Design & Home

Shop Custom Furniture Made From Vintage Mid-Century Finds at This New DC Pop-Up

Nicole Crowder Upholstery opens in Van Ness October 24.

Photograph by Nicole Crowder.

Scroll through Nicole Crowder’s Instagram and you’ll immediately come down with a case of design envy. Her page is filled with the kinds of mid-century furniture that you might see at a trendy hotel or in an Architectural Digest home spread, except she’s making these all herself. And starting October 24, you can check them out IRL when Nicole Crowder Upholstery opens its first pop-up.

The Van Ness storefront will run for a month in partnership with Van Ness Main Streets, a business development group focused on the neighborhood. There, she’ll sell the custom armchairs, dining sets, and sofas she creates by finding second-hand pieces and reupholstering them with bright geometric and color-block prints. She’ll additionally have a collection of the pillows and poufs she makes, and will offer one-on-one fabric consultations for potential clients. Also in the space will be houseplants by St. Plant, ceramics by Bethany Slater, vintage plates from Vintage Glam Tea Party, and art by Chanae Richards.

Crowder in her studio. Photo by Amira El Gawly.
Photo by Nicole Crowder.

Crowder, a former Washington Post photo editor, began her upholstery business in 2017. She initially started out just making chairs, but then moved her way up to couches, love seats, and even tables (she’s currently making one where she’s adhering textiles to the top). She scours Craigslist and second-hand stores for furniture with good bones, and has even found a couple gems on the side of the road.

“I love finding things on the street,” she says. “Me and my little Kia Soul will make a quick U-turn if we see something marked as someone else’s trash.”

Recently, she’s started taking on more commercial projects, which she likes because they allow her the time to take a deep dive into the design process. Some of her recent clients include the restaurant Osteria Morini, the British Embassy, the 14th Street Framebridge store, and Ethel’s Club in Brooklyn, which is the first social club geared toward people of color.

Photo by Nicole Crowder.
Photo by Nicole Crowder.

While Crowder is currently based in the old Lemon Collective space, she’ll soon move into a studio at the Monroe Street Market Arts Walk, where she’ll include a mini showroom for her pieces.

And she isn’t ruling out a permanent storefront down the road. But for now, she’s focused on her pop-up, which she lives two blocks away from. “Being able to have a business here on the street I walk by is really amazing,” she says.

Overall, Crowder wants her pop-up to be about more than her furniture, she says—she wants it to be about the spot’s aesthetic as a whole.

“That’s the bag I want to be in—making a space feel like a mix between retail, showroom, and living room,” says Crowder. “How do you create an experience for people to come into?”

Photo by Nicole Crowder.
Photo by Nicole Crowder.

Check out the Nicole Crowder Upholstery pop-up at its October 24 grand opening party, which will have drinks by Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits and cupcakes by Sweet Evelyn. The spot will also host a tea tasting with Vintage Glam Tea Party on November 3 and a pop-up flower shop with She Loves Me on November 15 – 17.

Nicole Crowder Upholstery; 4340 Connecticut Ave. NW

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Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.