How a designer who upholsters furniture by hand managed to grow her business in a pandemic

  • Designer Nicole Crowder uses traditional techniques and her own unique taste to upholster furniture by hand.
  • Her business has grown, despite the pandemic, as people in her hometown of Washington and beyond discover her.
  • Crowder charges between $US900 and $US2,200 for each custom upholstery piece, and she’s starting to make her own original pieces.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

Every piece of furniture tells a story for Nicole Crowder.

The Washington, DC, designer hand-makes custom upholstery using traditional techniques, even though most furniture nowadays is mass-produced in factories.

“I think a lot about preservation, you know. How do you take care of something?” Crowder told Business Insider Today. “And I don’t have children, so I think my furniture has become my children. It’s something that I really have to take my time nurturing from start to finish.”

Crowder started her upholstery business in her small Washington apartment four years ago, but eventually had to move to bigger and bigger spaces.

Despite the pandemic, her orders have grown this year. She now hires seamstresses and a driver, and has contracts with hotels and restaurants around the city.

“Within six months, just the amount of work that I was being offered had increased exponentially, I think largely because folks were becoming more familiar with what I was doing,” she said. “You know, you have your own stamp on the work. There’s this very specific kind of style and aesthetic that I have that I think people were interested in.”

Crowder charges anywhere from $US900 to $US2,200 and has worked on 60 pieces of furniture so far this year.

As her business expands, she said she’s now starting to work on original products, including meditation pillows.

“One thing that I really enjoyed about the way that I have scaled is very intentional about it,” she said. “I take the time to really ask myself certain questions about, is this something I meant to do? Is this the way that I want to grow? Does this feel good? Do I have the bandwidth to take it on?”

“I am in the midst of designing my own custom furniture for the first time, which I’m incredibly excited about. And that just feels like a dream.”

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