As a way to honor the late Rob Culp, co-founder of Culp, Inc. (“CULP”) and his beloved alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill, the seats in the Smith Center are newly covered with fabric created by the company he started 50 years ago. When Carolina Athletic Director, Bubba Cunningham, mentioned that it bothered him to see how dirty the seats were, Iv Culp, president and chief executive officer of Culp, Inc., thought to himself, “Wait a minute. This is definitely something we can fix.”
The decision was made to use Culp’s LiveSmart performance fabric, which is moisture repellent, stain resistant, fade resistant, and heavy duty – a perfect combination for the Smith Center’s nearly 10,000 lower-level and mezzanine seats. “When they brought in the fabric to show us and demonstrate its capabilities, they literally poured Coke on the fabric, and wiped it right off with a dry rag,” recalled Smith Center Director Brett Botta. “Then they did the same thing with ketchup and two or three more ‘pain points’ for us, and they all wiped right off, which was pretty cool.”
“In our business, we’ve been focused on performance products for the last five years,” said Iv Culp. “Everything in upholstery, whether its home or hospitality, is looking for cleanable products. I knew that our advanced line of LiveSmart fabrics would be perfect for the job.”
The fabric was a great fit, but the key for both the Athletics Department and CULP was matching the exact pantone shade of Carolina Blue – which, like it or not, is not a very common fabric color in the upholstery world and would require some trial and error to match exactly. Enter Tammy Buckner, CULP’s senior vice president of design and marketing, who was responsible for the color matching.
“We took multiple fabric samples to the Dean Dome to make sure that when the lights were turned on, it didn’t cast any other color on television or in the arena itself,” Buckner said. “It was a long process, but we were determined to get it right.”
Beginning in March 2021, the cushions in the lower bowl and the mezzanine were removed in 2,000-2,500 seat blocks and shipped away to be re-covered. All of the cushions were back in place by October.
Iv notes that CULP is a publicly traded company that still feels like a family business, which makes it even more special to carry on the legacy started by his father and grandfather. CULP’s gift was two-fold – as Culp, Inc. donated the fabric for the project, while the Culp family paid for the labor needed to install the new seat cushions.
“It’s a perfect marriage of what our company’s values are,” said Iv. “We’re a public business with a family culture. To my dad, family and business were the same, and it’s truly special to be able to honor him in this way.”
An article about the CULP project written by Andrew Stilwell, which appeared on the University of North Carolina’s “goheels” website on Jan. 11, 2022, can be found here: www.goheels.com.
Culp, Inc. is one of the world's largest manufacturers and marketers of mattress fabrics for bedding and upholstery fabrics for residential and commercial furniture. The company markets a variety of fabrics to its global customer base of leading bedding and furniture companies, including fabrics produced at Culp’s manufacturing facilities and fabrics sourced through other suppliers. Culp has manufacturing and sourcing operations located in the United States, Canada, China, Vietnam, Turkey and Haiti.