Why Does it Cost This Much? <br />Bespoke Upholstery

Poll the starry assortment of designers in West Hollywood's interiors-dense stretch of La Cienega about the source for their immaculate chaise or boudoir chair, and they're bound to answer with the same name: Gina Berschneider. The Swiss matriarch at the helm of her eponymous, family-owned furniture manufacturing business, Berschneider has, in 35 years in the industry, established herself as LA's Hermès of upholstery: amassing an enviable client list including Madeline Stuart, Ron Wilson and Peggy Platner, and anecdotes aplenty. (Like that time Prince commissioned a bed big enough to accommodate 25 and embellished with--what else?--hand-sewn pearls). But let's say you don't shop for epic pieces with the flick-of-a-wrist casualness of a pint-sized pop superstar: what exactly do you get when you purchase the crème de la crème in luxury furniture? We went directly to the source for a behind-the-scenes look at the bespoke process in action. FOR BEGINNERS The life of a custom piece starts in Berschneider's showroom, where she or her daughter, managing partner Natalie Wiweke, discusses the project with the client, whether it's the refurbishment of a vintage heirloom or a tailor-made croissant chair. Clients can select from the reams of fabrics in the back room, which span tartan cashmere by Loro Piana to buttery Edelman leather to velvety trellis-patterned Schumacher. IN THE FACTORY The design is put into production in the brand's Gardena, CA factory, where the process begins by building the custom piece's frame, either from alder wood, if it is to be upholstered in its entirety, or in oak, walnut, or mahogany if any of the wood will be exposed. It's then padded with one of the 50-some foam options available (which range in density and firmness) and equipped, as the design dictates, with no-sag or hand-tied springs. MAN WITH A PLAN Frame decided, it's time for Baldomero Serrano, a foreman who has been with the company for 27 years. Serrano cuts the fabric for the project, marking it up with the thoughtful tailoring details Berschneider is known for: a welt here, a double stitch there, a flat flange there--before sending it to the seamstress. After the seamstress has finished sewing the pattern segments, the padded piece and its fabric are passed onto the upholsterer for construction. "In the first 20 years, it's love and then it becomes second nature," Berschneider explains of the advance skill set needed for an upholsterer to master the tricky business of leather tufting or the art of aligning patterns on an undulating surface. FINISHED PRODUCT From start to finish, each piece may go through as many as eight or more pairs of hands over the course of four to six weeks, depending on the intricacy of the design--a level of attention and detail that dictates the price point (upholstered dining chairs range from $950 to $2200 apiece). "We get clients that pop in to tell us that they still have the headboard we made them 25 years ago," Berschneider says with pride. "And then we reupholster it for them."


NEW YORK Dmitriy & Co. SAN FRANCISCO Belmar Fine Custom Upholstery ATLANTA New Century Upholstery MIAMI Le Jeune Upholstery CHICAGO Mattaliano DALLAS Marroquin Custom Upholstery NEW ORLEANS Benson's PORTLAND Ida York Interior Design SEATTLE A.W. HOSS & Son, Inc. WASHINGTON DC Adlon Design

Photographs: Andrew Arthur