Brighton & Hove

Cherry red to turquoise…

Cherry red

A while ago I was approached by a lovely client who had inherited her Nan’s rocking chair. She was very fond of it but the cherry red velour and dark wood didn’t really fit into the style of her house.

img_6131The foam inside was old and crumbly so that was removed and then I set about stripping the dark varnish off the wood. Many sanding sheets later, I applied some traditional wood finishing techniques to the show wood. Now rather than dark brown – it’s a warm honey colour.

Transformation

With completely new foam and cotton wool felt, it was then covered with a gorgeous turquoise blue, fine wool fabric from Ludvig Svennson. Just a beautiful colour.

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What a transformation and incredibly comfortable to sit in!

Have a heart

Sometimes its good to have a little reminder of what was there before, particularly if it has fond memories. Just under the cushion is a hidden piece of cherry velvet.

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One woman, her Northumbrian roots and the destiny of a sofa…

So I have this friend called Linda. She is very, very lovely. You’ve probably already worked out that she comes from Northumberland, in fact from a little place called Alnwick. She’s lived down south for years now, but she still goes back ‘home’ a few times a year to visit family and friends, and the ruggedness of The Borders still have a strong hold on her heart.

She even has a Border Terrier called Hinny… Awww.

So Linda has got a good eye for a 2nd hand bargain and a few years back she found this lovely old 1930’s sofa on eBay. Only after she’d won the bid did she realise it was actually being sold from a little antiques shop in her home town of Alnwick. What are the chances of that! After a long journey, the sofa arrived.  It was very heavy because it was actually a sofabed…

 
Over the years – the seat’s got lumper and the only one sitting on it was the dog! Despite this and perhaps because of its origins, Linda was keen to hang on to the old gal. I have often admired this sofa and recently got to work on bringing it back to life…

It was made in the late 1930’s under the wartime and post war Utility furniture scheme. Times were tight but I think this spring unit could have done with a few more springs….

I forgot to take photos of the nice new webs and lovely lashed springs – sorry about that (I was engrossed in a particularly good play on Radio 4). But believe me – they’re under there and now there’s 18 rather than just 12…!

Anyway, after perking up the wood with a nitrostain and building up the seat and back with rubberised hair, it was time to apply the lovely luxurious new velvet.  I’m glad to say that having dismantled a rather complicated 70 year old sofa bed mechanism in order to upholster the panels, I was most relieved that it all fitted back together again. Phew!

Now all we need to do is convince Hinny that the sofa is no longer her bed. Although she does go rather marvellously. Hard to resist that face….

“Please…?”

Sit back and dream of summer…

Making connections

Last May, at the one of the Brighton Artist Open Houses, I met Lizzie Hillier from Sussex based textile design company called Woven Oak. I loved their fabrics and was keen to see if we could bring our skills together to create a beautiful chair.

A good find

Then a few months ago, I found this rather special 1930’s reclining chair at Shabitat in Brighton. Its upholstery was in serious need of some attention but its shape and woodwork were lovely. The chair also reclines, so while sitting you can slide the seat forward and the back tilts. Perfect for an afternoon nap!

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Floor sweepings and tigers

Stripping it back revealed the original fabric (swirly brown and carpet-like) and ye olde upholstery practice of sweeping the floor and emptying the contents of the dustpan into the chair stuffing! Mmmmm lovely. However, I quite like the plywood from the back with all its old stamps. Easy tiger…


 
 The seat was a hand stitched sprung cushion that would have been beautifully made in its day but was falling apart! No wonder the seat was so lumpy.


With a newly sprung seat and sustainable materials to rebuild its upholstery, the chair was all ready for its final cover…

This is Woven Oak’s ‘Bloom’ fabric – such a beautiful print that really suited the age and style of the chair. Fabric and chair together have created rather a lovely place to sit back and dream of summer days…


If you’d like to know more about the wonderful process of creating a design using linocuts, you can read Katie Treggiden’s design blog where she interviews Lizzie from Woven Oak.

All dressed up with somewhere to go

This chair was sold to a lovely person at No. 44 Florence Road, Brighton part of the 2016 Artists Open Houses.

