Working Wonders for Woh& Co

Earlier this year I was commissioned to recover three different styles of chairs in House of Hackney‘s best selling

Palmeral fabric for super talented Mexican designer Valentina Gonzalez Wohlers 

Valentina came to my studio just with her signature V’s Rocker , a vintage Verco office chair ,which Valentina found in pieces dumped on the street near her studio,

and a Lloyd-Loom  style conservatory chair

It took a while for me to come up with all three pieces ( I had a lot on!) but I think

they all came out beautifully . It was a pleasure to see them, and Valentina on show and in use at her new studio at the Bow Arts open studio event in June.




Yet another Afro-technicolour bundle of (etsy) joy …

This completely bespoke made-from-scratch ottoman stool went out to an etsy enthusiast covered in a selection of african wax block patchwork scraps donated with many thanks from YouMeWe blended with a selection of luxurious european furnishing fabrics , which has now found a home in Ipswich. If you’d like to own any of these pieces to brighten up your home or workspace, check out my etsy page ( https://www.etsy.com/shop/RayClarkeUpholstery) or send me an email with your preferences

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From Tangerine to Aquamarine Wingback Dreams…


Before (below): 

This reproduction Edwardian-style wingback had seen better days: The right hand facing wing had begun to “flap” around, the seat cushion contained Feathers which had totally degraded and it’s arms has seen better days


I had brought a selection of my finest velvet ranges to my clients home, where I presented them to choose from I looked over their chair to check its condition. Once a fabric had been agreed  (An FR version of a Kobe “Real” velvet, after some discussions between myself and my client, it was decided to go for some special decorative nails as opposed to the original piping detail,  to provide a different finishing detail to the front arm scrolls. I also instead of using the fillings from the original seat cushion decided to discard and make up a completely new foam & feather combination bespoke seat cushion.

The original arm fillings were removed and also discarded having lost their density and “return”, giving me the opportunity to fit hessian in front of the jumbo elastic webbing. Replacing the old crumbly fillings with upgraded rubberised hair and foams .









 I couldn’t get this piece ready in time for xmas, for which I was extremely apologetic. However just before new year this piece was collected and my clients reaction said it looked fab and  “Soooo comfortable”. A dream realised in aquamarine. Many thanks to Richard & Cathy Green for your patience and custom.




Thank you Furniture Village Magazine!

A big thank you to Furniture Village for the article in this months online magazine.

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Read the article here


Cardboard Challenge


I think this reproduction Edwardian-style armchair was originally from a certain well-known high street retailer. I found an old label stitched inside the seat’s cushion cover.

 I thought it had seen better days though I guess those days must have been even shorter then these suddenly dark and chilly ones we have had recently.

So I started ripping it down, you should of seen my face once I saw how the chair was manufactured!..Is there no end to how low some furniture manufacturer’s and suppliers will go (just to make a profit?) When I saw what was lurking underneath this piece I make no exaggeration when I call this a “cardboard copy”




Out went all the nasty cardboard and crumbly foam fillings!

Refurbishing the arms, using English jute webbing and hessian wrapped in new rubberised hair and fresh new foams covered in polyester skin wadding.

The refurbished seat base used the same serpentine spring suspension system which were in decent nick, though this time I lashed the springs so they moved in unison and distributed the weight more evenly, prolonging their life.

The top cover (customer supplied) was from Osbourne & Little; a patterned floral weave called “Chandra”. Using a flame retardent barrier cloth to make the chair as fully compliant with the current health safety and fire regulations.

Finally finishing off the chair with old speckled gold decorative nails, choosing a hessian as a base cloth, sourcing some absolutely beautiful front legs with antique brass castors to replace the original old broken ones which had split and were missing their castors.

A much more distinguished, respectable (as well as upgraded) armchair arrived last night to a pleased customers home.

The Battle of Chesterfield…

In spite of the many upholstery projects I have undertaken over the years I still feel relatively inexperienced and still enjoy the challenge taking on projects which teach me something new. Earlier this year I took on the task of recovering a Chesterfield-style sofa bed using my customers own fabric, a hard wearing velvet of unknown description which had to be backed with an flame retardant barrier cloth, in order for the piece to comply with the relevant UK Health, Safety and Fire Regs.

