Wendy Kaplan poses with some of her fabric bolts and upholstered pieces

“When it comes to fabrics, I’m a little insane,” says Wendy Kaplan, who recently turned her longtime hobby of reupholstering old furniture into an official company, The Chair Affair. Though she has been in business for only eight months through Etsy, she has already attracted customers from coast to coast. Ranging from Victorian to mid-century modern, her pieces have a decidedly more designer look than those of some cottage-industry competitors (and her prices reflect this). She spends a lot of time finding the perfect union of modern upholstery and old frame and avoids painting or lacquering wood; she prefers to restore the original finish (she outsources both the upholstering and the restoring).

A self-taught textile connoisseur, Kaplan established herself as a corporation a year ago and hit the Merchandise Mart with a vengeance, coming away with an even more encyclopedic knowledge of fabrics. Some of her favorites are by Muriel Brandolini (“They have this Indian quality with colors you would never imagine putting together, like magenta, forest green, and taupe”) and Studio Bon (“I love the juxtaposition of stark modern graphics against earthy linen”).

Over the past year, Kaplan has taken textile-design classes at Lillstreet Art Center; when we last spoke, she was about to have a chair covered with cloth of her own design. Her pieces are available by clicking through to Etsy on her website, thechairaffair.com. She also does custom upholstery for clients.


Photograph: Eric Hausman