“ It used to be that upholstery followed fashion , but now fashion follows upholstery ”
W hen I see the finished piece I feel a huge surge of pride ,” says Matt , as he sticks a label displaying his name onto the finished sofa he ’ s lovingly crafted . “ I love the whole process of upholstering .” Watching him you can see it ’ s an intensely physical job , and one that requires a huge amount of skill . Matt works to the “ bap bap bap ” sound of the staple guns and the “ bop bop bop ” of house music , over which we shout . The process from frame to finished sofa has taken eight hours , with Matt working so fast that our photographer complains it ’ s hard to capture him . He uses up to 20,000 staples a day . “ He ’ s faster than me ,” reckons his dad , Ash , as he trims away excess fabric and checks how taut it is . “ But not quite as good .”
The pair work with our soft furnishing partners , Andrew and Paul , who co-own a family-run furniture factory in Long Eaton , Derbyshire . A firm known for attention to detail , quality and the use of traditional techniques to manufacture exceptional sofas and armchairs .
“ We ’ ve been in business together for 12 years but have known each other for 25 years longer than that ,” says Andrew of Paul . So long in fact , they can ’ t remember how they know each other in the first place . “ That ’ s a very good question . Everyone knows everyone here through furniture . I ’ m an upholsterer who wanted to be a frame-maker . He ’ s a frame-maker who wanted to be an upholsterer ,” says Paul . “ We worked with each other for a long time before we set up a business together .”
QUALITY IN DEMAND As both came up through the ranks of the factory floor , they are armed with the knowledge of how things should be done , and aren ’ t above helping out when it comes to the Christmas rush . “ We went into business with an idea of making unique pieces made the traditional way using horse hair ,” says Paul . But they quickly grew into a business supplying quality furniture and bespoke pieces to some of the UK ’ s best-loved brands . Starting out with just eight employees , the firm now has 180 , doubling in size in the past year .
“ There ’ s a real demand for quality British-made furniture at the moment ,” Paul continues . They always use hardwoods beech and birch from FSC-approved forests , which are delivered as sliced tree trunks and shaped in the wood mill . In addition , they use traditional techniques like glue , screw and dowel , as well as some other trade secrets that they won ’ t share . That ’ s not to say they aren ’ t open to change . “ Every day is a school day ,” says Paul . “ We ’ re
and people would have a suite of furniture that they would re-cover two or three times over their lifetime . Now there
depending on the trend . It used to be that upholstery followed fashion , but now fashion follows upholstery .”
A LOCAL LEGACY Matt has worked here for a decade . “ I did my apprenticeship when I left school . I had a Derby County season ticket and whenever I saw Paul at matches I would ask him for a job until he gave in ,” he laughs . Long Eaton is close to the county boundary , and represents Derbyshire ’ s last frontier before it gives way to Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire . It ’ s a former mill town , where the history of upholstery is woven into the very fabric of the place . It was once famous for making
townspeople were employed in its making . As demand declined in the post-war era , their skills were put to use making upholstery for the rail industry .
“ The whole area used to be railway sidings and when I was a kid we ’ d go exploring ,” says Andrew . “ I still have a pitchfork I found that would have been used to load hay onto the trains .” Long Eaton was the place trains would be repaired and repainted . Even the local pub is called the Tappers Harker , named after the men who would tap the railway carriage wheels and listen to hear if they were cracked . The soaring brick wood mill where the frames are made used to be a train shed , and still has its cranes and windows intact .
Today , over 2,700 people are employed in the upholstery industry in Long Eaton , and it ’ s estimated that upholstery sales from furniture made in the town are in excess of £ 500 million per year . In 2015 , the Long Eaton Chamber of Trade succeeded in getting the town recognised as a Centre of Excellence in Upholstery Manufacturing and its own registered trademark was →
TIME AND TRADITION Traditional techniques of framemaking and upholstery go into every sofa made in the factory , guaranteeing a quality final product