Sofas and Furnishings: The Art of Marathon’s Upholstery and Custom Furniture
Custom upholstered furniture that blends quality, luxury and style is as inviting as it is beautiful. It’s the result of passionate craftspeople, committed teamwork and chasing perfection to its smallest detail.
“We have the best upholsterer there is,” said Marathon’s Vice President of Interior Design Alan Christianson.
That would be Marathon Upholstery Lead John Farley, who has been making custom furniture and performing upholstery since accepting a summer job working for a neighbor 50 years ago.
“I learned to make customer furniture from the ground up,” said John. “These were third-generation upholsterers. Some of them were from Germany. I learned wrapping springs, the materials and all that. My first house was small, so I built all custom furniture for it.”
After working at the same place for many years, John bought out the company and became a business owner. Eventually he realized running a business didn’t suit him as well as cutting, fitting and fastening. In other words, doing the hands-on work of a full-time upholsterer.
“I owned the business for eight years but didn’t like the 12-hour days, seven days a week,” said John. “I like doing the work more than the paperwork.”
When a connection at Marathon in Coburg, Oregon led to a job offer, John came onboard in 1997. His arrival allowed Marathon to make changes to how furniture was being designed and built for all its coaches and customers.
“Because of John’s experience, we could bring the sofas and chairs and other upholstery in-house,” said Alan.
The chance to improve quality control and manage the design and construction process under Marathon’s own roof continues to inspire how the company’s sofas, chairs and upholstered furniture go from an idea on paper to comfortable, luxurious reality.
“We use alder hardwood for the back and seats,” said John. “Springs can transfer considerable pressure and we want better quality than plywood. We use the best foam and everything is ordered cut-to-size.”
Building furniture at Marathon is a true team effort and involves design staff, engineering personnel and upholstery professionals working together to turn theory into reality. Design often starts with customer input as Alan and his team will seek to understand a coach owner’s vision and how a particular piece of furniture might be used. This helps determine the best materials for the piece and the overall approach to placement, fit and finish.
Once initial design is complete, engineering plays a role in ensuring furniture intended to fit on or around any structural, mechanical or electrical systems inside the coach does so seamlessly and securely. With design plans set, the work moves to John and lead seamstress Kazuko Griffin to build and upholster the furniture.
“Seeing vision be created requires being open-minded, considering different perspectives and thinking outside the box,” said Alan. “We want perfection and we work together to achieve that.”
Reaching for excellence, of course, means rejecting the idea of “good enough” and instead holding each other accountable to a higher standard.
“It’s a joy to see John and Kazuko working together,” said Alan. “If either one sees something wrong, they’ll bring it up to each other.”
True to the spirit of Marathon’s founding and continued operation, no detail is too small to consider, whether that’s painstakingly matching every seam and junction across the back, seat and arms for a customer’s plaid-patterned sofa, impeccably incorporating flip-down trays between sofa cushions, integrating built-in pumps for hide-a-bed inflation or housing electronics such as subwoofers so they’re both unobtrusive and easy to service.
“This job requires bi-focal vision,” related John. “You need to be able to look at what’s up close, and what’s down the line.”
Despite the decades of experience and literally hundreds of Marathon coaches they’ve worked on together, new challenges keep Alan, John and his team as sharp as a pair of leather-cutting scissors. Whatever a customer may desire — from unique sizes or shapes to specific cushion firmness, from adding a sleeper sofa or an inflatable hide-a-bed to matching an existing recliner, or for simply achieving a specific aesthetic — Marathon takes pride in turning dreams into reality.
“The most memorable projects involve things that haven’t been done before,” said John before ticking off examples of the L-shaped sofa with the angled frame, the sofa-dinette combination with different seat depths and the “invisible” firearm storage.
Along with passion for the work comes passion for helping Marathon customers enjoy the coach they’ve imagined.
“They are trusting us with their dream coach. We really want them to be happy,” said John.
That care and consideration for others underpins how a commitment to teamwork between customers and craftspeople will ensure Marathon’s upholstery continues setting the standard for timeless quality
“Everyone has something to bring to the table,” said Alan. “Combining perspectives is what leads the way to great results.”
-Written by Geoff Shipley