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Behind the Scenes with a Pro Upholsterer

A local furniture upholsterer shares her expert tips for recovering a fave piece.

For Celina Dalrymple, owner of boutique design studio Fabulous Furnishings in North Vancouver, furniture design is practically in her blood. Being raised in her mother’s upholstery shop sparked an appreciation of hard work and led to a career in the same industry, where day in, day out she’s challenged to take tacky old pieces (with their potential masked by poor upholstering decisions) or awkward spaces (where no store-bought solution will do) and craft something, well, fabulous.

You’ve been designing furniture since you were 11 years old. Can you tell us about one of your favourite custom builds?

Still to date my favourite custom pieces were two mirror-image foyer divans for a very glam home. The client and designer were so lovely and trusting. They had me to the house for a consult, and while we were chatting I did up a quick sketch of a vision I had for the furniture. They loved the concept right away and told me to just go for it. We even selected the fabric in that first meeting and eight weeks later delivered the sofas and they fit just perfectly!

With so many stores now offering customization of factory-made furniture, what are some common misconceptions people may have about bespoke furnishings?

There are a couple different types of custom furniture, and I think there is a lot of confusion about this and some misconceptions. Bespoke furniture is much like a bespoke suit: a piece of furniture custom-built to an original design completely tailored to the specs of the end user. Style, shape, heights, pitches, unlimited fabric options, the sky is the limit with bespoke. I think there is a bit of a fear here for some that have either had a previous bad experience, or not knowing if they will like the final feel. This is why we insist on a final sit test after the body is upholstered and before the padding is ordered for the cushions.

A vintage piano becomes a daybed.

You not only produce pieces from a client’s specifications, but you also rework existing pieces. It’s easy to imagine an Antiques Roadshow vibe to the process with clients bringing in heirlooms and thrift store finds. ​​What’s the most unusual piece you ever worked on?

One of the most memorable restoration/upholstery projects would probably be one recently completed, where we converted a piano into a daybed. A young family inherited a beautiful antique Steinway and Sons piano built 150 years ago that could no longer be tuned. They had come to us looking to turn it into a functional piece of furniture that could be enjoyed again. It was a welcome challenge and fun to create such a conversation piece.

What is your best advice for someone interested in having a piece made or updated and how long can they expect the process to take?

Do a bit or research first. Collect images of thing you like and don’t like. Take note of what you find comfortable, and what you do not. This really helps us deliver your dream sofa and streamlines the quoting process. And depending on where we are at in the schedule and what the project is, an average time for completion is anywhere from six to 10 weeks.

A midcentury sofa made new with fresh wool upholstery.

Have you been working on any exciting projects of late?

After nearly two decades of building furniture and observing the way people shop, we have been working on a collection of furniture to simplify things for both designers and end users. It is a more cost-effective way to get a high quality, locally made piece of furniture without the price tag of creating a one-off piece. Fabulous Furnishings has it own collection of simple, comfortable sectionals based on what we have seen being on-trend here in Vancouver. We are also proud to be working on a line of furniture with Zacharko Yustin Architects called “Livable Luxury” that will be launching next spring. ​​

As the year draws to a close, what trends in furnishings and home decor do you predict for 2018? 

I predict a little more of a classic design revival, a resurgence of antiques being re-upholstered and completely restored with a modern twist. Clean lined furniture with elegant curves and interesting lines, less boxy than previous years. Lots of texture with thick piled velvets, mohair and luscious linens. Saturated and vibrant multicoloured toss pillows, art and accessories. But I really don’t follow trends, it’s just my guess…and maybe some wishful thinking.

A custom curvy divan.

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