A while ago a lovely friend asked me if I could find her an old chair – she lives in a house built in the 1930’s and liked chairs with bentwood arms. Here’s what I found… a beautifully designed chair made by Suparest as a Utility piece of furniture sometime between 1941 – 1952.
Recently I began the job of returning it to its former glory. It still had the original fabric and utility ‘cheeses’ label, but the fabric was holey and the stuffing was very saggy. The varnish was very scratched and worn. Not surprising after about 70 years!
Severe restrictions on raw materials during World War II saw the introduction of a controlled production scheme in 1941. Initially, the utility mark applied to clothing and then extended to other commodities including furniture. The utility furniture range was aimed at newly weds setting up home or those whose houses had been bombed in the Blitz. It was well designed but plain and not surprisingly ‘utilitarian’ in style. Towards the end of the war, new and more attractive designs were introduced, but the scheme came to an end in 1952.
Uncovering the past
This is what was inside… A cleverly designed spring unit that was hinged in the middle and sat on the frame as a kind of hammock. Attached to the spring unit was the original manufacturers label – Crosby Spring Interiors in Lancashire. I did some research on the interweb and found they made mattress springs – apparently their company slogan was ‘Think of beds – Crosby Springs to mind!’
Make do & Mend
Another little surprise inside the chair was a rather forlorn 1940’s style stocking wrapped around the side of the spring unit. With a seam all the way up the back and little patches of salmon coloured thread where it’s holes had been darned – it rather epitomised the ‘make do and mend’ nature of war time Britain and the years that followed.
Back to the frame
Once stripped, the wood was rather a strange pink, so I had to use water stains and spirit dyes to get it to a good colour.
Beautiful once again
With some very lovely Bute wool Ramshead fabric and I think it’s looking pretty good again. It’s also really comfortable, almost as comfortable as my mattress…