Log in


The latest news and blog posts from the National Upholstery Association.  All members can read and comment on blog posts.

Industry Partners and Educator members are invited to guest blog for the NUA twice a year. Contact us if you're interested. 

  • August 04, 2021 7:57 AM | Anonymous

    By Monica Rhodes
    NUA Volunteer and Owner of Monday Wash Furniture

    I know I was not alone, 15 or 16 months ago, wondering if the emerging pandemic meant “curtains” for my fledgling upholstery and furnishings business. Workshops around the world scrambled to adjust to the health threat posed by interpersonal contact and the consequent restrictions that soon followed. Upholsterers reached out to one another on forums like the Professional Upholsterer’s Network (PUN) and during NUA Community Meetings to share information about Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other such loans and grants. We all buckled down, adjusted our work spaces and protocols, continued to work hard, and hoped for the best.


    That hope actually came to fruition. Though many industries (particularly travel, hospitality, dining and entertainment) sputtered and struggled, home improvement and interior décor related enterprises flourished. As so much of the world turned inward, millions of stressed-out people sequestered at home began to fixate on creature comforts and practical adaptations that might make working and schooling children at home more tolerable. They took a long, deep look at their living spaces thinking:  If this is where I’m going to spend nearly all of my time for the foreseeable future, it better be as comfortable and appealing as possible. Interior decorating/re-decorating became one of the few ways to achieve a change of scenery. It provided a creative outlet, space to roam if only in imagination, and a sense of control when everything else felt out of control. People who found themselves with extra disposable income originally intended for things like travel and eating out, started investing that money into their living spaces.

    There is an old adage: Be careful what you hope for. The upholstery trade is booming now, in no small part due to the cultural and societal shifts that have occurred as a result of the pandemic. On the forums, talk of PPP loans has been replaced by talk of managing unruly clients and dealing with work overload. Several weeks ago, I read a thread in which one upholsterer described the scene outside his shop as Night of the Living Dead. He was booked out for many months. He’d done everything he could to dissuade potential clients (including locking his shop door and hanging a sign stating clearly that he was not accepting new work). But still they came dragging their chairs and ottomans behind them, rattling the door and peering with haunted eyes through the glass around the sign.  Meanwhile, the upholsterer had retreated to the back shadows of his shop so as not to be seen, which would only rile the furniture-toting zombies up.


    I found this image hilarious, but it resonated with me. So many of my upholstery acquaintances are suffering tremendous stress, some working 80-hour weeks, many booked out for six months, or a year, but still trying to squeeze particularly desperate clients in. Some home-based upholsterers I know of, including the NUA’s own Rachel Fletcher, have had wanna-be clients show up on the doorsteps of their private homes - with their furniture - after being turned down by phone.


    The situation has been exacerbated by concurrent supply chain shortages and disruptions. Foam, Dacron, fabric, adhesive, and lumber are among the materials in short supply. Prices are up, availability is down, and delivery is sporadic, delayed and increasingly costly. Covid-19 has disrupted the means of production, as has harsh and unprecedented weather like the epic snow and cold in Texas last February and March. Some larger shops have been able to stockpile foam and other necessary materials, but this has resulted in even longer delays for small shops that lack the storage space and capital to purchase large quantities in advance of payment. The result: upholsterers must tell clients who have waited several months for their turn that the work may be further delayed for unspecified lengths of time.

    So, what to do? 

    For better or for worse, things might settle down as normalcy returns. People will start spending their money on travel and other Covid-verboten luxuries again. Their gazes will gradually adjust to meet the horizon beyond their living rooms. If, when and how this will impact our industry are big unknowns. If we have learned anything, it is that we must be prepared for flux. Personally, I think the boom will continue for a good while. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people perceive, experience and value many things. Our homes will remain havens from known and yet-to-be known threats and disturbances. Furthermore, there is serious, widespread and growing interest in reusing furniture. recently published an article titled Used furniture is about to become a $16.6 billion business. Even Ikea is getting in on it. In the article, Anna Brockway, co-founder of the furniture resale website Chairish, notes that “Chairish grew very quickly during the pandemic with sales increasing between 70% and 120% every month compared to the year before.”  The public has become more knowledgeable about, and comfortable accessing, myriad on-line avenues for purchasing quality vintage furniture – and they’re going to need upholsterers.      

