Style, Stitch & Staple Cliff’s Furniture Resurrection & Custom Upholstery

Turn something old into something new – that is what Fenton native Cliff Menard, a furniture restorer and custom upholsterer, loves to do. And anyone who has walked into Downtown Flint’s Cafe Rhema can attest to the quality of his work. The coffee shop’s owner, Josh Spencer, found the furniture on Craigslist, and Cliff went with him to an old Flint apartment to look at it together. Cliff had used his artistic skill to restore an antique fainting couch and two wingback chairs, reupholstering them in deep red vinyl. Spencer decided that the Victorian-style furniture fit nicely with Café Rhema’s 1920s décor theme.

Cliff attended Mott Middle College and received a degree in Sociology at the University of Michigan-Flint. Due to the economy at that time, he was struggling to find a job. So, he returned to his roots and decided to start an upholstering business in 2007. His mother, Cheryl Menard, upholstered furniture as a hobby while Cliff was growing up. “She taught me to sew,” he laughed. He learned the art of upholstering by watching and helping his mother, and discovered he was good at it. He would find old furniture at garage sales and items discarded on the roadside, then refurbish and sell them. “I love working on antiques,” he smiled.

Cliff’s first paying job was to reupholster the barstools at Downtown Flint’s Churchill’s Food & Spirits. He also worked with two interior designers in Flint for a couple of years, honing his skill even further. His work can be seen at the Flint Institute of Arts where the furnishings include wingback chairs and a sofa he reupholstered. He recently restored the whiskey barrel chairs at Rough Draft, a new Fenton restaurant.

Currently working in the basement of his home, Cliff uses a 40-year-old Juki industrial walking-foot sewing machine to upholster chair cushions, outdoor seat cushions and pillows. He specializes in custom ottomans and headboards. “There is so much detail work in those pieces,” Cliff explained. He upholsters airplane seat cushions and door panels and enjoys working on car interiors, model years 1970 and older. The work can be very tedious and time consuming. “But I really enjoy the creative aspect of it,” says Cliff. “It’s pretty exciting to find something old and give it new life.” ♦

Photography by Mike Naddeo


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