Claire Blanchard has been doing business in Taos as The Tufted Chair for 20 years, but you've probably never heard of her. "Self-promotion is not my strong …
Claire Blanchard has been doing business in Taos as The Tufted Chair for 20 years, but you've probably never heard of her.
"Self-promotion is not my strong suit," she admitted and in recent years most of her work has gone to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Ojo Caliente resorts. Heritage, a New Mexico-based hotelier that owns such high-end properties as El Monte Sagrado in Taos, the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe and the Hotel Albuquerque, has kept her pretty busy for nearly a decade.
Blanchard will host an open house Saturday (Aug. 3) from noon to 4 p.m. at her newly rented showroom at 307A Paseo del Pueblo Sur, next door to Aji Restaurant. "I'm looking to get better acquainted with the Taos community, so come on by and enjoy the refreshments," she said.
A native of Surrey, U.K., Blanchard immigrated with her parents and sister to New Jersey in the mid-'70s, where her "mum," Janet, set up shop as an upholsterer. Claire eventually came west with her newly minted architecture degree to work for Earthship pioneer Mike Reynolds, a brash adventure that lasted 10 years. She and her sister had also acquired the chops to do professional-quality upholstering from their mother, and they decided to launch a business on Kit Carson, first catering to private clients before connecting with El Monte Sagrado and other commercial customers around town.
What gets her excited? "I like to do whole rooms - walls, drapes, slipcovers, bedding - which I've been doing more of at the commercial end," she said. But she also loves restoring fine furniture and hates to see well-constructed upholstered pieces end up in the landfill. (Her showroom features a pair of chairs she retrieved from a dumpster, stripped to the wood and restored to their former grandeur.) These days, with her range of private and commercial clients, she might go from restoring a fine antique piece one week to doing 130 hotel headboards the next.
Earlier this week, Blanchard delivered the last of three reupholstered sofas for the lobby at Santa Fe's historic St. Francis Hotel. "I had to pick up and deliver them one at a time," she said, "so their customers wouldn't have to sit on the floor in the meantime." She recently built and upholstered a custom 12-foot couch for Rolling Still Distillery's new Lounge in Taos. "They had an oddly shaped corner that needed an oddly shaped piece of furniture," she added.
Now that she's secured the Heritage connection, Blanchard has taken on larger-scale projects at the company's properties in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and beyond. At the Hotel Albuquerque's flamenco dance venue, Tablao, she upholstered a 63-foot wall and did the coordinated furnishings. If you've ever been to Casa España, the private event space at Santa Fe's Eldorado Hotel, that unforgettable ceiling treatment is Blanchard's creation.
Closer to home, she's lately been refurbishing the luxury hotel rooms at the two Ojo Caliente resorts. While she doesn't excel at marketing, the quality and imaginative verve of Blanchard's work continue to win her repeat business from private clients and commercial customers alike.
"I'm grateful to Heritage, Ojo and my local clients for staying in New Mexico rather than sending their work to outside vendors," she said.
The Tufted Chair is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment.
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