    The immediate reality is that we have much work to do. Perhaps too much. Several upholsterers I reached out to have graciously shared their coping strategies including: raising prices, booking clients far out, vetting estimates using on-line forms that sift out “tire-kickers”, requiring clients to deliver and pick-up their own pieces, not promising definitive completion dates, referring potential clients to other shops, partnering with other upholsterers to share work load, and hiring skilled and/or unskilled help (for teardown, etc.). Long-time upholsterer Dennis Locke says, “The pandemic has taught me to sit back and let the game come to me. I found that many of my customers who previously claimed they were unable to handle their own pick-up and delivery were suddenly finding a way.” Rhonda Shanahan of The Whimsical Chair committed to “work smarter not harder.” Streamlining all of her processes, she added a detailed estimate form to her website. “It’s the only way I will give someone an estimate,” she says. Rhonda also turns down the jobs she doesn’t really want. Drudgery does nothing to alleviate stress.  Another upholsterer makes space by keeping weekends to herself – no quotes, phone calls or work emails, “and I’m not shy to tell people the contract is delayed. It’s me, my family and mental health before others.”

    In researching this article, pricing came up repeatedly. Almost across the board, established upholsterers have been able to raise prices with little to no push back from clients. Given clients’ willingness to pay, raising prices doesn’t do a lot to stem workload though it makes the added stress more palatable. The other resounding theme was communication, which can actually make workload more manageable. Open, clear and concise communication yields the best results. Don’t waver. Don’t promise a turn-around time you may not be able to keep. State and stick to your protocols. Be clear about your scheduling. Are you strictly first in the door, first out?  Do certain clients receive priority? Regardless, don’t cave and offer to squeeze someone in just because that person is pleading or pushy. In the May/June 2021 issue of issue of the Drapery and Design Digital Digest, purveyor of window treatments, Merrill Y Landis (MYL), LTD, states explicitly, “Demand is way up. Workroom space is way down. Delivery times are increasing.” MYL maintains a first-in, first-out policy but recognizing that, occasionally, there is legitimate rationale to push a job through as quickly as possible, offers a priority service system for a fee that is large enough to discourage casual requests. Priority service is not guaranteed. Requests are vetted and granted after serious consideration to ensure that flow remains smooth and that customers remain happy.

    In addition to scheduling, be up front about supply chain issues. Let clients know there may be unforeseen delays. Consider putting this in writing on the front end, so there will not be room for dispute later on. Forgoing a definitive completion date will avoid undue pressure should things go awry. If delays occur, let clients know when and why and that you are doing your best to complete the work in a timely manner. Do not accept work from a person who blatantly disregards your protocols.


    If you show up on the doorstep of my private home while I am eating dinner then, no, I will not reupholster the sofa you have dragged onto my porch.  Protect your boundaries. Don’t you dare push that sofa into your garage because you “might be able to squeeze it in”.

    This is not the time to make concessions. This is a time to consider the changing landscape, reflect on priorities, strategize and strive to strike a healthy balance. Plenty of people in the trade will lend you an ear, if not a hand, in safe spaces like the PUN and the NUA. As a group, we are resilient and resourceful and we have a host of solid ideas and strategies to share. If we reach out to support one another, there is hope for a less stressful tomorrow.

    Photo attributions:

    1.  "under pressure" by eschipulis licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
    2.  "Zombies at the door aren't welcome tonight." by kennethkonica is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
    3. "Alexis Helps Move" by Voxphoto is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    4. "Gaston Says... Talk to the Hand" by opencontent is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • July 06, 2021 11:42 AM | Anonymous

    How did we measure up?

    Thank you to all our members who completed our very first NUA Member Survey in April. We had a 35% response rate, which is very good for a general survey. Below is a summary of the results.

    General Demographics

    The National Upholstery Association consists of Professionals, Educators, Industry Partners, Students, and Retirees of the upholstery trade. Our current mix of member levels is as follows:

    70% Professionals

    3% Educators

    9% Industry Partners

    15% Students

    3% Retirees

    Around 85% of our members are associated with a small shop, either running a solo business or with one full- or part-time employee.

    Our members overwhelmingly joined the NUA for educational and networking opportunities

    Did you know? The NUA holds monthly Community Meetings on a variety of topics. These meetings are a great opportunity for our members to network and share. Check out our calendar to see a list of upcoming events.

