The unassuming space on Harford Road belies the work performed there by its craftspeople. Clifton Upholstering has reupholstered everything from that old couch in the den to 16th century French chairs to period pieces for several locally filmed movies and TV shows, not to mention furnishings for innumerable restaurants and hotels in the area.
Jeremiah Fox began this upholstery business in 1915 a few miles south of its current location, initially working primarily on home furniture. Needless to say, the company has expanded considerably since then. Not many years after starting his business, Mr. Fox began working with Robert M. Baxter,Sr., who had his own carpet and drapery business. Mr. Baxter eventually bought the business and now his son, Bob, is operating it.
As the company grew, they took on more and more intricate work restoring antique furniture, such as a sofa made by a coffin maker in the 1740s. It was signed by the maker as well as at least two of the craftspeople who reupholstered it over the next two centuries. The most recent reupholstering was done by Clifton in the 1990s for the Engineers Club on Mt. Vernon Place. And, yes, it was signed by the employee who worked on it, Harvey Teets.
Working in similar grand, historic homes in Baltimore can become a lesson in local history. For instance, Agora Publishing contracted Clifton to do some work at the Tiffany Mansion across from the Engineers Club. While working there, they learned one of the family members was a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt. Also, as the work progressed, a tapestry was discovered in a 4’ x 15’ shadow box that had been covered over with drywall by a previous owner.
Furniture sometimes comes to them from around the world, such as the aforementioned 16th century French chairs, which were purchased by a consignor for a wealthy client. The ten chairs, which cost $230,000 a piece, now surround a dining room table in Singapore.
Less exotic, but no less interesting, is the work done on several films, most recently for Lady in the Lake. Other work includes the TV crime dramas, Homicide: Life on the Street, and The Wire, as well as several John Waters films, such as Dirty Shame. The latter included work on a special seat for a police car. The front seat had to accommodate a character who liked to wear diapers, which meant someone with a 54” waist. It was upholstered in teddy bear felt with baby blue vinyl.
The “steady” work continues to come in from local families who want a chair or couch reupholstered. Also, larger jobs are provided through their partnership with the Maryland Restaurant Association. Their work can be found all over the city in places as diverse as Ruth's Chris Steak House and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
It is never dull work. Even the mundane jobs sometimes turn into something of note, like the time they found $3,000 in cash under some couch cushions.