Brinda Dunlap and Betsy Jones
Church Lane Upholstery Co. LLC
979-224-5161 or 979-966-2970
Years in the Creativity Biz: One year (officially) and five years (unofficially)
Get their goods: Year-round by appointment only
Church Lane Upholstery on The Road to Restoration:
Brinda Dunlap and Betsy McCormick Jones were friends long before they were business partners. In fact, Dunlap, who was reared in Houston, used to spend her childhood summers and holidays in Walhalla with her grandparents who were Jones’s neighbors. They remained close although life took them in different directions.
When Dunlap, who had experience as a commercial seamstress, retired from her job in school administration at Round Top-Carmine, she contacted Jones about taking upholstery classes. Jones, who for 29 years had designed and crafted jewelry as she ran her own jewelry store McCormick Goldworks in La Grange, was ready for a change.
They took classes in Austin for years, honing their skills and establishing a network of mentors. They began tackling projects for family and friends. As they worked together, the lifelong friends discovered they had different tastes and complementary skill sets. Dunlap liked the big picture macro work while Jones preferred the detail-oriented tasks. Differences in their personalities and styles worked to their benefit as they negotiated differences in clients’ personalities and tastes.
Initially, Dunlap and Jones planned to flip furniture, amassing finds from the fields and giving them new life and style with fabrics and treatments. They didn’t anticipate that the demand for high-quality custom upholstery would outstrip their time. Today, they have a barn full of furniture they plan to flip and a workshop full of projects for clients and a business: Church Lane Upholstery.
Their new goal? Teach upholstery classes locally to introduce the dying art of upholstery to a new generation.
“Antique tapestries can be used to cover an entire piece of furniture, or you can use sections of the tapestry to add strategic pops of color and interest.” – Brinda Dunlap
“Getting a piece to where it’s ready to be covered is the hard part. We took years of classes to learn to build foundations, tie springs and rework the interiors. The pretty stuff is easy.” – Betsy McCormick Jones
A Favorite Project:
“A woman brought in two chairs to be upholstered. She mentioned that her husband was from Costa Rica. We just happened to have two coffee bags from Costa Rica with bright colors and bold design, so we used them as the focal point of the chairs. Her husband loved the end result so much that they completely redesigned their living room, including the color scheme, to showcase the chairs.” – Betsy McCormick Jones
The Whys of Upholstery:
“Upholstery takes time and a significant skill set, so it can be expensive. In fact, it can cost as much to rebuild and recover an old piece as it does to buy new.
So why re-upholster? Older furniture was built to last generations instead of a few years. If it is a family piece or an older piece with good bones, it is worth the investment. Plus, if you already have a piece in your house, you know its size and scale is right saving you the hassle of shopping.” – Brinda Dunlap and Betsy McCormick Jones
“Dining chairs or stools are good DIY upholstery projects. For more complicated pieces, it is best to call in the professionals or be prepared to take classes and buy some specialized equipment.” – Brinda Dunlap
Round Top Relationships:
Ellen Hart of the Original Round Top Swing Company needed a big, beautiful oak tree to hang a sample of her handcrafted porch swings during the antiques shows. Jones, who has Granny McCormick’s Yard in Warrenton, had a tree that fit the bill.
As the two women began talking, they discovered Hart needed custom cushions for her swings and Church Lane knew exactly how to make them. These days, in addition to upholstery, Dunlap and Jones are creating the cushions that add extra comfort and color to the Round Top swings.
Top Six “Re-upholstery” Tips from Church Lane Upholstery
as per Brinda Dunlap and Betsy Jones
Be inspired: Pay attention to size and shape. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make this a statement piece?”
Check the bones: Make sure the piece you want to have upholstered is well-made and sturdy. Wiggle it. If the frame gives freely, it may have serious structural problems that render it unsalvageable.
Stuff it: Be aware that antique upholstered furniture may be stuffed with whatever the previous owners had on hand: hay, paper, rags, cotton and more. This is important if you or yours have allergies. (Of course, good upholsterers will take the furniture down to its wooden frame and rebuild it from the inside out.)
Skip the slipcovers: If you want to showcase a piece in your home, commit to having it fully reworked. Save slipcovers for new furniture you want to update.
Choose the fabric of your life: Vintage fabric can be wonderful, but carefully consider its condition. If time or storage conditions have compromised the fabric, it won’t hold up. For upholstery jobs, choose upholstery grade fabric—either new or vintage—so it will hold up to the “wear and tear” inherent in your family’s lifestyle.
Measure twice, buy once: Before you purchase upholstery material consider having a professional measure the piece. The furniture’s shape as well as the fabric’s nap or pattern (if it has to be matched) can require more fabric than Internet estimates indicate.