This Cocktail Chair, a family heirloom from Bavaria, arrived in my studio workshop (via Erith), at the recommendation of the owner’s partner, a mutual friend who had been following and appreciating my work since we both used to be members of an east London housing co-operative.
Moth-eaten and in need of some love and care, After a fabric and design consultation my client agreed to go with a Herringbone weave from Harlequin, called “Parquet” in colour “Bramble”
Keeping in constant contact with the client during the process of reupholstery was a joy which resulted in some lovely touches, which I feel enhanced the overall new look, including details like the decorative close-nailing in “French Natural” nails and the dark chocolate leather piping detail which gave the chair an air of contemporary though classic elegance.
This wingback chair was originally donated to me by my good friend, super talented artist and fellow meditator Raksha Patel, which was found discarded on the site of Raksha’s old studio many years ago, at a time when she and a group of her fellow artist friends had to leave a block of studios they used in west London which were being converted into luxury apartments.
For a while there it took pride of place in my living room, giving me a place to sit after many long hours at the workbench. Although it arrived grubby and unloved, I knew If I held onto it long enough , eventually I would find the time to reupholster it.
Thanks to (repeated) episodes of Money for Nothing, a fan of the BBC show got in touch, requesting a wingback chair to be recovered in my Monkey print, which they had seen on the show. I had other donor chairs but the shapes were not suitable so in the end I offered them the chair. Although I was alittle sad to see it go, I couldnt miss this perfect opportunity to transform the piece and, in my own fabric design.
The ” Rip down” process revealed a really shoddy build quality and a shocking use of really low grade upholstery materials, ripping out cardboard and plastic webbing , which I had ripped out and replaced with Strong elastic webbing , 120z hessian and rubberised hair behind, and to bolster the existing foams used to create the arm shapes. I went on to protect the existing foams in the back and seat suspensions, though the additional use of 12oz Hessian and Polyester Skin wadding, which was completely missing in the original chairs manufacture.
Refurbished and transformed, the old chair did take a little longer to complete than I had originally hoped. However it was finally looking resplendant in my own signature Monkey print on moleskin Velvet, trimmed with Zoffany Velvet and complimented with Sanderson Brianza . With the new Beech wood Queen anne legs , customised in my own spirit-based grey woodstain.
My Many thanks go out to Stacey Lewis, a fellow upholsterer, who came in to assist me in getting this ready, as well as helping me work through many projects in my workshop (reducing my backlog). I also want to say a special thank you to Anna Frisch for her assistance , Heritage Upholstery Supplies for helping me source the new legs. I also wish to thank Anyvan.com for the swift, safe and affordable courier delivery up to Dunstable. My Customer had originally commisioned the piece for her sister, who upon seeing it, said
“It was better than she thought, loves the fabric used and was over the moon!”
Producing work for the show @MonForNothing has been a privilege and a pleasure. As well as the exposure, you never truly know who’s watching.
So it was a massive suprise when a television celebrity whom I used to watch on Saturday evening TV shows like “Strike it lucky” and “Family Fortunes” as a kid, calls me up to tell me how much he enjoyed the show and that he would like me to transform an old 2- seater sofa that needed a little love and attention, going into his fantastic newly refurbished and redecorated west London apartment.
It was a great pleasure to complete the works for this customer who has been very kind, gracious, patient and supportive of my work. His wonderful home has been a great resource of artitic inspiration and it is an
honour to have my work among his great collection of art & furniture.
My Heartfelt thanks to Rowena Murphy and Anna F for their assistance in helping me re-create a lovely piece.
I absolutely love transforming antique furniture with clever colourful combinations of modern fabrics and colours. The process becomes all the more enjoyable when I get to employ traditional upholstery techniques, as was the case with these two antique cane-backed pieces of furniture on behalf of Nicola Holden Interiors, who had a client based in Kew who wished to use a combination of Robert Allen fabrics and plush velvet piping to give a contemporary twist to these two traditional furniture pieces.
A lot of work went into rewebbing, springing, stitching, stuffing and revitalising all the seat suspensions. Providing a robust foundation from which I made seat pads choosing a foam core/feather wrap, giving optimum comfort levels for the bespoke seat cushions and new and fully filled duck & down feather back cushions.
My many thanks to Anna F and Rowena Murphy for their assistance in helping me transform these pieces, and to Nicola & Nick Holden and their client for their patience as I enjoyed some memorable sunny days in the new studio space, listening to the sounds of “A Moon Shaped Pool”, the most recent album from Radiohead.
In May 2016 , after completing the first 2 shows for the BBCTV show “Money for Nothing”, something wonderful happened: I was approached by another production company to produce work on a project for a Channel 4 TV show :
George Clarke’s ” Old House New Home.”