Although I have completed many deep-buttoned upholstery projects in the past, they mainly involved tackling the buttoning process on a “flat” shape. Even though this was a “modern” piece It still took me a while (and a good day with many thanks from Louise Boyland from Shoreditch Design Rooms )to help me build the confidence to button this shape and get to grips with Van dyking (a method of joining pieces of fabric or leather so that the joins wouldn’t be seen when buttoned).

Yes this project did take slightly longer than my estimated time, however it was my first piece of this type and certainly was worth doing, if not just for the experience but also being the first piece I was able to deliver using the New Nissan e-NV200 all-electric van which I loved using during a 2- day test drive.

My customer was so pleased to eventually have it finished  and delivered(the picture below was the only time I could get a half-decent shot of the piece still partially finished with the decorative nails “) She thanked me with an extra £50 tip.


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Coming to you in Glorious AWT (African Waxblock Technicolour)…

Since producing the first of these a few years ago these custom African Waxblock technicolour patchwork Ottoman stools are becoming steadily very popular. I produced the latest one of these in July this year for a fan who saw my work on Facebook. Paying in instalments, I got little nervous and concerned when I couldn’t contact her as she had simply “Vanished” off the internet and hadn’t responded to my phone/text messages or emails!..I was delighted and surprised when one fine day in August my customer just randomly wandered into my workshop with her final deposit, explaining that she had become a victim of online fraud and hacking and had to wipe all presence of herself off the net! At that point I had almost finished the stool , needing a base cloth and custom feet attached (hence the lack thereof in the photo below)Upon finishing I delivered the stool to her parents’ address ,who were surprised and delighted that such a colourful piece had come to stay.

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Together in Electric Dreams…

It seems like nowadays the media & the public are slowly waking up to the fact that We desperately need to embrace electric vehicles to compensate for the huge energy dificentcy that faces our planet within the next 50 years as well as clean up the air pollution created in our cities through the use of fossil fuels and the combustion engine. I remember how we collectively used to scoff at the very first versions of electric cars that began scurrying around central London. Now electric vehicles are mainstream news and gaining traction amongst commercial as well as daily commuters.

However, a few years back I remember having a over a drink and a chat in the basement of Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes with my good friend Chloe. At one point I was bitching about my delivery costs through various methods (Van/car rentals,  Pay-as-you-go,etc)..We had a hearty laugh over a mad idea I had at the time to buy and convert one of those old electric milk floats into a delivery vehicle for my upholstered furniture ( I’d call it the “dairyaire”, (get it?).

Many a true word can be hidden in jest. I’ve always thought that London and probably all the major cities of this world need to have Electric vans and the appropriate infrastructure supporting them if mankind was to make any true meaningful, lasting and here comes that phrase, sustainable, switches to “greener”  energy sources or at the very least, slow down on the use of fossil fuels,

which are the foundation of our so-called civilisation.

I say “so-called ” because I believe as long as we need police and armies, calling ourselves “civilised ” is a stretch, and yes I can dream of  a future where these things ,as well as other unquestioned aspects of our society are no longer needed, how ever we are a fair long way from that reality so I won’t go into all that here.

I was lucky enough in April this year to be given the chance to test drive the new all-electric Nissan e-NV200.

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The model I got to drive was the most basic of the 5  grades in the range : The Acenta. It had 2 sliding doors , 60:40 split french-styled back doors

and an 80KW AC electric single gear automatic motor.

This model came with central locking, immobiliser, ABS/VDC , a drivers airbag and traction control.

Arriving at the Nissan Showroom feeling all excited like a Captain Kirk trying out his latest Starship, I was shown around the vehicle by Nissan Showroom rep James White.
(I wanted to absorb as much info as I could about this machine)

First, James showed me the charging points on the vehicle and how to use the charging stations..

