Tag: Ray clarke Upholstery

The Baby Elephant: A Sonic Sofa I’ll never forget!..

Is it just me or has this year just seemed to fly by?- Now we’re in Mid October 2019 and It’s been an incredible year. With social media it feels so quick and easy to post pics and keep followers updated on my most recent projects. However I must include this beauty here.

A rare opportunity to refurbish and recover a modern design classic : The “Baby Elephant “ sofa, Designed by Richard Stump for Sir Terrence Conran.

It was a tricky one because the wings, or elephant “ears” were designed and built with speakers fitted into the wings and there is a space directly under the seat designed for a suitably sized amplifier or sub-woofer.
Reupholstery involved carefully partially dismantling the sound units to ensure the fitted cover , a plain wool/polyamide/lycra mix called “Front 2” by @ludvigsvensson, chosen for its weight, durability and (hopefully), sound-allowing qualities .
My many thanks to Anna F @irreverentsideshows for giving me a hand and to the owners , a lovely and patient couple from Bermondsey, south London, for giving me the opportunity to work with them on such a rare beast!

Pretty in Pink Parker Knoll#2

Hey thanks NicolaIt has been a fair while since I’ve posted on my website (sorry about that- I’ve had alot on!). Longer still since I’ve had an opportunity to work on a Parker Knoll Sofa-bed.
Like waiting around ages for a bus – Then two come at once!

Well in truth, I completed refurbishment and recover of two Parker Knoll sofas at different times last year for the same lovely couple based near Turnpike Lane in North London

The most recent refurbishment and recover , in an eye-catching pink Velvet from @Kobe_interior_design, from their ” Real Velvet”, was in such a poor state on arrival to my workshop that full re-upholstery had to be undertaken.

Once upholstery was completed. I had to change the worn and damaged old mixed pairs of castors to a gorgeous set of brand new Sheperd Kenrick castors, otherwise it would would of looked like the equivalent of shoving on an old pair of battered trainers on a bespoke tailored suit!

As it took me a while to complete both , It also took my customer a while to find the right lighting before sending me some gorgeous photos of it in situ.

Pretty in Pink! (isn’t she?)

My heartfelt thanks to all the valued assistants who have helped me to complete this project :Anna F, Rowena Murphy and Jane Latchford

A Roche Bobois Reimagined…


Getting the opportunity to transform a piece of “High-end” furniture for an high profile customers Trish Evans & Baz Bamigboye was more than a pleasure. It was a complete privilege. From the moment the owners of this statement piece of 20th century modern furniture contacted me. I knew that something special would emerge. The fabrics and colours chosen complimented the other existing pieces as well a wall hanging sourced from their adventures in India.  Trish very kindly brought over the first sections and as time progressed the sofa would involve a tremendous  amount of cutting, sewing , hand-stitching, stuffing, buttoning and finishing. The process of re-upholstery was delayed as my studio had succumb to an “unimaginable”flood and a clean-up operation, which in and of itself tested my resolve greater than the project itself (more about that flood perhaps in another post)


This Roche Bobois Mah Jong sofa  reimagined in a selection of sumputous Designers Guild velvets in Azure, Granite and Pale Jade from their Varese range. Combined with an additional Teal velvet from Iwantfabric.com.

All fabrics were made compliant to meet UK Health safety & Fire Regulations.

My hearfelt thanks go out to Rowena Murphy and Anna Frisch for their amazing assistance during the process of re-upholstery and special thanks to Trish & Baz for their patience, compassion, understanding , support and custom.

Bless this House(Boat)…A Virgin pattern match made in heaven

Producing these saloon-style doors was a challenge. Some pretty nifty shaping and fitting by James and cutting and pattern matching by yours truly was acheived with on these saloon-style bespoke padded doors, covered in a linen print of the Virgin Mary (customer’s fabric choice). All while ensuring that fabrics were made compliant through the use of a flame retardant barriercloth. My Thanks to Alice & James of the “Toady” boat for their custom and support. Stay blessed.

Money for Nothing Project5: Jay VS Ray (Round2) Rocking a Pair of Farmhouse Chairs


Whenever an opportunity to reupholster furniture comes with a fairly open brief in terms of design  I always meet it with a sense of excitement, anticipation and just a little anxiety.

So when Jay Blades and the Money for Nothing film crew came to my studio with these two sorry-looking farmhouse style rocking and static armchairs, despite my initial reactions I did have a few ideas bubbling up for the cushions the overall look, however, unfortunately, due to time pressures and other projects on the bench, There wasn’t enough time to come up with another of my own completely original fabric designs.

I did, however, have a vision in mind of some types of fabrics I wanted to use. Being a Massive fan of Timorous Beasties work in Scotland I had to get my hands on one of their amazing designs.

How I treated the show wood was a question I pondered on for a while:

With great respect to the growing numbers of upcyclers, hobbyists and others keen to revamp their furniture, I wanted to treat the wood to a  finish which was a bit different than just simply repainting, and consequently hiding the wonderful grain patterns, knots and characteristics of these Beech wood frames.

