Sunday, 22 March 2015

Upholstery: all that you don't see...

I have been privileged this week to be invited into two homes to give quotes on some re-upholstery. Both pieces of furniture - a lovely Georgian two-seat drop-arm sofa and a 1920s arm chair - were of great quality and definitely worth the expense of upholstering.

And that is just it - upholstery does seem expensive... at first glance.

Re-uphosltering an arm chair can cost approximately £350-£600 depending on the state it is in and the complexity of the chair and then there is the cost of the fabric, which can range from as little as or as much as you would like to spend. This lovely Ian Mankin organic ticking costs £29.50 per metre...

Ian Mankin in Iris

Ian Mankin Cocoa used on this chair

This Brunschwig & Fils 'Les Faisins' costs in the region of £250 per metre and it is certainly not the most expensive available.

Brunschwig & Fils 'Les Faisins'

Caned ball & claw chair in 'Les Faisins'

So you can see that the cost of upholstery does begin to mount up. Yet, there is an immense amount of work that goes into bringing a chair back to life and the skill involved should not be under estimated; most of which you don't see. Also, there is the added knowledge that most of the pieces are much better quality and made more skilfully than a lot of what is on the market today.

The chair is stripped back to the frame and webbing attached.

Webbing on an over-stitched seat
Springs are then hand sewn onto the webbing and 'lashed' in.

{Photo from}

Then the first stuffing is hand sewn in. This involves bridle ties, hair stuffing, hessian, more hand sewing of through-stuffing ties, blind stitching and then more stitching of the edge roll.

First stuffing
A second stuffing is then added along with cotton felt, a layer of calico, polyester wadding and the top fabric.
Finished chair in Designers Guild 'Varese' in fuchsia (rrp £50 per metre)

Re-upholstering a chair is labour intensive and you are really paying for all that you don't see. That is why I was fascinated when I came across the 'Seeing beneath the surface' at Knole project from the National Trust. A team at Knole have recently spent some time x-raying the furniture to see what is underneath. Here are some of the photos {courtesy of the National Trust} and the full article can be found here.

Next time you are in the market for some upholstery and the quote is given, think back to all that you don't see and the price may not be as expensive as you first thought, especially for bringing something of great quality back to life...

The x-ray equipment being set up. ©National Trust
X-ray of the leg of the sofa in the above photo {photo from the National Trust}

Arm of a piece of furniture {photo from the National Trust}

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