A Business and Love Affair with Fabrics

Ibrahim Koroglu puts the final touches on seat cushions in his workshop in Laurel. Lori Hawkins photo

Large, clean, and bright — a well-organized space reveals furniture in every state. Some is stripped bare, some is wrapped and ready to go. Fabric, padding, webbing and other upholstery materials makeup the workroom of Ibrahim Koroglu, owner of Gail’s Upholstery in Laurel. He and his partner, Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf Upholstery and Fabrics owner Linda Pazera, found the industry — and each other — through chance and circumstance. Finding balance in the craft, the pair share how they marry their respective businesses to create and recreate upholstered furniture.

Upholstery has a long history. It’s a process that began centuries ago and one that has a renewed popularity in the last few years among top designers. There are a range of material options and the interior piece is just as critical as the exterior aesthetic. Springs and foam provide greater durability, while the design of the fabric itself is made to provide both form and function, resilient to time and use. Simple custom white slipcovers, plaid, reupholstered Victorian sofas in burgundy velvet and fabrics that match wallpaper are among the styles sought out by clients.

For outdoor cushions, Sunbrella’s UV and fade resistant, easy to care for, fabrics are almost always a must, say the seasoned sellers, and there is no standard path to what clients look for, whether they are individual homeowners, designers or decorators.

Shortly after learning the trade, Turkish-born Koroglu and his ex-wife, seamstress Gail Koroglu, who still works in the shop today, opened a place of their own in 1997. Self-taught and dedicated, he paired his craftsman skills with her sewing and design work to reupholster pieces from headboards to sofas to benches, and everything in-between that was touched by fabric. An example of his custom work, Koroglu’s studio features an original piece made 18 years ago.

“I have some original pieces and when I wasn’t as busy, I made them more,” Koroglu says with a wry sense of humor as he points out a brown and white chair in the showroom above the work space. “There’s one with cowhide that I made 18 years ago. That was my first piece. Now it’s for sale…or not for sale!”

After taking over the reins at House of Jubal and renaming the business after the showroom’s location on the Long Wharf, Pazera had been trying to finish a large project in Sagaponack. Without an upholsterer and in need of custom-cut foam to finish a game room with bolsters and cushions, she flipped through a phonebook, landing on Gail’s Upholstery. She called in a panic, Koroglu answered and with an air of “why not?” and he helped complete the job on time. Since then, the pair, who began dating a few months later, have combined their various expertise.

Linda Pazera and Ibrahim Koroglu at Gail’s Upholstery in Laurel.

Though both businesses are kept separate, Pazera says she and Koroglu work together and take everything to heart. “Most of our clients love our concept in working with both of us,” she explains. “Ibrahim gets so busy in the workroom, and I get samples, estimates and emails seven days a week. It gives him relief to do the actual work as I deal with all the details of the jobs.”

The showroom at Long Wharf Upholstery and Fabrics serves as a South Fork outpost for the work the pair is able to achieve. Displays feature finished pieces, including armchairs and pillows, ready to buy. Not limited to furniture, upholstery fabrics and orders often include draperies and window treatments. This part of their business has increased over the last two years especially. Wingback chairs and ottomans serve as popular statement pieces; a functional work of art that adds interest to living spaces.

As with nearly every industry, the internet has changed the upholstery business. Clients no longer need to sift through look books to discover fabrics and prints. They can search online, choosing patterns that speak to them. Ninety percent of clients know what they want, says the couple. If Koroglu does not already have the fabric in stock, he can find what they’re looking for.

“I like to work with people that have an appreciation for this,” Koroglu shares. “There’s a lot of older furniture we deal with, but it was well-built and has good bones. A lot of new stuff is made with plywood and can’t even be repaired.”

Fabrics in the workroom come from around the world, though 80 percent comes from Turkey. Their most popular fabric brands are Kravet, Duralee, Robert Allen, Norbar Fabrics, Kasmir Fabrics, Greenhouse Fabrics, Sunbrella, Maxwell, Perennials and Charlotte Fabrics.

Whether sourcing through upholstery businesses or bringing their own fabrics, clients can transform their existing furniture or have something crafted brand-new. Combining practicality with style, each creation carries its own unique story and in the case of work crafted by Koroglu and Pazera, one built upon a partnership that goes far beyond business.

Fabric samples hang at Gail’s Upholstery.