“We joined SCCA to learn from and work with other successful businesses in the Seward neighborhood.”
SCCA Member: Jim Welna, Welna II Hardware

SCCA Member Profile: Encore Upholstery Studio

Flowery chair

Mary Opila and Marge Higgins are professional upholsterers who launched their studio this past summer out of their home in Seward. They haven’t always been upholsterers: Mary practiced architecture for more than 20 years with a large firm, and got her start by designing and building furniture evenings and weekends. This led to her spending a year in Hickory, North Carolina, where she trained with factory upholsterers and apprenticed with a local craftsperson.


In contrast, Marge began learning upholstery as a hobby 30 years ago in St Paul, soon after she graduated from the College of St Catherine with a degree in social work. Her teacher and mentor was Sister Clare Collins, who passed away in 1996 and left her upholstery tools to Marge. Once Marge retires from her career as a social worker, she plans to join Mary as a full-time upholsterer.

Tan couch

Blue armchair

The services that Encore Upholstery Studio offers includes re-upholstery and minor repair of furniture, and custom made ottomans, headboards, cushions and pillows. “Our motto is ‘just do good work’”, says Marge. “Our goal is to provide quality products with a focus on reusing and recycling – to bring old furniture back to life.”

Mary Opila working in her studio.

Mary Opila in Encore’s workshop.

Marge and Mary’s modest home is filled with beautiful reclaimed and re-upholstered furniture. The lower level has been transformed into a workshop containing cushion materials, rolls of fabric, leather pieces, cutting tables, and sewing machines (including a ‘zipper machine’ that only sews zippers). “Rather than try to carry large pieces of furniture up & down the stairs to the basement,” explains Mary, “we decided to turn our main floor living room into a workspace and occasional showroom. We tried to keep a balance of professionalism and practicality when setting up our home studio.”

Mary and Marge also continue to refine their craft and skills. They plan to attend a 2-week master training course in Cornwall, England through the Association of Master Upholsterers & Soft Furnishers (AMUSF), a British organization. Locally, Mary and Marge belong to the Professional Upholsterers’ Association of Minnesota and often attend monthly meetings where members share skills and experience informally.

Custom reupholstered armchair.

Marge & Mary turned this old Coke cooler into a couch!

Marge & Mary turned this old Coke cooler into a couch!

Encore Upholstery Studio are also new members of SCCA, and have attended several meetings and events this year. According to Mary, “We’ve made several good connections through SCCA, including Landreau Insurance Agency for our insurance needs, and Cedar Box Company, who can make custom boxes for shipping furniture.” They also hooked up with Pizza Lucé, who sponsored the Studio’s booth (more like a living room) in front of the restaurant during Open Streets Franklin this past summer.

To contact Encore Upholstery Studio, email to info@encoreupholstery.com or call 612-588-4242. Their website is http://encoreupholstery.com/, and their studio is open Monday – Saturday by appointment.




1 Comment to SCCA Member Profile: Encore Upholstery Studio

  1. June 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Very impressive crafts, I like all of these.

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