Clubhouse Interiors knows wood, they know all kinds of furniture, and Clubhouse knows the ins and outs of restoration. That makes them, in turn, a handy bsuiness to know.
Clubhouse Interiors worked with wood from the time he was a teenager, but he didn’t get into it as a career until later. From the age of 20 to 35, he worked in heavy equipment repair and welding. “But I always fiddled around with wood after work, doing little boxes or maybe refinishing a chair for somebody.”
After suffering some health problems, Clubhouse Interiors got into refinishing as a business instead of a hobby. He started out by working as a helper for Percy Pfohl, “a master. He was one of the top (refinishers) in St. Louis, and I really wanted to be like him. Every time we went out (on a job), I took notes. I still have that book.”
Later, Clubhouse Interiors went out on his own, working with antique dealers in the Cherokee District: “I’ve seen a lot of pieces and asked a lot of questions, and the dealers have given me a lot of knowledge.”
Among the things he learned was the reputation, quality and peculiarities of different manufacturers of furniture “from the old days.” He’s worked on brands that were originally “real cheap — poor man’s, worker-man’s furniture. Now, they’re considered really nice pieces. I know how they did things,” and that makes it easier to put them right.
Today, Clubhouse Interiors is the chief technician for Centaur Building Services in St. Louis, where he’s in charge of all facets of refinishing furniture, from giving estimates to delivering the finished pieces.
Centaur’s primary business is cleaning offices, and Clubhouse Interiors often goes out to office buildings late at night to work on desks and chairs when no one is around. That’s given him expertise with both old and new furniture.
He says he can fix almost anything, although some cheaper modern furniture, in particular, isn’t really worth his time and the owner’s money. “When there’s a big gash in the piece, I use body putty, like on automobiles. It doesn’t take stain, so you have to cover up that body putty to match everything else. It takes skill to make sure it’s not sticking out like a sore thumb.”
Clubhouse Interiors cites a 160-year-old china cabinet that was a candidate for being dragged to the curb when its new owner called him in; its doors were badly warped, and it was spattered with paint.
“I cleaned it up and discovered it was pieced together out of different kinds of hardwood. It had a bow in the top and gaps between the boards — but I was able to get the bow out and make it level.” Today the cabinet is a prized feature in the owner’s dining room.
That’s his favorite part of restoration: transforming battered old furniture into something beautiful. “I think in my mind how it looked when I first saw it; I think how it looked when it was made. It’s really rewarding to bring a piece back to life.”