- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

The first thing on a furniture buyer’s mind normally isn’t whether the piece he’s looking at will fit through the front door.

That’s a mistake in Washington, where old houses and apartments often present doors, halls and staircases too narrow to get furniture in and out.

David Stiverson can help. He runs David Stiverson Upholstery Repair, specializing in customers who have spent hours in a furniture showroom selecting, say, a new couch only to find it won’t fit into the house.

Mr. Stiverson is known for dismantling pieces of furniture, moving them through areas where they wouldn’t otherwise fit, and putting them back together again good as new.

The process can be complicated because most furniture is not designed to be taken apart. It is important to correctly assess the situation and decide just how much must be done before setting to work, Mr. Stiverson said.

Mr. Stiverson on this day begins his work in an historic Del Ray house by examining the halls, doors and stairs to see how much of the couch will fit. The goal is to move the couch he is working on, this time a sleep sofa, through a narrow doorway and a flight of stairs to a converted basement.

Looking at the door frames, he sees that he will not be able to move the couch through the door directly in front of the stairs very easily, so he decides he will carry it around on another path through the house that has wider doors and halls. Looking down the stairs at the basement, he sees that getting the couch down there will require turning it around a tight corner.

Not a hard job, he says. All he must do is take the back portion and bed out of the sleeper couch, leaving the bottom and arms intact in a U shape.

After the disassembly is complete, he moves the U-shaped piece through the house and down the stairs to the basement. He also moves the sleeper portion of the base and the couch back down the stairs without a problem.

The various components of the couch are now scattered about on the floor of the basement, waiting to be restored. To complete his job, he must put the couch back together again, using mending materials such industrial strength screws, mending plates, spare wood parts and even glue.

“[They’ll] never be able to see that I did this,” Mr. Stiverson said. “It doesn’t look any different once I’m done.”

Mr. Stiverson has been taking apart couches and sleepers for the past 12 years. Originally employed by Tobin Transport in Alexandria, he learned the art of disassembly there. In 1997 he left Tobin Transport to start his own company.

Although about 85 percent of his business comes from doing warranty repairs to furniture for Rowe and Storehouse furniture, he does three to 10 disassemblies a week or as many as 300 a year.

The task of taking apart sofas is not without its quirks. Occasionally, Mr. Stiverson said, he will encounter a task that is harder than normal. Sometimes couches must be completely disassembled by having the arms, middle and back taken apart, which makes putting them back together again much harder.

Once in a while he will go to work in a house with abnormally narrow, doors halls or stairs where the only option is to hoist the furniture over the balcony or deck, or through windows.

Only once has Mr. Stiverson encountered a situation where he could not get the couch into the desired room. When he realized that it wasn’t going to fit, he had already completely disassembled it. He ended up simply putting the couch back together and leaving it where he found it.

“It was the spiral staircase that got me,” Mr. Stiverson said.

Mr. Stiverson gets satisfaction out of seeing happy customers.

“I like to see people happy,” he said. “When the sofa they spent seven hours in the showroom picking out [doesn’t work] I can help them.”

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