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At first glance my thoughts were, now there’s your infrastructure!. I don’t know how many lampposts there are in  central london but all it would take is an organisation with the resources and the will, to “retrofit” London’s current system of streetlights and signage (incorporating some solar panels into the re-engineered lamp housing shrouds,as well as suitable roadsigns) and voila! A large part of infrastructure built straight into London’s network of street lights!
I used to  argue that you needed the infrastructure first then the electric vehicle. Now I think, when the car was first developed, how many petrol stations were around?

Naturally, being an upholsterer who likes to look under the covers of things I wanted to see what was going on underneath the bonnet…

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“Blimey!….Where’s the engine??” I said disingenuously …  (of course, there isn’t one, its an electric motor, duh!) without all the additional parts that a traditional diesel or petrol engine needs to run I was taken a back by all the space left over . It was clear to me standing there that maybe it was easier and cheaper to fit the electric motor into Nissans existing NV200 chassis and bodywork then retooling their factory to create a power unit that could occupy smaller space (and maybe provide extra space that could have been used to store more battery power perhaps, or more cabin or cargo capacity).

Looking around the vehicle I noticed the diesel flap/filler cap position was redundant. If I had designed the van I would have maybe fitted an additional charging point there which could possibly make the van more versatile in its charging position  ( access to charging the van comes through a flap at the nose of the vehicle.)


Even though this was the basic model the 2-speaker CD/FM audio system with MP3/iPod compatibility , electric windows, full steel partition with window) felt lightyears ahead of my trusty CombiVan.
The build quality felt fine and the sound quality of the speakers was great. Good crisp and Clear with “adequate” Bass (I love my Bass-heavy tunes!) though it took a little while for me to get used to the telephone bluetooth integration into the steering wheel as I had never really used one before. Once I did It felt great!

Starting it up felt strange (Push button/ brake pedal ignition)  but  that wasn’t nearly as strange as moving off!

One of the first things you notice is how quiet the vehicle is in motion. You do hear a (sort of futuristic)”whine” as the motor revs up. If I was ready at that moment to embrace a new era of Electric mobility, the same cannot be said for the few pedestrians who obviously couldn’t hear me (but at least could see me) approaching when they crossed the road outside of pedestrian crossings. I don’t know how Electric vehicle manufacturers can tackle this; perhaps by introducing some sort of artificial ” engine noise”? (I’ve seen some Hi-performance sports cars have their engine noise “altered” on Top Gear). Or maybe I should simply use the horn more.

I can see how no engine noise can be a bonus for deliveries: Sometimes customers like to have their furniture delivered to them early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes the delivery location (Ie: a Large Stadium or You do hear the sound of the tyres rolling on the various road surfaces. After an hour or so of driving your mind becomes accustomed to these subtle differences and I noticed my driving style adjust ever so slightly.

Arriving at my studio I felt I had at least ticked off one great experience off my own life’s bucket list. And I felt a great sense of pride (if only for a fleeting moment) of having to charge the electric vehicle Van while finishing an overdue Chesterfield and a long bench, which I would use the van to deliver to a wonderful customer later that day in West London.

The electric van, picking up my finished upholstery , comfortably fitting a 2-seater Chesterfield sofa with a little room to spare (for smaller items )from a recycled and repurposed shipping container studio.

For 2 Days I felt Like I was living the (electric) dream!

The biggest issue I wanted to test out was of course the charging system.

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Now unfortunately for the test drive Nissan couldn’t provide me with the special card needed to use the 4 charging stations I found in my immediate local area ( 3 on Chrisp Street, only 1 at the large Tesco in Bromley-By-Bow) So I couldn’t tell you what It was like to use them , However I was given by James an armour-plated cable (which makes sense after all you wouldn’t want your dog or cat to chew through that)which plugged directly into a standard wall socket from a socket under a bonnet flap behind the front Nissan logo.
There are 3 Lights on the top of the dash board viewable from inside & outside of the vehicle which indicate the charging levels. I could be 100% fully charged from 0% in around 8-10 hours. I could also be 80% charged within 3-4 hours

I couldn’t charge it from my flat, as it’s on a second floor, though facing the street, spaces outside my flat were filled. So my only option was to charge it overnight at my studio. Which I was lucky enough to do Securely through leaving ajar the custom made patio-style sliding door while padlocking the metal doors without affecting the cable.

