We met Petro van Ewijk, restaurateur, collector and founder of de Stoffeerfabriek in his workshop hidden right in the heart of Amsterdam, in a quiеt side street next to Neiuwmarkt.
When you enter the place you immediately understand that it is the place where a craftsman works, where design masterpieces acquire a second life.
We ask Petro a few question about his collector and upholsterer experience.
When and how you started your upholstery company?
I have a passion for design furniture. My apartment is full of design. I started this business almost 10 years ago.
My specialty is sitting chairs and couches but I collect lamps as well. I’m a collector. And when you collect, you started with a chair for a 400 euros and now you’re looking for a 4000 euro chair.
I’m buying things in a very bad condition and restore them. But 10 years ago I didn’t know how to do it, I didn’t have skills. I bought a chair and went to a guy who restored it, and it costed me a lot of money. Then I decided to learn it by myself. I was working full time but I finished a 3-year upholstery education in HMC college (woodworking, furniture and interior design college in Amsterdam).
In first place it was a hobby and I still don’t see it as work because I love it so much. Not much people do it in our days. It’s a handcraft.
And you’re working with a high-end fabric manufacturers?
Yes, I only work with original high quality fabrics as Kvadrat, De Ploeg, Bute Fabrics. It’s natural 100% wool or cotton. They are professional upholstery fabrics.
Why do you refuse to put other fabrics on vintage chairs? Are you sticking to your principles or you have exclusivity deals with fabrics producers?
I did it in the past and it didn’t work. My passion is design and I don’t want to do something ugly, so I only work with certain fabrics manufacturers, I know them and I don’t want to work with other fabrics of unknown quality.
If a customer comes with his own fabric I will not do it. Maybe it was a curtain and after a year a customer will complain that I didn’t do my work well. It’s my responsibility to make good work. A curtain doesn’t work, you don’t seat on your curtain. It’s not the same quality. These fabrics were tested thousands of times. For private use it goes for 10 years and for offices it’s at least 2 years. Also, sunlight is bad for fabrics. My advice – don’t put it in direct sunlight.
What kind of customers are you targeting?
Mostly elderly people, 50-60-70 years old. Young people want to buy new furniture. But if you buy from me, you’re paying just 50% of new furniture price. For example Gispen is not so popular anymore now and price goes down. Or this Kukkapuro chair is very unique, in 1960s 3-seater sofa was 12.000 euro in today’s money.
Also elderly people have their own furniture to do new upholstery. They want to keep it.
How long does it take to restore one chair?
It depends. You never know. You think it will be easy and it can turn into a nightmare. Gispen chairs are easy to do. I did a lot of chairs like this.
Besides being restaurateur you are also a collector. Which items do you collect?
My taste is changing. Now I collect old Artemide lamps from 1970s. I love them. But maybe in 5 years my taste will change and then I will sell them. I started my collection 30 years ago but I don’t have any of that stuff any more. When I was young and couldn’t afford expensive lamps, I was using just bulbs instead waiting for when I would have enough money to afford a really good one. Same thing with couches. I buy these things for my personal use, it is not my intention to make money out of them. But after 5 years of use you can get your money back or even make profit, like with art.
Everything in my apartment is designed in 50-60-70s.
Mainly you are a furnisher but you also have items of daily use: for example like Erika phone from the 70th. Do you collect them?
Yes. It’s also from my apartment.
What item was the most difficult to restore?
Everything is doable. I always keep old fabrics. I remove it very carefully and I can always see the patron. You find a lot of information in the old fabric. I also make a lot of pictures, so I always know how it was before. I throw old fabrics away only when job is done.
Petro is beaming with enthusiasm, he is active, has lots of ideas, he is the person who likes to set goals and achieve them and does not like to waste time. We are waiting for realization of his new ideas, and hope to see him again soon!