    We want to do regional events and we need your help! The pandemic put a pause on in-person gatherings, but it won’t be long until we can travel and meet up again. Are you itching to meet other NUA members in your area? Want to volunteer with the NUA but can’t offer a long-term commitment? Sign up to coordinate a local meetup instead! For more information, please email

    Our webinars are the best in the industry, but that’s not all the NUA has to offer. We’re working on growing our curated collection of upholstery resources and educational materials. Our newsletter, blog, and library are great sources of information for our industry. Check out our Learning and Events page on our website. And don’t forget to check back often, as we’re always adding something new. Have you found a great resource, blog, article, video, or webinar you’d like to share with other members? Let us know at and we’ll consider your content for inclusion in our library.

    Webinars rank highest in quality among the benefits we offer

    Did you know? Our webinars are recorded and available on demand for members. Can’t make a live session? Catch it on a replay! Check out our Past Webinars on our website (available only to active members).

    Member discounts rank lowest

    Yeah, we know - and we’re working on it. We believe the NUA provides mutual benefit between our members and Industry Partners. We aim to highlight and promote our best partners, giving them an opportunity to market to a highly targeted audience. In return, we’ll snag exclusive offers for NUA members, not available anywhere else. If you are an Industry Partner and want a premium promotional spot on our website and on social media, please email and we’ll gladly be in contact with you.

    Our members are interested in a trade magazine and access to a regular news feed highlighting industry news and research

    Our members seek to stay on top of industry news and trends and the NUA wants to become your one-stop resource for all things upholstery. In our April newsletter, we included a new Industry News section and it received a very positive response. We are currently investigating the feasibility of an industry eMagazine and/or news feed. If you are interested in helping with this project, please contact us at

    Most members follow the NUA on social media (92% of respondents), but prefer to receive important communication by email (96% of respondents)

    We strive to strike a balance in our member communications; to share our programs and events with you wherever you are without being too spammy. That said, we’re putting our programs into overdrive this year and we need your help to achieve our goals. In an effort to improve our benefits offering and increase engagement, we may reach out to you periodically to ask your opinion about certain topics or to share news about new or underutilized offerings. Your input is important!


    The National Upholstery Association’s programs are made possible through your membership dues and the support of our dedicated volunteers. To all our members - thank you for your support and for being a part of our community.

    If you want to get more involved, consider applying to become a volunteer. We are also recruiting for Committee Chairs, so if you’re a natural leader or looking to build experience leading a team, we want to hear from you!

    By Harmony Maraldo, NUA Membership Committee Chair

  • June 28, 2021 8:58 AM | CARLA PYLE

    As a professional upholsterer, Michelle is widely recognized for her creative eye and meticulous attention to detail. She has been involved with building the NUA since the beginning, and has made a huge contribution to creating our resilient Upholstery Community!

    Michelle has been instrumental in building the foundation of the NUA's social media and marketing program since (date?). Her passion for sharing knowledge, supporting & encouraging fellow upholsterers, has shined in her role as leader of the Public Relations committee.

    She is an amazing mentor, actively blogging about her DIY adventures for several years, until her upholstery business took over. She continues to share the transformation process through her social media channels today.

    "For me it’s all about giving new life to the old and discarded. My favorite client projects are those that are family or just special pieces with a story."

    Please help us congratulate Michelle as the NUA Volunteer of the Quarter! She will be receiving a recognition gift for her contribution. Michelle has found a certain fulfillment in working alongside her fellow upholsterers in the NUA. She has recently found it necessary to step down from her NUA work (June, 2021). We'll miss her, and we wish her the best on her journey forward!

    Check out Michelle's upholstery business:

    Blue Roof Cabin



    Would you like to join the NUA team and help carry Michelle's work with the NUA into the future? We're seeking a proactive volunteer to pick up where Michelle left off, and lead the Public Relations effort. Learn more and submit your application here. We are also seeking a new leader for our Volunteer Coordination Committee. We love our volunteers!!!

  • June 28, 2021 7:47 AM | CARLA PYLE

    Posted by Carla Pyle, NUA Board Member and Natural Upholstery educator & consultant. Thanks to the folks at Chemical Insights for writing this guest post and providing images.


    Last year we shared the exciting news that Chemical Insights convened a national Furniture Flammability and Human Health Taskforce to provide science-based facts about safe & healthy furniture. 

    Since then, the group has been busy compiling scientific resources and summarizing key facts and action steps that were ultimately compiled in UL Guidance Document 118F: Managing Fire and Chemical Exposure Risks of Residential Upholstered Furniture. To help put this knowledge into practice, Chemical Insights created an educational tool for interior designers: Specifying Residential Upholstered Furniture to Safeguard Human Health and Well-Being: A Toolkit for Reducing Fire and Chemical Risks.

    image credit: Chemical Insights


    The toolkit: 

    • Presents a case for why both chemical safety and fire safety must be considered when selecting furniture
    • Offers guidance on how to specify solutions that address this safety convergence
    • Summarizes meaningful research on flame retardant exposure and furniture flammability.


