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A modern workflow for reviving old pieces

When she’s designing a piece of furniture, Nicole Crowder turns the tactile act of reupholstery into an online process of collaboration with her clients—thanks to digital tools like Dropbox. Here, she shares her creative flow in our video series The Drop In, produced in partnership with Wired Brand Lab.

15, Jun, 2021
Furniture designer Nicole Crowder at work on her laptop
Watch how bringing new life to old pieces is a collaborative process when you incorporate digital tools into the creative workflow.

By Sally Zhang

For Nicole Crowder, working with furniture and fabrics wasn’t always her job. She had a career as a photo editor for years, but one day a friend noticed a few chairs Nicole had reupholstered and encouraged her to explore it further as a career. A few weeks later, Nicole’s work caught the eye of an interior designer, who asked if Nicole had a showroom. Something inside her sparked. She quit her job as a photo editor and has been an upholsterer ever since. 

“I'm such a lover of storytelling and preservation as a whole, and upholstery encompasses both of those things so much,” says Nicole. “There's something about seeing an old piece of furniture and imagining a new life or a different iteration for it, through a different color scheme, prints, or patterns. I get to use my imagination but tie different stories together, whether they're for myself or for the client. It opens up a different iteration of who I am and what I get to say.”

In 2017, Nicole founded Nicole Crowder Upholstery. She creates commissioned, generational, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and home furnishings like meditation pillows, poufs, and more.

How she stitches her ideas together

Nicole’s process starts with drawing inspiration from a various places, including the colors and textures in her grandmother’s house as well as the natural colors of things around her, like fruit or dirt. She then plays around with the fabrics she’s chosen, seeing how they work together on a chair, folding pieces over each other. Almost immediately, Nicole says she’ll have a vision of what the end product will look like. Then she’s off to the races to put it all together.

“As a creative working in something that's very tactile, very physical, very laborious, it's been wonderful having a digital tool like Dropbox, where I can compartmentalize and streamline my workflow process,” says Nicole. “It just frees me up to focus more on my work at hand.”

As much as her work requires a focus zone, Nicole also needs to be in constant communication with her clients.

“Having seamless communication with my client is really important, because usually when I get into my zone, I'm working off of what we've already agreed on in terms of the design process,” says Nicole. “So if my client is asking for a change, I need to know that right away. Getting my notifications from Dropbox right to my phone keeps me up to date and informed. It's immediate.”

In the final stages, Nicole sews the piping, adds glue, pulls the fabric taught, and makes sure nothing else is out of place. Presenting the finish product to her client is one of the most nerve wracking parts of the entire process, but Nicole says it’s also one of the most most rewarding and energizing feelings when the client is satisfied with her work.

“I’m incredibly happy and I want to do it all over again.”

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