By EAMD Staff

For over 35 years, Rafael Prat of Prat Upholstery has been providing East Aldine’s businesses and homes with only the best in furniture restoration and repairs. Prat, 72, learned his trade in his native country of Argentina and has been at his original location, right next door to a furniture showroom on Aldine Mail Route in the Aldine North Center, since the beginning.

Prat does a brisk trade breathing new life — or perhaps weaving new life is a better way to look at it — into the furnishings of Aldine- Greenspoint- and airport-area hotels and accepts business and residential clients as well.

Prat Upholstery is also known by its Spanish name — Prat Tapicería — and the varied origins of the words offers an insight into the nature of the trade. It’s both an art and a craft.

The English word comes from the same root that gives us “to uphold,” and that’s one function of upholstery — to maintain and protect the underlying structure and padding of a chair or couch. In fact, in merry old England, upholsterers were known as “upholders” and their duties extended far beyond the maintenance and beautification of furniture items — they were given the same latitude we afford interior decorators today to arrange all those furnishings. And their duties didn’t stop there — as members of The Worshipful Company of Upholders (founded: 1360), they also functioned as undertakers, auctioneers, and assessors of value. That is a lot of hats.

And then you look at the roots of the word in Spanish — as with the French tapisserie, and our own word “tapestry,” they burrow all the way to Greek that was ancient even in Homer’s time. Homer, incidentally, gives mention of the first known tapestry. In Book III of the Iliad, Helen of Troy is described in one scene as “working at a great web of purple linen, on which she was embroidering the battles between Trojans and Achaeans, that Ares had made them fight for her sake.” For Homer to have mentioned this art proves that the tapiceria side of the upholstery business is at least 2,800 years old. Battle scenes are popular — tapestries served as the war movies of their time. The Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Norman takeover of England, and the Prestonpans Tapestry captures a Scottish army under Bonnie Prince Charlie defeating the hated English. Hunting scenes were likewise in demand, with the mysterious Hunt of the Unicorn series of the late Middle Ages being a famous example.

Works such as those were at times miniaturized from their gigantic wall-hanging size and then, well, upholstered on to the frames of chairs, settees and sofas and so on. And there the concepts intersect — you uphold your family sofa with a tapestry, and it’s just such sturdy works of art that have long been the specialty of Rafael Prat of Prat Upholstery/Tapiceria.

Aldine North Center
29.4 mi · 2021 Aldine Mail Rte Rd # 905