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Chocolate, soda, ice cream, all of the things people like to eat when curled up watching a movie, can also badly stain that favorite couch, or mom's favorite chair. Instead of going out to the furniture store to buy a new chair, one option people have is to go to an upholsterer to get their chair looking brand new again. Upholsterers refurbish and cover furniture and fixtures with fabric, leather and other upholstery materials.

Upholsters either work as custom, production or re-upholsterers. Custom upholsterers often work in small stores where they make new furniture from standard patterns. They sometimes rebuild an entire article of furniture and may help customers choose fabrics and styles. Some highly skilled custom upholsters design and produce furniture according to customer specifications. For example, interior decorators work closely with custom upholsters when choosing matching fabrics and custom furniture items.

Production upholsterers are those who work in furniture factories, usually specializing in one area of new furniture manufacture. They work on an assembly line performing one function and pass the furniture on to others to finish. This is the least creative route to take in becoming an upholsterer as the job is very routine. Re-upholsterers recover furniture, but also make repairs by fixing split seams, replacing broken springs and replacing foam in seat cushions. Custom upholsterers and re-upholsterers may also prepare cost estimates.

Using tack hammers, staple guns, removers, pliers and shears, the upholster starts on a project. To re-upholster a couch, for example, the upholsterer removes the old fabric covering, springs and padding. They replace the springs and padding and reattach the loose sections. Next, they install nylon or cotton webbing to hold the springs together. They attach the springs to the frame and additional stuffing is stuffed into the sofa. The next step is measuring, cutting and then sewing the fabric. Sometimes the fabric is tacked or glued down and ornamental trim and buttons are added.
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The Art Institutes system of schools

With an education from an Art Institutes school, imagine what you could create.

Programs Offered:
  • Interior Design (BFA)



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Upholsterers must have excellent manual dexterity and coordination, and a flair for color. They are artistically minded individuals with good vision, and are knowledgeable about the properties of fabrics. They should enjoy using tools and machinery to perform tasks requiring precision and have clear guidelines and methods for their work.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Discuss upholstery fabric, color, and style with customers and provide cost estimate for upholstering furniture or other items
  • Lay out, measure and cut upholstery materials according to sketches or design specifications
  • Remove the old cover and padding
  • Measure and cut fabric to fit each part of the furniture
  • Replace worn-out webbing, springs and other furniture parts using hand and power tools
  • Operate sewing machines or sew upholstery materials by hand to seam cushions and join sections of covering materials
  • Install padding and underlays and fasten covering materials to furniture frames
  • Tack, glue or sew ornamental trim, braids or buttons on upholstered items
  • Lay out, cut, fabricate and install upholstery in aircrafts, motor vehicles, railway cars, boats and ships
  • May repair furniture frames and refinish wood surfaces
  • May make upholstery patterns from sketches, customer descriptions or blueprints
  • A typical day for an upholsterer involves a variety of tasks. Those working in factories might do shift work, whereas shop owners may have to work longer hours, especially on custom pieces. The work requires regular bending, lifting and standing. They use a number of dangerous tools, therefore they must take the proper safety precautions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Upholsterers work for furniture, hotel, aircraft, train, motor vehicle and other manufacturing companies. They may work for or own their own furniture repair and upholstery shops. Therefore, some work in larger factories in comparison to one- or two-person operations.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for upholsterers? Experienced upholsterers in large factories may advance to supervisory or management positions, depending on their experience and ability. Some may also decide to open up their own store. Upholsterers may also go into furniture or antique sales, do interior design work, woodworking, tailoring or furniture designing.

  Educational Paths  
Most upholsterers have the minimum of a high school education. Completion of college or other specialized courses or program in furniture upholstering and repair is a great place to start learning. Alternatively, on-the-job training is a very practical method of education. Mastering all of the skills necessary to work independently could take up to five years. They usually start performing more simple tasks such as removing old fabric, padding or springs, and with experience move on to more difficult projects.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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The Art Institutes system of schools  Online

With an education from an Art Institutes school, imagine what you could create.

Programs Offered:
  • Interior Design (BFA)
Campus Locations:
  • Sacramento, CA

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