly! Keep working at it, and people will begin to trust you and then you can pick and choose what you want to do.

  3. Well said Wendy! I have a passion to be in the same position as you someday! You are such an inspiration and I love reading your posts.

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