Baldwin’s Ottawa Upholstery: They aren’t just upholsterers, they’re furniture people

A restored Os De Mouton Louis XIII chair. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Baldwin.

By Alvin Tsang

Baldwin’s Ottawa Upholstery in Hintonburg is a shop run by a husband-and-wife team.

Richard and Elizabeth Baldwin have owned the shop at 1 McCormick St. since 2005. Before that, it belonged to the “original Ottawa upholsterer” Tom Evans.

The Baldwins have been in the upholstery business since their early 20s. Their careers started in the Toronto area where they learned the trade, and then to Vancouver for 15 years, before finally coming to Ottawa in 1997.

“Ottawa was always a city we liked very much,” Richard said. “When we settled here, we felt that this was where we wanted to be. Probably out of all the places we have worked, Ottawa people are the best that we’ve worked for.”

Baldwin’s Ottawa Upholstery is one of the only shops in Kitchissippi that has a full upholstery service.

“We’re furniture people, not just upholsterers,” Richard said. “We do repairs and recovery work. People bring in their rickety dining room chairs that are falling apart or ready to collapse, and we re-glue them. We also have a spray booth in the shop, so I do a lot of spraying and painting. A lot of people are modernizing their antiques these days and requesting paint jobs on them.”

Business continues to be great for the Baldwins in the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than losing business in the lockdowns, it’s been the other way around.

“Everything has to do with the house right now,” Richard said. “People are at home renovating and landscaping, and it’s kept us extremely busy.”

The Baldwins mainly draw in clients from Hintonburg, West Village, Civic Hospital and other parts of Kitchissippi.

“We haven’t advertised in a long time,” Richard said. “People keep putting our name out there and keep showing up. I guess we’ll keep doing it until people stop showing up.”

Baldwin’s Ottawa Upholstery has seen many operational changes over the years. At the beginning, the Baldwins utilized a whole building and hired employees. It wasn’t until six years ago that they decided to downsize.

“Now it’s just Elizabeth and myself,” Richard said. “So of course, being only two people, there’s essentially so much work that we can do, right? And we’re not getting any younger, so it seems to be getting more difficult as each year goes by.”

An expert piece of advice the Baldwins want to share with the Kitchissippi community is to ask questions.

“Do your due diligence,” Richard said. “Ask questions. Talk to the experts you’re considering for the job. The piece of furniture that you’re thinking about having refurbished or recovered needs to be worthwhile to begin with. If you bring in a chair for $499 from a low-end furniture store, and I’m going to charge them 900 bucks to do it, then obviously it’s not worth your while to redo the chair. Ask first, and we’ll be more than happy to give you advice.”

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