He's got it covered!

June 2023

The word ‘upholstery’ comes from the Middle English word ‘upholder,’ and refers to an artisan who held up, (or upheld) the tapestries on castle walls in Europe. I spoke to one such artisan, Quinn Monteith of Monteith Upholstry, about this fascinating and time-honoured craft.

“Upholstery shops have always been about recycling what you already own rather than buy new,” says Monteith. “Over half of the things that walk through my door could be anywhere from 6 months to 200 years old.”

Monteith has been running his business professionally for a little over 3 years, but he was always working in furniture, even down to collecting antiques as a kid!

“I was born with the curse of good taste and no money!” he laughs. “So, I picked up projects that I figured I could learn to fix. After a while, I had good furniture, paid for in sweat equity, trial and error!”

Always working with his hands, Monteith graduated from Confederation College in the welding program, and he worked on boats as a job. He’d constantly been drawn to the craft of furniture making, however, inspired in part by his father, who was an avid woodworker. Monteith studied all his father’s books while growing up to learn more about the process, but when it came to the very different skill of upholstery, he was fortunate to have a mentor, Antonio Belvadere, aka Gino.

“Gino was in his 70’s when I started working at an upholstery shop in town,” he says. “He taught me everything about furniture he could. He was my mentor, but he became my friend.”
There are as many ways to upholster a furniture piece as there are décor styles, and Monteith says it comes down to personal preference.

“Upholstery has no rules when it comes to the custom work I do here in my shop,” he says. “I have customers who have fabric they have owned for decades, all the while waiting for the right chair to do it in. I also have customers who want something wild, like an art deco sofa done in white Egyptian Cotton terry bath towels for their cottage. I’d say most of what I do, however, is modernizing furniture with new fabrics that are trendy for current styles and colours. Only one out of every 10 jobs is doing a period-correct matching of all the elements on a piece. It’s truly a limitless mix and match adventure to make it personal for each individual.”

About 20% of Monteith’s business is minor repair work, and the other 80% is a mix of complete fabric replacement, total frame rebuilds, or even creating projects from scratch. But none of his earlier studies have gone to waste, from his father’s woodworking books to his time as a welder.

“I do woodworking and repair of all manner of furniture, from dining tables to kitchen chairs,” he says. “And I was a welder, so I still use that knowledge when making custom parts for restoration projects or mending automotive seats for vintage cars. I need all my skills to properly understand how each piece, from every time period, was created.”

Monteith has several suppliers of fabric and keeps sample books in his showroom for his clients. Most of the suppliers are from North America, but he does have international offerings and can find just about anything a customer would want, in almost any colour or material.

“The most challenging thing,” he says. “Is being asked to match a decades- or centuries-old fabric ‘exactly’ when re-covering something. Usually, I can get very close but its rare to match exactly, due to the thousands and thousands of fabric samples created each year. It’s a fashion industry, so fabrics are created and discontinued all the time to keep up with current styles.”

By engaging in such custom work, Monteith loves keeping his customers happy.

“I am blessed by my customers to work on an amazing variety of things,” he says, “And I keep photos of every piece as a memento. A potential customer may be trying to imagine what their piece would look like all done up, so I can show them what I’ve accomplished in the past.”

Furniture is an investment and, according to Monteith, most modern furniture is fool’s gold, with a ‘shine’ that wears off fast. But quality will always last and Monteith proudly upholds that heritage with a lifetime of skills. For more information, check out his website at www.monteithupholstery.com or on Facebook or Instagram at @monteithupholstery.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.