Steven Matejcek’s high school job was reupholstering office furniture. But it was his next job that shaped his career.
“The owner was trained by guys in the 1920s and 30s, so I learned the old school way of doing things,” he said.
Matejcek opened San Luis Custom Upholstery in 1999. He handles furniture reupholstering, repair and restyling and occasionally takes on custom-built furniture projects. He can touch up wood furniture, but works with Connie’s Furniture Design and Antique Restoration of Atascadero for stripping and refinishing jobs.
Matejcek specializes in old-fashioned furniture-building techniques such as eight-way hand-tied coil springs.
“You can still get this on high-end furniture, but it’s pretty rare these days because it’s quite a bit of work,” he said. “I’ve actually tied coil springs that are over a hundred years old, and all they need is to be retied and they are as good as they were a hundred years ago.”
Because of his old-school training and willingness to tackle labor-intensive projects, half of Matejcek’s business is in antiques and vintage pieces. He has worked on intricate Victorian settees and time-worn family heirlooms. But he has also worked on plenty of modern-day pieces. He acknowledges that newer furnishings are not always worth reupholstering.
“The really cheap stuff, you can’t reupholster for what it would cost new,” he said.
To figure out if your favorite worn sofa is worth the cost of reupholstering, he offers a few tips. Better quality frames are usually heavier. Also, make sure to flip the piece over. If the bottom is solid webbing and not hollow, it has coil springs rather than no-sag springs, making it a higher-quality piece.
Matejcek stressed that reupholstering is more than replacing fabric. Repairs are made to the frame. Padding is replaced. And, if you wish, the piece can even be restyled. That means you can change the shape of the back, arms or legs. A sofa with loose-back cushions can be changed into a more streamlined attached-back style.
“Years ago, people were asking us to take the square arms from the ‘60s and put traditional rolls on them,” he said. “Now it’s going the other way with people wanting simpler lines.”
Of course, fabric is the most common way to make over a piece of upholstered furniture.
“People are getting wiser about fabric choices,” he said. “It’s not only about what it looks like. They want to know more about durability.”
Whether you are purchasing fabric for a new or reupholstered piece, he suggests asking if the fabric has a rating on the Wyzenbeek double rub test, which determines durability. He also recommends purchasing a yard of any fabric you’re interested in, or at the very least taking home a loaner swatch, to see it in your own home environment.
After all, reupholstering is like having the chance to create your own piece of custom furniture. Get it just right, and it could be many years before you’ll have to think about reupholstering again.
San Luis Custom Upholstery is located at 2741 McMillan Avenue, E4, in San Luis Obispo, 543-3390.