Upholsterers make, replace, and repair coverings on furniture and in vehicles. Most work for household and institutional furniture manufacturers, upholstery shops, and automotive interior repair shops.
Upholsterers typically do the following:
Upholsterers put on covering and cushions to create new furniture and update old furniture and vehicle interiors. Although some upholsterers specialize in either working with old furniture or creating new furniture, most do both. Upholsterers need to stay current with trends in furniture design and styles. They help choose fabrics that meet their customer's lifestyle, preferences, and needs. For example, upholsterers may help a client who has young children choose a long-lasting and durable fabric for a family room sofa that matches other furniture.
Sometimes they have to choose fabrics that meet building codes—such as being fire resistant—or fabrics that reflect the style of the building. They also may work with interior designers and architects who need furniture for a new building.
Upholsterers may specialize in working on cars and other vehicles. These workers create and replace upholstery for the interiors of cars and other vehicles. They upholster seats, carpet floors, and cover door panels. To replace interiors with another fabric or other material, such as leather, these workers first remove the seats from the vehicle before replacing the upholstery. Some upholsterers own their business. In these cases, they may do management and administrative tasks, such as managing the finances of their business and taking orders.
Generally, employers do not have any formal education requirements for upholsterers. Some upholsterers take classes to learn how to sew and upholsterer furniture, but there are few formal programs to teach someone how to become an upholsterer.
Those interested in becoming an upholsterer are often trained while working in an upholstery shop. Some are trained through apprenticeships, where they are hired by an upholsterer and get training to develop their skills. However, formal apprenticeships are difficult to find. Most who are interested in becoming an upholsterer find employment working with an upholsterer and are trained informally on the job. Others teach themselves by taking furniture apart to learn how it is made and what appears to be needed to replace the fabric, padding, and broken springs.
Most upholsterers work for household and institutional furniture manufacturers, upholstery shops, and automotive interior repair shops. About 36% of workers were self-employed in 2010. Some self-employed upholsterers work out of their home. Most upholsterers work full time. Some work nights and weekends to accommodate customers’ schedules.