    “There is an abundance of research and information available to designers that addresses mitigating the impacts of consumer products and building materials on indoor air quality. They often focus on six specific classes of chemicals of concern. These chemicals can be released into the air and dust for human exposure contributing to health concerns, especially for vulnerable populations.”

    image credit: Chemical Insights


    “Current statistics report that of fires that result in death, residential upholstered furniture is the leading item to ignite, above mattresses and flammable liquids. When residential upholstered furniture was the first item to catch on fire, it resulted in 17% of home fire deaths. This suggests that efforts to mitigate residential fire risks associated with upholstered furniture over the past few decades have not been overly successful.”

    image credit: Chemical Insights


    “Open flame testing showed that a chair with a fire barrier material installed to fully encapsulate the polyurethane foam under the cover fabric (no flame retardants were added) demonstrated significantly lower fire hazards when compared to the other chairs with and without flame retardants (and without barriers).” 


    “A fire barrier is a protective layer designed to prevent or delay ignition of the cushioning material. It successfully reduces the fire growth rate and fire size after ignition. Fire barriers can be made from a variety of inherently flame-resistant fibers, including carbons, polyesters and fiberglass.

     A barrier should be identified for furniture construction that will delay or reduce open flames. 

    A fire barrier is installed over the padding or filling materials to completely encapsulate it. In studies, fire barriers have been identified as an effective solution to reduce fire risks without the use of chemical flame retardants — achieving the desired safety convergence. Barriers demonstrate a significant decrease in heat release rate and ignition propensity that results in lower transmitted fire hazards, such as temperature, smoke and carbon monoxide.”


    “Just as identifying materials with recycled content or selecting low-VOC paint were once new concepts, specifying a fire barrier in residential upholstered furniture may be a new process for any or all involved parties — the designer, the client and/or the manufacturer. As with all emerging technologies, utilizing a fire barrier may not be an option on all projects and certainly not on all pieces of upholstered furniture — at least initially. However, you are likely to encounter certain situations that make any additional effort and potential cost worthwhile to the client. And as awareness of and demand for solutions that minimize fire hazards and chemical exposure risks grows, just as with the mattress industry, furniture manufacturers are likely to follow suit. There are already manufacturers in the market using the barrier, upon client request.”

    image credit: Chemical Insights


    To view the complete toolkit, alongside additional tools and resources, visit 

    The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.

  • May 13, 2021 4:38 AM | Michelle Minner

    by Rhonda Shanahan and Emma Shanahan.

    Whether you’re just starting with your upholstery business or you’re looking for a way to streamline your work a website can help take your business to the next level. In developing The Whimsical Chair website I have learned some aspects that can help take anyone's business to the next level and connect you with the ideal client. The most beneficial pieces came by developing an About Page to give background, showing the client the step-by-step process along with answering common questions on my How it Works Page, and crafting a Cognito form to organize requests on my Estimate Page. 


    When developing an About Page I focused on conveying who I am as a person but more importantly what my work has been and the types of furniture I look for to help give potential clients a reference. Another key feature of my About Page is it gives clients an idea about how long I’ve been in this business and where my passion for upholstery comes from.


    Another portion of my website is the How it Works page which walks clients through the process step by step. I cover both the estimate process to get started on their piece, what you should be able to expect from me, and what I need to reserve a spot and get started on a client's piece. Additionally, I showcase what the process of upholstery looks like in a photo gallery of pieces from start to finish demonstrating the energy I give to each project.

    To ensure my clients have all the information they would need I cover the most asked questions by clients on this How it Works Page. Working through a summary of my process and these questions help to give a potential client an idea of what they can expect before they even submit a request for a quote. 


    For my Estimate Page, I used the Cognito format to help me build the questionnaire for potential clients. It allows me to gather all of their important information; name, email, phone number, furniture type, etc. Another key thing is that I’m able to put an update above my Cognito which talks about how far out I’m booking or if there are any limits to what I’m able to handle at the moment. 

    Once the clients have finished filling out the questionnaire I’m able to see all of their information and keep track of how many new requests I’m receiving in a day. I also can keep track of who I’ve contacted and when they submitted their request to keep client jobs in line and organized. Overall the Cognito form has helped to create one central location where I can keep track of all client-related information which has improved my client communication.