Inspiration came within a few feet of my cutting bench when I noticed while sewing some offcuts of a Designers Guild fabric under the cutting table I had used earlier on this year. A wool from their Capisoli range which had a vertical Ombré effect. I thought: ” What If I translated that effect into the wood using a wood stain as opposed to a paint?


May I present to you this re-imagined vintage farmhouse chairs, now in a stunning @timorous_beasties #Grand Blotch Damask.

Accented with Tangerine velvet piping from @kobe_interior_design “Real” velvet range and complementary border fabrics made from @sanderson1860 “Brianza” creamy velvet.

These chairs had to be fully restored: All joints, back rails, and broken spindles fully repaired and all suspension systems cleaned and refitted.

I  created a custom wood stain with a “3D Ombré” effect.  Featuring deep forest greens moving through to autumnal moss. enhanced through many polished layers of  Beeswax.
To be honest this project became more a labour of love than money folks. Hopefully, these two lovelies will feature in a future episode of @monfornothing for BBC1
Many thanks go out to Olga Mackenzie and Rowena Murphy for their assistance, and Tom Foy for all his woodworking advice and masterful craftsmanship in replacing the broken inside back wood dowel.



Cutting the Mustard: A Mid 20th-Century Sofa Makeover


Completion of this Mid-Century sofa bed in brought it’s own pleasures and heartbreaks:
Producing the cover buttons broke my button pressing machine! Plus removal of the original seat/ daybed fillings revealed hair infested with a particularly vicious dust mite (they bite!)


Many thanks to @rowenamurphyupholstery for her assistance, Master Upholsterer @sjfranklin69 for giving me a replacement button press, and Brisqq for another swift & safe delivery.

Finished and in situ. Client is happy so I’m very happy ….

Do you think this piece cuts the mustard? Leave your comments below. Many thanks!

Money For Nothing: Ray & Jay Moving, Making & upcycling ..

For any upholsterers and soft furnishers moving their studio to a new site, I feel for you. In my experience the process can be stressful, never-ending and exhausting! My Thanks to Anna F and Rowena Murphy for helping me with some logistics ( and some very heavy lifting!).

Imagine you have barely loaded in the last of your boxes, when an opportunity (not to mention a camera crew) arrives, to not only work with someone you’ve long since admired through social media, a certain Mr Jay Blades, but to do it on national television.

I felt exhausted after the move, but excited to finally work with a leading light in furniture up cycling. Jay was a new presenter on the TV Show Money for Nothing (BBC1 tv). He brought a couple of pieces for me to choose from.

I decided I get to grips with a sorry-looking (but full of character) Mid-20th century modern armchair.

With barely a pair of trestles and some hand tools unpacked, the “rip down” process revealed a piece which had already brought new life of its own: Among the creatures living inside the upholstery were a family of woodlice, and a particularly big green and plump garden Slug , which from the picture above, already made its presence felt by leaving a long , undulating slug trail all over the seat, inside back and outside arms and back.

An enjoyable bit of banter with Jay  and myself discussing fabric and design options unfortunately never made it into the final edit for that show. To be honest , after the studio move I was so mentally and physically tired , and the ideas I came up with for re-imagining the chair were in excess of the budget. Sometimes it’s better just to go with the flow too, as Jay supplied the fabrics and knowing the type of work he has produced in the past I had a definite idea of the type of look Jay was after. It was just up to me to put in the graft.

And so too the rip down. Having packed away my mask I had to improvise with “a knotted hanky” made from some scrap calico. I did indeed discover that this chair had plenty of life left inside it… some of it was still moving!!

Making sure no living creatures were harmed I carefully removed each of the woodlice and capturing them in a cup, went out to release them back into the wild (well, not so much wild, as the neighbouring public green/ recreational space across the road from the studio space. When it came to finding a slug , having isolated the chair from the rest of the furniture projects in the studio overnight, by the time I returned to finish off cleaning up the chair our little friend had managed to embed itself in the last bits of filling in the seat base, starved of moisture/ fluids it had dried out completely.


After putting in some hours and with great help from my assistant Rowena Murphy (A big thanks!), the chair came together quite well. Covered in a light grey and Charcoal Wool, accented with baby blue piping in just the areas I thought Jay would appreciate. As a homage to the dead slug the seat base used a limey-green wool (not sure of the source, It felt like Kvadrat’s top quality Davina range)I did pull a few all-nighters to get the last bits ready and the morning of the final shoot/big reveal I felt little “ropey”to say the least, and perhaps a little bit touchy as well,  after I got a little miffed for a millisecond there at the way one of the crew spoke to my assistant, who arrived at the studio towards the end of filming, having also put in a shift to help me get this ready ). In the end it was a job I thought reasonably well done and my big thanks to Rowena , Anna F and the irrepressible Jay Blades and the crew for their enthusiasm. Unfortunately the chair did not sell within the filming schedule so I hope it eventually finds a great home.

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.

2015-04-27 11.58.22

2015-04-27 17.50.51

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..

2015-04-27 11.57.45

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…

2015-04-27 12.16.21

“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.

2015-04-27 12.06.55

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.

[portfolio_slideshow id=1910]

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