By SALLY KING, Valley Community Newspapers writer
Bill Clausen, owner of B&T Upholstery Repair in Sacramento, has reupholstered furniture for over 46 years. The B stands for Bill and the T for his wife, Terri.
“I became interested in reupholstering furniture when I was 11-years-old,” Clausen said. “I used to hang out at an upholstery shop located on 21st Street and 2nd Avenue.”
It started with cutting class
Clausen said he hung out there because his friend lived above the shop. Clausen’s last class of the day was woodshop and he didn’t like the class. One day Clausen caught his shop teacher drinking, so he made a deal with him, that he wouldn’t tell anyone what he saw as long as he could skip the class. The teacher agreed, so Clausen spent his afternoons watching the shop owner through the window while waiting for his friend to come home.
Leading to a career
After six months of watching through the window, the shop owner asked him what he was doing. When Clausen told him, the owner asked him if he wanted to work there, sweeping and cleaning up. Clausen agreed and he worked at the shop for seven years, learning how to reupholster furniture.
Shop owner Richard Combs younger brother John, now works for Clausen.
Quality reupholstering for quality furniture
There is no limit to the types of furniture that can be reupholstered. Clausen offers his years of knowledge to customers, whether they are novices or veterans in the restoration of furniture.
B&T Upholstery Repair offers free estimates, pickup and delivery. Clausen lets his clients know if their furniture is worth being reupholstered. He said most of the time it costs more to reupholster a piece than to buy new, which is the one big misconception most people have. He believes if the furniture is quality, it is worth the price of reupholstering.
Recliners are popular
He receives many requests to reupholster old recliners. His clients like the older style.
He also reupholsters art deco and modernist period furniture for collectors. In some cases, Clausen explained, people want the same exact style and color of the original piece of furniture.
Another reason folks consider reupholstering is the sentimental value of a piece of furniture being passed down in the family.
“Sometimes I have to rebuild the piece to make it good enough to reupholster,” Clausen said. “It usually turns out better than the original piece.”
Jim Burrus, owner of Garland Fabrics, has known Clausen since 1956.
“His work is superior,” Burrus said. “We have a good relationship and trade customers back and forth all the time.”
Clausen said he only uses the best foam and it has a five-year guarantee. He also reupholsters a lot of antique furniture. He has a list of referrals customers can use for wood refinishing and painting.
Clausen said in this economy, people often would rather pay to have a piece of furniture repaired, rather than to buy new. An advantage to reupholstering a piece of furniture, Clausen explained, is an unlimited choice of fabrics. He also restyles furniture. He can shorten, add height, or restyle the arms on chairs and sofas.
A vanishing art
Clausen said he views his work as a dying art. There are many rules and regulations he must follow and thinks that is why there are not as many people in the industry today.
Bob Locke, a Sacramento resident, said he owns a unique three-piece sofa set he bought 35 years ago. He had Clausen reupholster it because one of the pieces had mold developing on it.
“Bill was gracious, knowledgeable and accessible,” Locke said. “I am very pleased with his work. The sofa originally stood close to the floor and Bill added two to three inch legs under the sofa, so it isn’t so hard on my knees to get up.”
Clausen has many customers in the Bay Area, Reno and Tahoe. He said most of his art deco clients live in the Bay Area.
Upholstery may be a “dying art,” but Clausen said he is booked through the end of the year “and that is really good.”
B&T Upholstery Repair is located at 1600-B Kitchner Road, off Freeport Boulevard, near Executive Airport. Call (916) 392-1959 for more information.