    In my development of this website, I have found that these key portions have best helped me to capture my ideal client. I believe that a well-designed website can improve any upholstery business. Allowing you to develop an outline that will help to capture the right client match for your business. 

    Rhonda is the owner of The Whimsical Chair in Castle Rock Colorado. You can find her at her website, facebook and Instagram.


    The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.

  • May 02, 2021 4:57 AM | Anonymous

    Monica Rhodes joined the National Upholstery Association as a volunteer in early 2020. As a way to give back to an organization that had given so much to her, she offered us her writing skills and joined that PR committee where she has been invaluable as a contributor--writing, editing, and sharing her ideas.

    Monica loves the story. Her first task was writing the member spotlight series for the NUA blog. Her passion for the craft of upholstery combined with her amazing writing skills has produced some beautiful articles. Each story captures the subject and their passion for the industry, giving us all a peek into their journey.

    Monica has been in the upholstery business for over 3 years. She created Monday Wash Furniture, located in Chicago, out of a desire to re-imagine and restyle discarded furniture. It soon grew to include custom upholstery work as well.

    Please help us congratulate Monica as the NUA Volunteer of the Quarter! She will be receiving a recognition gift for her contribution.

    You can find Monica's business, Monday Wash Furniture, on her website, and on facebook,and instagram and be sure to head over to our blog to read some of her fantastic work.

  • April 23, 2021 5:07 AM | Michelle Minner

    By Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and Owner of Monday Wash Furniture 

    My Evolving Perspective 

    I have always been a proponent of re-use. As a little girl, I treasured dolls and other toys passed on to me by my grandma. For my high-school homecoming dance, I wore a lace suit that belonged to my mom and, for prom, I rented a tuxedo rather than buy a dress. Much of my current wardrobe is second hand and my home is furnished, almost entirely, with pieces that were my parents’ or were purchased from antique and resale stores. Some of these pieces are hundreds of years old and all are still up to the task of providing comfort and support. I’d like to say that I routinely re-use for altruistic reasons, but that’s not really true. While I deeply appreciate the benefits to the environment of rescuing, repurposing and reusing, the truth is that my primary driver is simply that I love old stuff. I find old things beautiful to the eye and to the touch and I am hopelessly enamored of their intrigue, history and mystery.

    Days of late, though, I’ve been giving more thought to the larger picture. I have learned a lot through my membership in the NUA – from people I’ve interviewed, like Kriss Kokoefer, owner of Kay Chesterfield in Oakland, CA, and from board and committee members including Carla Pyle, and Jamie Facciola. These women apply their great minds, endless heart and collective sense of purpose to protecting the earth and human health on a daily basis. 

    A Global Fast and Furious Race to the Bottom

    Recently, the NUA, as an act of solidarity with garment workers, has shared posts related to Fashion Revolution Week, an annual event organized by the not-for-profit organization Fashion Revolution. The Fashion Revolution movement arose in 2013 following the deaths of 1,134 Bangladeshi garment workers, and the wounding of 2,500 more, in the collapse of an eight-story building that had been declared unsafe for use. It is not news that garment workers have long been exploited but the overall culture shift, in recent decades, to unprecedented levels of product consumption and waste has led to a ballooning in the number of lives on the line and has gravely amplified the magnitude of their risk. The collapse of Rana Plaza that April morning in Savar Upizila, Bangladesh was the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Despite that horror, covered in the news and witnessed by the world, thousands upon thousands of garment workers around the globe, including undocumented workers in the United States, have reported for duty every day since- under appalling conditions that do not yield a living wage.  Brands want to keep their profits high and their costs down so they will move orders to whichever factory will make it cheapest. To get the work, factories often compete to pay the lowest prices. They cut corners on health and safety. Slash wages. It’s a race to the bottom,.”writes Martine Parry on the Fairtrade blog.

    Image source: Fashion Revolution Instagram

     “Fast Fashion” has become a well-recognized phenomenon. Dana Thomas of the Wall Street Journal notes, “Workers and the environment suffer as trendy, inexpensive clothes are swiftly mass produced in subcontracted factories and sold in chain stores world-wide…American shoppers snap up about five times more clothing now than they did in 1980.” Sadly, these items are often discarded as quickly and remorselessly as they were made. 