Nissan claims the vehicle can go over 100 miles on a single charge.  When I added up all the mileage I had done over the 2 days driving in “ECO-MODE” alone  it came to around 96.

Driving in Eco Mode adjusts acceleration response and the air conditioning to reduce energy consumption. Along with factors like regenerative braking , When I added up all the mileage I had done over the 2 Days driving in “ECO-MODE”  it came to around 96.. not bad at all , considering I entered the congestion charging zone twice (no charge) and my own driving style. With the right charging infrastructure and availablity

and minimal servicing costs (a standard service interval on the e-NV200 is 18,000 miles a year). I can see that over time the money could save is a no brainer.

All I would need is the deposit. I’m working things out with Nissan to look at financing options with my hope to deliver all my customers pieces this way.

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Mid-20th century Modern Metamorphosis


This mid century modern armchair and footstool used a cleverly

stitched together fitted loose cover. My customer wanted to use

Flock’s Northmore Minor in Teal designed by Rachel Parker.

People don’t realise that sometimes cutting , making and fitting a loose cover can be as much work as refurbishing and producing a fitted cover.

Getting the curves right and bringing together this gorgeous textile design to “flow” throughout the shapes.

As this textile is printed on 100% Cotton, the use of a Flame retardent barrier cloth was essential for the pieces to comply with the relevant health,Safety & Fire Regs.

To make the cover more versatile and washable, I opted to make the seat cushion separate from the armchair unlike the original which was fixed.

The second piece, A Modern tub chair was tricky too: Each Pattern piece involved seams which were piped and then topstitched before

My many thanks to Jenny Wingfield For referring this lovely customer to me who sent me the following comments:

“Just mailing to say how much I love the work you have done on my three items, the chairs and the stool.  They have been done beautifully and make my room a changed place.  Your skills are just great and I appreciate all the work that has gone into them.  Thank you so much. Many thanks Pearl Brown”


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Afrotechicolour therapy.. A wax block print patchwork chair



Rick Holland Donor chair4

This Mid-20th century modern piece was given to me back in 2010 by super talented artist, print & textiles designer and all round lovely lady Hannah Edy.

Although it was very much the worse for wear I faithfully kept it in storage thinking “That’ll be a great chair again someday..”

The opportunity to transform this piece came just after Xmas 2014, when a lovely couple contacted me from Mill Hill, NW7 and then made a few journeys’ down to my studio to chat with me about a piece they had previously seen online of my first attempt, a tub chair, at an waxblock patchwork print from a collaboration with Chantal Koning YouMeWe .

The process of transforming and updating this piece was a totally different challenge from my first version.

..A chair can take 8 hours or, in this case 40+ . It depends on your customers budget & ultimately how much love and care you wish to put into its re-upholstery.

This chair alone involves 74 carefully selected , cut, made compliant and stitched panels.


With new fillings of new rubberised hair and foams replaced the hopelessly deteriorated & crumbly foams.  A brand new serpentine spring suspension system, all lashed together(so the springs move in unison)upgraded and replaced the broken dried out Pirelli webbing which was originally stapled to the frame . The buttons are Nobilis Velvet, along with the fabrics, were chosen specifically and carefully between myself and the customer with all fabrics made compliant to the Health,Safety & Fire Regs (1988) through the use of a flame retardant barriercloth.

The Ottoman stools were built from scratch, along with a pair of duck,n,down feather-filled Scatter cushions

My deep thanks go out to Anna who assisted in the rip-down and was a great help for me to bounce off fabric selection ideas, Chantal Koning of YouMeWe for fabric inspiration and sourcing

and to Rick Holland & Katie Pomklova for their patience and input while I put together this work for them.

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Atelier Ray Clarke Ltd T/A Ray Clarke Upholstery & Design Company registration number :12018355