Sharon O'Conner - Vintique Upholstery owner

Birthdays and new beginnings

Vintique Upholstery owner Sharon O'Connor with rescue dogs Ruby and Reilly, sitting on Kirkby Design cloud quilted velvet green reupholstered sofa

I’m Sharon O’Connor from Vintique Upholstery and I thought it was about time to say ‘hi’ with my very first blog!

Most people talk about fresh starts in January, but February is the big month for new beginnings at Vintique Upholstery. First off, it’s my birthday. Second, I celebrate the anniversary of launching my business seven years ago. It’s also the month I got my gorgeous rescue dog Ruby and it’s my other treasured rescue pup Reilly’s, 1st birthday too. No wonder then it seems the perfect time to embark on my first blog.

Picture Credits (above + header): Andy Newbold, copyright Surrey Life Magazine.

Welcome to my crazy, busy lifeSharon O'Connor with Money For Nothing TV presenter Sarah Moore. Showcasing reupholstered antique chair in Rebecca J Mills delicate one velvet fabric.

I’ve been considering writing a blog for a while, but you know what it’s like… Life gets in the way. Actually though, it’s exactly THAT life – sometimes crazy, always busy – I feel it’s time to talk about. I’m here to spread the joy of upholstery as a business and an everlasting craft, and to show that we don’t need to accept boring furniture in our homes. But I also want to open up about the work and guts and grind that goes into running your own small business.

It’s going to be a place where you’ll find inspiration, tips and my personal insight into the art of upholstery. But it will also be a chance to bring you my musings on all things life and business.

So, I’ll be covering all the other things that go on day-to-day behind the scenes here at Vintique Upholstery. Because we all have a story to tell, which is what makes each and every one of our small businesses so unique. And I suppose the best place to start is… well, at the beginning.

Right back to the beginning

Worn armchair ready for reupholsteryLots of people ask me if I’ve always been an upholsterer and the answer is, ‘nope’.

I lost my board role in fashion – an industry I’d loved for 18 years – when the recession hit in 2008. A year of job-hunting followed and I had to give up my lovely, rented loft apartment in London and move down to a much smaller mid-Century maisonette in Teddington. I was on a mission to furnish the place on a budget and I managed to pick up a beautiful, old 1960s Guy Rogers day bed on eBay, which I decided to get re-upholstered.

There was something about the whole process that sparked something in me. I loved choosing the fabric and seeing the quality and design of this piece being brought back to life. This is when a little idea started to grow in my head… ‘What if I could I become an upholsterer and do this every day.’

‘What if I could I become an upholsterer and do this every day.’

Shortly afterwards, I enrolled on a course with the Association of Master Upholsterers in Kendal. Upholstery training is not cheap. In fact, it’s eye-wateringly expensive. It meant making sacrifices, saying goodbye to most of the deposit I’d saved for a London home and ditching the designer shoes and handbags. But – thankfully – by the end of the first week I was hooked. I’d never felt so exhilarated, and to see a piece I’d worked on transform in front of my eyes was such a thrill.

I trained for four more years and saw a brighter future emerging. These days you’ll find me taking on a whole variety of commissions from my workshop in Sunbury-on-Thames. I’m also a resident upholstery expert on the BBC’s Money for Nothing makeover show.

The joy of fixing things and putting them back together

Reupholstered armchair in Kirkby Design ice velvet, pool coloured fabric. Jane Beck Welsh blankets lie on top of the armchair.In a strange way, I’m so pleased that the recession happened. It opened me up to a beautiful craft and profession that I work in every day. I get to meet so many interesting people who bring me their furniture. Some are treasured pieces from their past, others are modern pieces from the present, and many have emotional or nostalgic connections. It’s my honour to be trusted with items, some of which may have been in people’s families for generations, others for maybe only a few years. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than fix things, put them back together, modernise and refresh for a new space for families to enjoy for the next generation.

So, as we kick off this February I’m feeling grateful for finding this path in life. And maybe raising a glass of something to the prospect of many more exciting projects coming up in the future.

You can subscribe to my blog below. I hope you’ll tune in and join me on the journey. And if you’d like to discuss a project you have in mind, do get in touch here.

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