From drab to fab

Harriann Upholstery breathes new life into old furniture

If the unusual amount of color, texture and random assortment of furniture compacted sardine-style into the Linden Hills shop ­doesn’t catch your eye, the overstuffed shaggy alpaca ottoman will.

Harriann Upholstery, a business that has been a part of the Linden Hills neighborhood for more than 30 years, refurbishes draperies, bed linens, sofas, chairs and wood refinishing, with thousands of fabrics to choose from.

Inside their shop at 3537 W. 44th St., wooden chairs are pinned to the wall, framed by throngs of fabric and drapery samples. An array of lamps, tables and unfinished chairs are sprinkled throughout the cozy room.

Despite the hodgepodge of color and fabric, owners Bob and Jean Yablonski said their shop is like a library —­ ­they know where everything is and they use their wide collection to ensure you get the fabric that you want.

The business works with seven steady designers, although designers are not necessary to start revamping your home.

The Yablonskis offered crafty advice for beginner design wizards brainstorming a new look for a room. They suggested picking a focal point, especially if the room is bare. Start with large pieces of furniture and work from there, taking into account durability and pets. Next, you can bring in pictures and samples of the room, such as a pillowcase or carpeting. Using Harriann’s ‘library,’ you can sift through samples of colors and fabrics that best meet the theme or style of the room. Once the consultation is made, Harriann can visit your home and confirm the designs.

“We take the intimidation process out of it and try to make people comfortable and make it fun for them,” Bob said.

So why go through the reupholster process and not just make a trip to Ikea for brand new, inexpensive furniture?

Bob warned that buying cheap furniture wouldn’t last as long as refurbishing an older piece of sturdy furniture.

“A lot of people think if their furniture is worn out, they have to buy new furniture,” Bob said. “But, if something is built properly, it doesn’t need to be re-done.”

He added that mid-20th century furniture was built to last, which includes furniture passed on through the family generations.

It can also be cheaper to refurbish a chair by simply picking out a new print, he said.

Keep in mind, however, that Harriann may reject frames that are too weak or cheap.

“All you need are the good bones and we can turn it into a beautiful piece of furniture,” he said.

Jean said their design ideas are generated from experience in the business — from seeing numerous houses over the years and from housing magazines. She said the International Market Square is also a great place to exchange ideas with architects and other designers.

“Grays are the new black,” she said.

Also popular are linens and sunbrella –– a very durable material most commonly used in sunrooms but can be indoors, too.

They said 90 percent of their business comes from word-of-mouth. Every house on Maple Road in Edina is a testimony to that as they all boast some form of Harriann furniture or design in them.

“It’s fun to have someone bring in something they don’t expect to amount to anything and we redo it and they’re thrilled,” Bob Yablonski said.
“It makes me really happy.”

If you are operating on a tight budget, Harriann tries to keep the fabric within your price range. They have also had the same labor prices for the last 15 years so “people know what to expect,” Bob said. “We try to figure it out so people can get it done.”

They also have free pick-up and delivery.

“What sets us apart is personal service,” he said. “People don’t feel like they’re going in to some big box store –– they have a feeling that we care about them and they become our friends.”