    “Fast Furniture” is the lesser recognized but equally destructive equivalent to “Fast Fashion”.  “As with fast fashion, fast furniture’s environmental problems are closely tied to ethical issues: the transfer of domestic manufacturing overseas where companies can pay lower wages,.” Eleanor Cummins writes in The New Republic. Similar to garment workers, thousands of people in the furniture production chain report to factories each day to crank out mass produced pieces that are not likely to last more than a few years. As these pieces occasionally end up on our benches, we upholsterers have witnessed the evidence: chemical laden particleboard and other inferior quality materials held together with bits of plastic and rubber and covered over with random forms of padding and a deceptively attractive outer fabric layer. When this happens, we have to help our clients decide: Does it make sense to reupholster this piece? Can we shore the frame up with better quality materials to give it the strength to last? Sometimes, the answer is yes. But where does the staggering majority of these rapidly assembled products born of hard, under compensated labor end up? In the landfill, serving no one and harming everyone. 

    Fast Furniture mirrors fast fashion in many ways, but it is an even more challenging problem to address in one regard in particular: size. To be considered are the amount of materials that go into large and complex pieces of furniture (like sofas and recliners), the energy it takes to ship those pieces from overseas factories (and the pollution that causes), the volume it occupies in landfill (9.8 million tons of furniture went to US landfills in 2017, double 1990 volume and 5 times 1960 totals, see “Re-up and Re-use” infographic), and the fact that sheer unwieldy size is one of the primary reasons furniture is tossed to the curb. In today’s culture, it is common for adults to change jobs many times before retirement. This means moving more frequently and often choosing to rent instead of buy homes. Moving furniture is logistically difficult and expensive. Particularly for young people who have not accumulated savings, it just seems to make sense to toss a sofa bought for a few hundred bucks a couple of years ago (that has perhaps become wobbly, broken and/or less fashionable) and buy a new one to compliment the new space. 

    Ways to Participate 

    New high-quality furniture is expensive, but solidly built older pieces may be found in abundance in antique and resale shops. Found, purchased and heirloom furniture can be updated to fit a range of tastes and spaces and, if maintained, will be readily welcomed back by resale shops should a change be in order. Upholsterers can do their part by informing the public of the benefits of re-upholstery, giving good council as to whether or not reupholstering a piece is advisable, and discussing the fabric, padding and structural design options that are feasible in relation to the client’s budget.

    I encourage consumers to reach out to local upholsterers to discuss options for updating and maintaining furniture. That said, I know that re-upholstery is not an option for everyone, and that everyone needs furniture. The situation is such now that sometimes the best/most rational option is to buy new at the lower prices on offer. During Fashion Revolution Week, advocates for garment workers urge the public to ask apparel companies, “Who made my clothes?”  and to demand transparency regarding the chain of production with the goal of transforming it to value and serve the health and well being of people and the planet above profit. One of the things I like best about old furniture is that every piece has a story. New pieces have stories, too. We should be asking, “Who made my furniture? And where? And how? And with what materials? What does that mean for us and for our children and for our planet? What can we do, and push big companies to do, to be sure that story has a happy ending?


    Kriss Kokoefer is on a successful mission to convince large corporations to “Re-up(holster) and Re-use”. Toward this end, she has created a furniture waste infographic that she employs to sway companies to retain a percentage of their furnishings when relocating and/or redecorating, and to engage in maintenance contracts to regularly service and update (rather than discard) furniture that requires attention. 

    Carla Pyle, owner of Natural Upholstery has made it her business to help tradespeople, DIYers and consumers learn the benefits and practical ins and outs of sourcing and using natural materials. 

    Jamie Facciola’s  writings and presentations on circular economy are passionately revelatory and her Instagram personification of furniture items kicked to the curb in Oakland, CA is at once razor sharp witty and heartbreakingly poignant. 

  • March 31, 2021 3:00 AM | CARLA PYLE

    What's up back-stage at the National Upholstery Association?

    Spotlight on the Volunteer Coordination Committee

    Team celebrating on a mountaintop

    The Volunteer Coordination Committee supports the NUA's mission by growing our team of qualified volunteers through prospecting, recruitment, and retention efforts. This committee helps prospective volunteers find their best fit and looks for ways to ensure high volunteer engagement in our endeavor to enhance the overall member experience. 

    We are currently (April, 2021) comprised of four members; our responsibilities include laying the foundation for a successful volunteer program, recruiting and training new volunteers, keeping a database of volunteer information and skills, matching volunteers to opportunities that suit their skills, keeping volunteers informed, and conveying the NUA's purpose to the public. 

    Current openings on the Volunteer Coordination Committee are:

    Volunteer Outreach Assistant – will assist in recruiting and collecting/maintaining data, as well as communicating with volunteers about schedules, training, and opportunities.

