The great cover-up


Above: The customer loved the “cartoon lines” of the chair so played them up with green felted wool upholstery. Below: An estate chair was reborn with organic cotton/bamboo batting, natural latex and organic USA-grown cotton fabric.

If they can dream it, she can green it. Customers come to Acanthus upholstery shop in Portland with everything from solid sofas to vague ideas. Anne Thompson helps them realize their dreams in eco-friendly fashion. 

“Green?” Anne asks. “We can go as deep as they want.”

It could be as shallow as making a natural cotton slipcover for a favorite chair. It can be as complex as building a custom frame of naturally felled hardwood and covering it with a natural latex padding and organic stinging nettle fabric.

With a fine arts education, Thompson was looking for a creative way to earn a living when she signed up for a two-year upholstery-training program. She loved the inventive aspect of it. She wasn’t too keen on the fabrics, finishes, glues and batting containing known toxins that were the industry standard. In 2008 she opened Acanthus on NW Thurman Street. 



Above: Acanthus carries organic and sustainable upholstery materials including cork, which feels surprisingly luxurious on an ottoman. Below: A settee gets a modern take with an off-center strip of Vietnamese fabric. 

“We tried to think of a word that tied the design world with the natural,” Thompson says. “Acanthus is the leafy plant that you see [as a decorative element] on old columns.”

While some customers specifically seek Acanthus for its green approach, many wander into the shop drawn by the striking fabrics and are surprised to discover the selection of natural wools, organic fibers, and recycled synthetics. Even sustainable cork can be used to cover headboards, chairs and ottomans for a smooth feel similar to leather. 

Because each Acanthus piece is custom-made, prices vary considerably. Suffice to say they aren’t cheap. But anyone with the soul of an artist and stick figure talent can realize her vision through Acanthus. The Trail Blazer-tall can have furniture made-to-measure like a fine suit. The sentimental can give a favorite sofa new life while preserving its heritage. 

“I like those projects,” Thompson says. “It helps satisfy my artistic urges.”