Last fall, by chance circumstance, I was simultaneously moving out of my first upholstery studio, opening a pop-up furniture shop, and moving into my new workspace in the span of two weeks. All while managing day-to-day client projects and on-site upholstery for a restaurant that was set to open. Everything—my hands, my mind, and most certainly my mouth, judging by how easily and quickly a “yes” poured out—was moving faster than I could process.
The new studio is spacious and awash in sunlight, with 16-foot-tall ceilings and concrete floors. It has windows that stretch from wall to wall on two sides, a glass garage door for easy loading, and plenty of storage. In essence, it is the exact opposite in every way of my previous workspace, which was older and cavernous. But the biggest difference? I took my time setting it up with equipment and decorating.
For as long as I can remember, my natural propensity had been to work fast. But speed is not the same as momentum, and many things suffer when chaos is the modus operandi (my sleep pattern became irregular; I was irritable; I developed a lymph node due to stress). It wasn’t until I discovered upholstery several years ago that I began to recalibrate for slowness. Every stage calls for close attention. How you strip a chair requires you to recall how to put it back together. In some cases, you have to remember to save parts of it so that they can be used to make a new pattern. But it’s really the rebuilding phase that forces me to take my time. Some fabrics (like leather and velvet) are delicate. A single misplaced cut or puncture could mean I need to redo an entire section.
I let this place speak to me. At home, I cultivate my space in such a way that no matter the day I’ve had, when I walk through the door, I’m greeted by the fullest expression of myself, from the couch I upholstered by hand to the painted walls to the textiles, plants, and crystals I use during meditation. I wanted my studio to be an extension of that feeling of coming home to myself, of slowing down. I built an altar of sorts as an ode to my love for magazines and my former life as a photo editor, painting a large mint green strip running 10 feet up the wall and lining it with design literature. A coffee table and houseplants make it feel even more reflective of where I live.
I brought in a couple of chairs at a time rather than fill the space with multiple projects, so that I could give each piece attention. I mounted a pegboard and outfitted it with my tools. (Spending less time sifting through cabinets and drawers equals more time working on my piece.) I added a new workbench my mother had gifted me. My parents flew down from Minnesota to generously help me hang curtains, build storage racks, and hang swatch books to maximize my productivity.
Another significant decision: no Wi-Fi. My studio is where I go to focus on working by hand without the distraction of checking email or social media until I leave.
When I work, it’s just me and my playlist, the softness of the Dacron—a polyester batting that goes on a chair just before you add the fabric—under my palms, the sharp cut of shears gliding through woven material, the pulling and tucking of fabric, and the satisfaction of hearing the staple gun click and connect the material to the chair frame. Time moves a little more slowly here, and my mind and hands have permission to do the same.
Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Time, where we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.