    Volunteer Communications Coordinator – Use your writing skills to create blog posts and newsletter submissions, send emails to potential and existing volunteers, keep communication templates up to date, and other related tasks.

    “The best part about working with the NUA’s Volunteer Coordination Committee is making new friends in the upholstery world! Enthusiasm runs high on our volunteer team for advancing the field of professional upholstery, while getting to know others in the trade. We look forward to meeting you and helping you find the best fit for your skills & goals, as we work together for the future success of our rapidly evolving trade!” 

    ~ Carla Pyle, Committee Chair

    We invite you to join our committee and be a part of achieving NUA’s exciting goals this year!

    Ready to dive in? Check out all of our current volunteer opportunities, and fill out a brief volunteer application to get started.

  • March 19, 2021 4:54 AM | Michelle Minner

    By Monica Rhodes, Owner of Monday Wash Furniture and NUA Volunteer


    70% -80% of what the furniture industry produces goes to landfills.*

    It’s 1996 and 29-year-old Kriss Kokoefer is laying wide awake on the floor of a friend’s San Francisco apartment, her three modest suitcases stacked in the corner and her mind churning. Already, she has shed the skin of her past life in Cincinnati, OH - the round-the-clock demands of the hospitality industry that hadn’t fed her soul. Kriss has enrolled in an interior design school and thinks she is going to become a residential interior designer, but she is wrong. 


    “I put myself into something I was fascinated with, but I didn’t know where it was going to lead,” Kriss says. While in design school, Kriss took a job as an account executive at a commercial furniture dealership. “I fell in love with the industry and the commercial side of design.  I love combining design and business. The rest is history. I have had several different positions within the contract furniture industry. The one that really launched my beloved career was with Teknion (a prominent Canadian purveyor of office furnishings) as their Bay Area marketing person. The job required me to get to know every interior designer, furniture dealer, and architect practicing commercial work in the Bay Area. This has served me ever since.” 

    Today, Kriss Kokoefer is the fourth owner of Kay Chesterfield, Inc. in Oakland, CA, an upholstery business launched by Sam Kay one hundred years ago. She is also the creator of the Re-Up infographic featured here, a representation of her mission to save furniture from being dumped into  landfills. Kriss arrived here not so much by traveling off the beaten path as by focusing her passion to change the topography of commercial design and guide some major players across that terrain. She prefers a different metaphor, though: steering “the big ships”.

    Years ago, armed with the relationships she had forged with architects and designers during her tenure with Teknion, Kriss launched Kokoefer + Co. a successful independent representative group for high-end office furniture.  When Kokoefer + Co customers needed repairs or her manufacturers needed local warranty work, she turned to John Jones of Kay Chesterfield for help. One day, Kriss was retrieving a re-upholstered Womb chair and John mentioned that he and his wife, Jo Anne, were planning to retire. Kriss, ready for another challenge, obtained an SBA loan and bought the business.  Fortunately, John and Jo Anne stayed on for six months to mentor her. Like the Jones, Kriss was not a trained upholsterer, nor had she ever run a workshop. “John and Jo Anne came into re-upholstery, 25 years ago, from the same commercial furniture background as I did and they were willing to help me make the big career transition.” The second stroke of good fortune was that a majority of the Kay Chesterfield employees remained, some of them hired back when the Kay family still owned the business; this gave Kriss a great deal of capital and comfort in terms of skill and industry know-how. 

     When I ask Kriss what prompted her to buy the shop in 2012, she says, “I loved that it was local, I loved that it was a craft, I loved that it was environmental, and I loved that, as the owner, I would have control,” referencing the fact that, as a manufacturers’ rep, she could not manage quality control of furniture coming from all over the world. 

    If you visit the Kay Chesterfield website, you will see, front and center on every page, the message: Re-Up(holster) to benefit the environment. Kriss notes though environmental and human health were not the only reasons she bought the company, they were certainly priorities. Committed 100% to the care of the employees, her business, and the environment, Kriss is tackling the rigorous requirements of B Corp status. Certified B Corporations balance people, planet, and profit. “They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment (” Kriss is adamant that profit, crucial to the health of her business, is, by extension, integral to her ability to impact the health of the planet.

    When Kriss was with Teknion, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and rating system was just being developed. More and more interior designers were asking, “what’s your sustainability story, what’s your environmental story?” Says Kriss, “I was also heavily involved in IIDA (the International Interior Design Association). Suddenly, many industry-sponsored presentations were about environmental health and human health. That’s when my eyes got opened and I got onto my health kick. I don’t think people talk about human health enough…all of the toxins and what they do in our bodies.” 