The Chair I was asked to re-upholster was an 19th Century Crapaud armchair. The chair turned up at my studio first, and then later George turned up with a film crew larger than life and full of beans.His enthusiasm was infectious.
My initial enthusiasm gave way little once we started to rip down the chair. Once stripped down to the bare frame I could see that this piece needed a complete overhaul as it was riddled with woodworm.
To restore this piece, I enlisted the help of master woodwork/craftsman Tom Foy, who did an excellent job returning the stripped down frame with fresh new support and stuffing rails from which I began applying new suspension and fillings.
I decided to apply a fully traditional approach to the suspension, fillings and top cover , which became a point of pride for me as I wanted to produce a piece that would last many many years, using the finest traditional materials afforded in the budget.
During the process a nice travelling South African upholsterer visited my studio lending me a hand. During the process and while under pressure to reupholster the works within the film scheduling, he tried to convince me to use staples in certain areas which, perhaps would have speeded up the process, however, I so wanted to produce a fully “traditional finish” I stuck to my guns.
It took a few all-nighters and even by the morning the piece was due to be collected to go up to Leicester I confess I still hadn’t fully finished stitching the final covers on! However , with a little skill and a few tricks of the trade the chair did finally appear in the final edit and after filming I went up to Leicester and finished the chair in the clients home.
If you click on the link below you might still be able to watch the episode on Channel 4 on demand:
Every genuine Parker Knoll I have ever worked on carries a manufacturers stamp on the frame with a product number. This chair did not carry that stamp and so I had to treat it as a mid-century modern winged armchair in a style similar to a Parker Knoll.
As I had no idea of the true origins of the chair (make and model) I treated all the aged foams on the inside back and seat as not fit-for-purpose as I was uncertain as to their flame retardancy. Fitting new rubberised hair and medium grade foams, wrapped in polyester skin wadding was, legally, the best choice I thought I could make , ensuring the fillings didn’t exceed the shapes and thickness of the originally fitted foams.
The elastic webbing on the seat disintegrated upon removal so there was no sense trying to refit already damaged seat webs into a chair which needed new fillings and an expensive fabric top cover to be fitted. So the seat webs were upgraded to Pirelli webbing, fitted to prolong the suspension’s life within the chair.
As for the seat cushion itself; the original filling, which in itself had degraded had no protection between the original foam and it’s top cover, this would have made the seat unusable within a short period of time of constant use. Simply recovering in the manor it came in would have worn out both the seat foam and the new linen top cover , as well as not necessarily conforming to the relevant health safety & fire regs. for domestic furniture. I replaced the old foam with a medium soft grade foam, wrapped in white polyester skin wadding and stockinette, which protects the foam and the top cover from excessive wear through friction and ultra violet light (which degrades foam) while keeping all the fillings in place, having cut and shaped the foam and stitching its cover to the same size and shape as the original cushion .
My favourite aspects which I brought into the treatment and application of this wonderful fabric include the 7-colour topstitching on the seat cushion border, and the two velvet colour-coded cover buttons fitted into the inside back.
As the fabric itself was not compliant, the use of a wool safe flame retardant barriercloth was used between all of the fabric used in the chair and the fillings, additionally helping to prolong the life of the fabric from excessive wear.
My heartfelt thanks go out to Rowena Murphy who assisted me in the full re-upholstery of this statement piece.
There was a time earlier this year when I found myself feeling blocked and overwhelmed with the amount of projects I had taken on and I needed some help and business advice on how to manage the multiple projects I had taken on .
I sought help and advice through The AMUSF (Association of Master Upholsterers & Soft Furnishers) and I also looked at the Opportunity website, which linked me up to a Business counsellor, Dr Wayne Wright. and I took on a few assistants who helped me get my workload down to more manageable levels while at the same time helping me to increase my productivity.
Wayne entered my studio and immediately went to work setting me up with project management systems and helped me streamline my production of estimates and invoices. As cashflow was really tight in return for his counselling and advice I offered to restore a chair for him in return for his help.
It took little while as I had to get through a number of outstanding projects since the move to a new studio space, and it took a while to confirm a suitable fabric with my client, However with the fantastic help of Rowena Murphy, a recent graduate from Shoreditch Design Rooms and Anna F, we managed to get through a number of upholstery projects as well as turn out this fully restored piece just in time for Xmas eve, now recovered in a smart woven wool from Eleanor Pritchard Studio (many thanks for taking my late order with a lightening quick turnaround!)
My thanks and congratulations for superb attention to detail (particularly the wood finishing) by Rowena.
I think my client was happy as he gave me a lovely bottle of Prosecco which , at the end of a particularly busy month (and a phenomenal year) ,which was enjoyed in timely fashion!
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