Style Files

November 19, 2021

Upholstery 411 with Brian, Tandem Arbor Upholsterer

Learn more about the upholstering trade and our skilled craftsman!

The process of upholstering a piece of furniture is one of the last steps before we ship off our products to be used in your beautiful homes and spaces. You may be wondering, “but what is upholstery?”. Upholstery is the work of providing furniture with padding, springs, and fabric and leather covers. This last step is the finishing touch that brings your piece of furniture to life with color, texture, and comfort - without it you just have the wood frame of the piece.

To answer all of your upholstery questions, we went behind the scenes with Brian, one of Tandem Arbor’s master upholsterers. Read our conversation below!

How long have you been in the upholstery industry?

I’ve been in the upholstery business for 24 years now and started because of a company that happened to build a plant right in my community. I got a job there and they eventually restructured, sending their production overseas. When that happened I went to EJ, which upholstered Ralph Lauren furniture. I was there for 11 years, then made the move to work with Tandem Arbor.


What makes furniture good quality, in your opinion?

First and foremost is the frame being built with good structure and bracing. From there, proper padding and a high-quality fabric. Also, cushions are a big aspect for me when talking about what is quality vs what is not. Spring down cushions are the best as they are longest lasting and most comfortable because they offer resiliency coupled with a down wrap. Foam and fiber cushions are great too, they offer that sink in comfort.

How can you tell that the sofa frame has a good structure?

The thickness of the wood - we use ¾ to ⅞ thickness for the wood, which is perfect for our silhouettes - and how well the pieces are braced and channeled together.


When you start a new/custom piece, what is your protocol? How do you begin?

The frame is already built when I get it - my job is to upholster it. I first verify that the frame is built to the specs and dimensions that the customer has specified. I reference photos of our prototype and I review those to understand the overall look to ensure it is an exact match. From there, we combine the information from both the specs and photos to create the pattern and start upholstering.

Do you have a favorite Tandem Arbor piece to make?

I like the Rivington Sofa. It’s a simple and classic piece. I like that the arms flare out so it isn’t boxy. It’s also a productive piece to run when it comes to upholstering it.



What makes a piece of furniture comfortable, in your opinion?

The proper seat depth - not being too deep - and having spring down cushions. Also of importance are the back cushions and how those feel.

What tips do you have for customers buying furniture?

Check the dimensions of the piece you’re buying to make sure it will fit your space. Also ensure the seat depth and seat height you’re going with fits your body as this will have an impact on comfortability when you receive it.


When it comes to design, do you have any recommendations?

There is such a wide array of design options, but I would say it’s important to make design selections based on the quality and fabric.


When manufacturing our furniture, working with a team of expert upholsters is of the utmost importance. Upholstery is what brings the custom design you’ve chosen full circle between the silhouette, fabric, and texture - Brian plays a huge part in putting these final pieces together to take a piece from conception to reality, while ensuring ultimate comfort.

Are you ready to start designing your dream piece of furniture? Check out our collections to get started!

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