    Kriss references Simon Sinek and his book Start with Why. “My ‘Why’ is keeping furniture out of the landfill. So, everything I do, I use that as my framework.” Kriss tells me she’s taken on “a sort of evangelistic role”. She has hired highly skilled and experienced project managers from the commercial furniture world to oversee the day-to-day affairs at Kay Chesterfield so she is free to meet with, and give presentations to, what she calls the “big ships”, decision-makers at large businesses, and influential design firms. By working at this level, she maximizes her efforts. “Most designers want to create something fresh and most of their clients want to look different from their competition, so when a company is making a change or moving their headquarters, they often throw everything out and start over.” Kriss wants to gently change their thinking.

    “There are two focused junctures for re-upholstering contract furniture,” says Kriss. 1: When a business decides to move its headquarters. “This is a great time to inventory what soft seating the company owns and then have the designer imagine how to use it in the new design. My goal here is small, 10-20% because designers typically want to start with a clean slate to express their one-of-a-kind ideas.  I don’t want to stop them but if they can commit to some reuse it's a step in the right direction.” 2: Maintenance programs for soft seating. “‘Resimercial’ is the hot new term in corporate settings. It refers to corporate or public spaces looking like a home, hotel, or spa. Since this is a new trend, I do not believe facility managers have a plan for keeping the upholstery fresh. I want to get this stage of re-upholstery out of the design budget and into the maintenance budget. There are many ‘living room’ settings in businesses now to attract and retain employees (millennials in particular). From what I have read in recent industry articles, these settings are one ‘tool’ to entice people to come back to the office after the pandemic is over.  I would like facility managers to have a plan to re-upholster these pieces 80% of the time (as opposed to buying new soft seating pieces).


    Toward this end, Kriss developed the Re-Up infographic in 2020. She didn’t have a background in statistics, but she knew, “The big players really want to see the data.”  Kriss found that, though there were plenty of statistics regarding the detrimental impact of “fast fashion” (cheaply made garments often quickly discarded and replaced), there was a shocking lack of data regarding its counterpart “fast furniture”. After gleaning a handful of available statistics from articles here and there, Kriss hired a marketing professional to put them all on one page in the form of a clear and striking infographic with references to the original material.

    The infographic crystallized Kriss’s message. Her marketing consultant asserted that the Kay Chesterfield website must be redesigned to fully align with it. Though Kriss was proud of her existing website and loved its aesthetic, she knew this was true. If this was her “Why”, then she had to be all in.

    Kriss Kokoefer seeks a tide change. She wants to see decision-makers making an intentional choice to re-upholster. “The health of our planet is declining and re-upholstery is a tool to make a positive difference.” She is very hopeful. Kriss mentions three recent contracts: an airport with a Zero Waste initiative, and two large tech companies that relocated headquarters. Both tech companies chose to re-upholster as many pieces as possible and reintegrate them into their new designs. Kriss’ excitement brims over, “THAT is unheard of. THAT has never happened before! They want their employees and their communities to know that they don’t throw furniture away.”


    Kriss encourages all of us in the re-upholstery trade to go for the 10- 20% commitment from our clients. We can all “work to change the thinking of new spaces. We need to go to all commercial end-users that have soft seating, get in there, and get maintenance contracts set up. Target facilities managers and make it easy for them with a re-upholstery system (to regularly repair and update existing furniture).” This will benefit our businesses, their businesses, the planet, and the health of everyone involved.

    Kriss is gaining traction. “Gensler, the biggest commercial interior design company in the world, recently created a sustainability group with a new lens looking at furniture and construction waste!” Kriss leans in and her face fills my monitor. “They created a group! And they want to have a private meeting with me tomorrow afternoon. So, I am SO hopeful.” 

    The tide is, indeed, changing. Behold Kriss Kokoefer steering those big ships toward a brighter horizon. 


    * Statistic from Re-Up and Re-Use infographic pictured here. Original source:



    Downloadable copy of the infographic

  • February 28, 2021 1:21 PM | Michelle Minner

    To celebrate the many reasons we love our craft and want to support our trade, we’ve created this shareable info-graphic. Download, re-post, add it to your blog, website, or print it out. Help us shout from the rooftops the many reasons people should choose to reupholster instead of replace.

    Download a PNG file for social media or website

    Download the printable PDF

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software