Upholstery Classes at the Eliot School

Upholstery Classes at the Eliot School

Jeanine Brennan
Oct 31, 2008

Store History

  • Founded: 1676
  • Founded by: John Eliot and the farmers of Jamaica Plain
  • Headquarters: 24 Eliot Street, Boston, MA

We've been seeing a lot of Good Questions about upholstering lately. Boston AT readers have been asking for advice about vintage feed-sack fabric, recommendations for local upholsterers, and whether to upholster an Eames lounge chair. With winter coming up, a perfect time to tackle a project, we thought we'd let you know about a wonderful place that lets you get your hands dirty and learn to upholster furniture yourself. Check out more about the Eliot School after the jump.

The Eliot School in Jamaica Plain is a one room schoolhouse built in 1831 that offers classes in fine and applied art. The heart of the school is its woodworking shop where master craftsmen teach classes such as furniture design and upholstery. We've taken upholstery classes here and there are several reasons we keep coming back. The first is the amazing teacher, Paul, who has been upholstering for over 20 years. You can literally walk in with a piece of furniture in any style and he'll show you how to upholster it (although its best to start with something small and simple). We've seen people upholster chairs, loveseats, ottomans... we even saw Paul help someone make and upholster a wood headboard with tufting. You can also leave your furniture there and just pull it out each week for class.

The structure of the class is that Paul systematically walks around and helps you wherever you are in your project. He gives you instructions and demonstrates what to do to get you started for the night, then he walks around the room, helps everyone else (you can listen and watch), and gets back to you and helps you progress further. He's not only patient and unflappable, but incredibly funny and with a million stories that has the whole room laughing while they are working. By the time the class is over you know everyone and all about what they are making.

Classes are ongoing, run for 10 week sessions and cost a reasonable $240. Many people just sign-up for the following session when one ends. This way you can keep going on a project or bring in your next craigslist or antique piece to rip apart. Its possible to finish a chair in one session, although for first-timers it may take a little longer. But you get such a sense of accomplishment and its really not that difficult with Paul helping. Our friend Camilla did the most amazing job on this french chair above with different colors of velvet. She upholstered the bulk of it while 8-months pregnant, then had to hand it over to Paul to finish because she had her baby as the session was ending (Paul also does upholstery himself through Melo and Sons Upholstering in Somerville).

Because you're doing the upholstery yourself you can try fun things like different fabric on the back, sides, arms... like Camilla did (this photo doesn't show the back which is dusty green velvet). It makes it fun to experiment, and its a great DIY class.

2nd pic: eatsleepgrl81's flickr photostream

3rd pic: lesbru's flickr photostream

>>> Eliot School website

>>> Melo and Sons Upholstery website

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