Making furniture like new

Published 9:29 am Monday, October 11, 2010

Karen O’Byrne works at her sewing station Friday. She has owned Mikkaren Enterprise Upholstery in Albert Lea for 36 years. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

A jack of all crafts.

That’s one way to describe Albert Lean Karen O’Byrne, who enjoys all kinds of craft work. She has owned Mikkaren Enterprise Upholstery in Albert Lea for 36 years.

Karen O’Byrne goes through all the different fabrics she can use to upholster furniture. She can also order some supplies for other craft workers. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

O’Byrne specializes in making furniture look like new again. She reupholsters all kinds of furniture, and mostly works for other people in town. She gets a lot of her business by word of mouth. Families often come to her with older furniture they’d like to save, and she does all of the work on each piece herself. The shop is at 1922 S. Broadway Ave.

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Commercially, O’Byrne has upholstered the former Cafe Don’L, and is currently upholstering some of the cushions she didn’t do when she worked on the booths at Cafe Don’L at what is now Plaza Morena in Northbridge Mall. She has also worked at Diamond Jo Casino, McDonald’s and does contract work with Brick Furniture and Morris Furniture.

Karen O'Byrne starts work on the back part of a recliner. She mostly reupholsters chairs, but she can also fix broken springs like the ones seen in this photo. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

O’Byrne has also done work at Albert Lea Medical Center, because she can order special medical vinyl that repels germs. She said she had even reupholstered a surgery table. O’Byrne said she enjoys the challenge of working on different things.

“Every piece of furniture is a challenge,” O’Byrne said. “My motto is renew, revive, reupholster.”

O’Byrne can also upholster seats on boats with special marine vinyl and carpets. She has a large selection of fabrics to choose from at her workshop.

Other work she can do includes hemming pants made of heavy fabrics, like jeans or heavy-duty work pants, and she makes buttons covered in fabric. Both of these can be done easily with industrial machines in her workshop.

“I love crafts,” O’Byrne said. “I’m into everything.”

Because her work often involves taking apart large pieces of furniture, O’Byrne has become somewhat of a mechanic as well. She can also fix broken springs in chairs and couches. She said she’s not afraid to try something she’s never done before. O’Byrne said she’s about to start making purses, just another craft in a long list of crafts she’s tried. She also likes scrapbooking, making cards and going to and showing goods at craft fairs.

Craft makers in Albert Lea may be happy to know that O’Byrne orders and sells some supplies from her workshop. She said she is sad to see craft store Jo-Ann Fabrics leave town, because she shopped there.

O’Byrne said anyone needing help with upholstery work can call her for an appointment at 507-373-9540. She said people often bring photos of the furniture that needs reupholstering. She loves to help people renew their old furniture. She said as long as the furniture is sturdy and was made well it can be brought back to its original look. Even after many years of doing the same work, she’s not tired of it.

“I still like my work after 36 years,” O’Byrne said. “I’m into crafty stuff, and that’s why I love my job.”