It’s rude to stare but…

I’ve oooh’d and ahhh’d over Mark Hearld‘s fabric designs for a while now – they are just beautiful. So when a client asked me to help her find a chair and said she wanted to use Mark Hearld’s Harvest Hare fabric, I was very excited!!

This is the chair we found… A really lovely shaped tub chair wearing rather tattered 1970’s William Morris fabric. I’m sure we had curtains a lot like this when I was growing up…

This was a recover rather than a total upholstery rebuild, so I added some lovely cotton wool felt for extra padding. The seat has been repaired from the underneath too.

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Behold

After much pattern matching, here she is, in all her corn-coloured glory..

  

Staring at hares

Our workshop is based at the Phoenix Brighton and have three huge windows through which passersby from the street often have a good look at our current projects. While I’ve been working on this chair, lots of people have stopped to peer in at the harvest hares! One chap even stopped to take a photo – cheeky!

Something special

Every now and then you get to work on a chair that is a bit special… I’m with my daughter on this one, she said: “I love the birds and the hares – I wish we could keep it.”  This is going to be a bedroom chair – what a lovely thing to wake up to every morning.. It would simply be rude not to stare.

If you’d like to learn more about Mark Hearld’s work and some of the other artists who are part of St Jude’s, you can visit their website.

 

Beauty and the beast

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

A few years ago some friends offered me a lovely old arm chair – it’s a 1930’s club chair that had been in Sarah’s family for years, she had been nursed on it as a baby and grown up with the chair in her family home. Here it is in the 1980’s with some William Morris fabric, a skirt and a very sweet dog. Oh and this is Sarah on her horse.

 

In more recent years, it spent some time in Sarah’s own living room with a new loose cover (made on the other side of the world but that’s another story). Really it needed reupholstering but this is a huge chair and it was going to be expensive! Knowing about my career change, Sarah gave it to me as a future project.

Beast

It is a beast of a thing, but I love it! It took two of us to lift it and we could barely get in through the front door and into the hall. Here’s what it looked like under the loose cover and stripped back to the frame..

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Chair growth..

So, I took it in to college as it provided me with lots of things I needed to practice – an independent sprung edge, wings and massive sprung arms. Working on it for just one day a week and doing the whole thing using traditional upholstery methods and materials – it took a long, long, long time, particularly those darn sprung arms! Here’s are some photos of its development…

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No-one puts baby in a corner

Actually they do and then they put her on a pallet at The Cass Upholstery end of year show 2015.

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Home sweet home

Since I’ve had ‘the beast’ back home, I’ve added some stripey cushions and matching 1930’s footstool. This is my favourite armchair to curl up in with a book. With footstool in position, it also provides the perfect spot for 40 winks on a Sunday afternoon…

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A little bit of give…

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I decided to name my fledgling business – not after the season of daffodils, baby lambs and cherry blossom – but actually after the humble metal spring.

Springs are marvelously utilitarian in their look and feel and yet still manage to be beautiful. They create the foundations of a seat and contribute to it’s comfort and stability.

A brief history of the spring…

Before springs – you’d have just sat on fillings like hair, feathers or rags – with not a lot of give!

The Victorians introduced the double cone spring and by 1850, many seats, backs and arms were being built with these springs to provide comfort. These springs look very similar today and are still used in traditional upholstery. These are my favourite. Beautiful!

Victorian bloke

Double cone spring

Double cone spring

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Lashed spring

 
spring unit

spring unit

The first half of the 20 century saw lots of development to the spring – mainly to increase speed of making mass produced furniture and reduce costs. For example you didn’t need to know how to position and lash springs when inserting a spring unit – just pop it in!

Tension springs are often seen in 50’s & 60’s furniture and were used a lot in Parker Knoll chairs. Serpentine springs are the sorts of springs used in a lot of modern furniture – you’ve probably got some inside your sofa!

tension spring

Tension springs

Serpentine springs

Serpentine springs

 

So next time you drop into a comfy armchair – give a thought to the springs hard at work beneath your derriere!