Looking at Andre Kalicki’s website, I was excited to see he’d been on ITV’s 60 Minute Makeover, I could see he was passionate about his work, and I could tell her was good at his job. However, when over the course of the interview he referred to himself as an ‘upholsteraholic’, I knew I’d found a true upholstery aficionado. Though claiming to have fallen into the trade as a young boy, it soon became clear he has grown to truly love it and master the craft like no other.
So, one winter afternoon, Andre paused in his Wimbledon workshop to talk all things cushions and covers, and to tell us what working with Peter Andre is really like...
Can you first tell me a bit about how you got into upholstery?
I became an upholsterer by accident actually! My mum bought some new furniture for our living room and when they delivered it she just asked them if they teach young guys to become upholsterers. I had just finished school and just like that I found a college that taught only upholstery. It took three years from then to learn all the theory, with some of the days at work and some in the classroom. After that there were two big exams – one theory and one practical – and when I passed those, I was a fully qualified upholsterer.
You make it sounds so simple! So tell us a bit more about how you ended up on 60 Minute Makeover...
I was just lucky. ITV called me one day and asked if I would like to take part in a programme with Peter Andre. I only had a week to make loose covers for two sofas. Of course, I had to get it done in time for the filming but the designer who was running the show was very happy with the quality of my work. Peter was brilliant too!
What’s the best part of your job?
It’s got to be that you are never doing the same thing every day and I am always meeting new people. I love it when my customers are happy and they give some great comments about us.
What's the most difficult part?
The hardest for me was to find the right employees that I can trust with all the work. My good name is more important than any money.
How much of your work is creative and how much is technical?
We are the artisans, so we are creative all the time. It can be technical when we have to make something from scratch but still creative. It is very difficult to say how much of it is creative and how much is technical. I think I can say that every job is technical and creative. If you have no technical experience you will not be able to do the job. If you don't have imagination and passion you can't be creative. This is so important in upholstery industry.
It’s quite a bespoke craft – how do you make sure your clients love the work you produce for them?
My clients like to leave it to me to make sure the job is done as best as it can be. I always ask them what they like and don't like, to make sure I don't do anything that they’ll hate. I can propose something to them, show them how it will look and measure all the sizes to make sure it will look the best it possibly can in their home. I have a big collection of fabric, leathers and faux leathers, so they have the biggest range of colours and texture to choose from.
Can you tell us about any particular projects that you’ve really enjoyed or have stood out?
I thing I'm an ‘upholsteroholic’! I like all jobs. I can't tell anyone that I will do it but I don't like it. Every job is important to us. People are paying with money that they have worked hard for, not potatoes!
One project sticks in my memory. Once someone called me in to check on their broken sofa. It was a small job, maybe £80. He said that he had four others come in and never come back to do this job. I think because for some, this is a job that’s too small to care about. I have gave him a date that we would collect the sofa and when we arrived for it he was very surprised that we were there. After that he gave us more and more jobs to do. So I will never say no to any jobs. They’re all very important and have to be done.
What advice would you give to someone interested in following in your footsteps?
The best advice I can give is to go for it and do every single job as if it’s for yourself. Then you will do the best job you possibly can. Why would you have something that is rubbish in your own house? Also, be patient because it will take years to learn all the tricks.
If you fancy yourself appearing on DIY TV programmes and transforming broken sofas, have a look at the full range of upholstery courses available and find the perfect one to start a new hobby or even transform your career.