Richard Brochert

Richard Brochert

Master upholsterer restores the classics

NANAIMO – Master upholsterer and furniture designer sets up for semi-retirement with home-based shop.

There aren’t a lot of applications for horse hair and flax fibres these days unless you happen to be restoring antique furniture.

Richard Brochert, 73, is a master upholsterer and furniture designer who has built, repaired and restored furniture since he was 15.

He’s a wood finisher too. It was part of his trade that required a 10-year-long apprenticeship in the 1950s, long before furniture manufacturers started stuffing cushions with foam rubber.

“We were using pocket springs, felt and we had a machine,” Brochert said. “We’d put the felt down, pocket springs, rolled the felt, put it in the machine, compressed it, put the cushion cover over it and pushed this big pedal to pump it in,” Brochert said. “That’s how they were all made. It used to take, I bet you, almost a day just stuffing cushions.”

Brochert is semi-retired now, but still repairs damaged furniture for local retailers and does frame-up restorations of vintage and antique pieces from his shop in his home in Cinnabar Valley. He still operates under the company name R. Brochert and Company.

There isn’t as much call for his trade as there once was, mainly because much of today’s mass produced furniture simply isn’t worth restoring, Brochert said. In fact, one of the benefits of semi-retirement he enjoys is telling people when they’re just wasting their money.

“This is where the trade’s gone – restorations,” Brochert said. “What I’m trying to do is complete restorations, start to finish.”

Worthwhile restorations aren’t inexpensive. A frame-up rebuild and reupholstering of a couch from the 1930s or ’40s could run $3,000, but with reasonable care a restoration of a classic design can last another 60 years.

Fortunately a lot of materials once used in furniture, such as flax and horsehair are still available, which is important when restoring antiques.

Brochert works with a designer who selects fabric for pieces restored to match the era they were originally created or to augment a home interior scheme, depending on what the client wants.

He recently rebuilt an antique cowhide chair.

“This was all pure cowhide as thick as you have on a pair of shoes,” Brochert said. “That was a challenge.”

Just Posted

A section of the rail corridor on Vancouver Island. (Black Press file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Put rail trail right overtop of the tracks

Removing tracks would be a horrendous expense, says letter writer

District of Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain, left, and Snaw-Naw-As Chief Gordon Edwards sign a memorandum of understanding outside Snaw-Naw-As Market on Friday, June 18. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Lantzville and Snaw-Naw-As sign memorandum of understanding

District and First Nation create joint working group

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Tilray announces new line of products offering more inexpensive choices for medical cannabis users. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo-based Tilray launches new medical cannabis product line

Symbios brand products offered at ‘better price point’ for medical cannabis products

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Janice Coady, left, Aimee Chalifoux and Linda Milford at a vigil for Amy Watts on Wednesday, June 16, outside Nanaimo city hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

The B.C. Ministry of Education has announced close to $44 million for the province’s schools for COVID-19 recovery. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school stakeholders say COVID-19 recovery funding can make a difference

B.C. Ministry of Education announces it expects a ‘near-normal’ return to class in September

Regional District of Nanaimo is looking to repair sewage pipe in the Hammond Bay Road area, which was corroded by gas. (Black Press file)
Corroded sewer pipe along Nanaimo’s Hammond Bay Road will cost $5.5 million to fix

Pipe replacement and reinforcement part of $6.9-million infrastructure project

Most Read