springs

Super…what?

Suparest…

Suparest were an English furniture manufacturer back in the 1930’s. They made some interesting pieces usually with some form of bentwood in the design. I found one of their chairs and upholstered it for a friend a few years ago – see previous blog ‘Silk stockings & Bed Springs’.  Last summer, I came across another rather special one…

As you can see it was in a bit of a sad state, covered in grim red vinyl and the beautiful wood had been covered up with brown paint. However, its potential was singing to me so I bought it. You know I like a challenge…

Bit of background

This chair was made around 1930 and is a great example of Art Deco furniture.  Its two bow-shaped, beech timbers are steam bent all the way round to form the legs as well as the arms and backrest – a very clever design. The two sides are connected by crossbars and the upholstered spring unit is hung on the frame.

Back to the frame

I stripped back the upholstery and took the frame to be dipped to remove the brown paint.  Even naked it looked gorgeous, so we included it in our ‘Beneath The Surface’ exhibition to illustrate the beauty of the inside of chairs.

The rebuild

The original spring unit was beautiful but quite saggy so I sent it off to Wade Springs in Nottingham where they cleverly ‘reverse engineered’ me a new one! Then I set about rebuilding it. As 90% of the upholstery is attached to the metal spring unit, each layer has to be hand sewn into place… At this point I discovered that new spring units are quite sharp – youch!

Then onto the padding, first the coir, then a layer of rubberised hair which was sewn to the spring unit again (forgot to take a photo of that stage!) and then a layer of cotton wool felt.

The fabric

Any chair with an inverted curve needs a fabric that has some stretch to it, so a wool felt seemed like the perfect option. This fabric is a hard wearing wool felt by Camira that comes in great range of colours. I’ve used it to create a hand tailored cover – basically you cut and fit fabric together with pins, take it back off the chair frame, sew it together and then fit it back on. It may sound simple, but believe me its not…

This top fabric layer and the back all had to be sewn in place again.

And here she is all finished! An unusual Art Deco chair fully restored to her former glory in some smart contemporary fabric. This chair was sold to some lovely people this May at Emily Boo & Guests Open House as part of the Brighton Artists Open Houses 

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Take me to Vancouver Island

I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this beautiful old French nursing chair for a while now. The owner was moving back to Vancouver Island and wanted to have the chair reupholstered before she left. She loved the hessian and webs exposed at the back and wanted to try and retain as much of its character and history as possible.

The frame had some woodworm which was quickly treated and its cover was a beautiful raw silk that was very frayed. When I took off the cover you could see the original colour of the silk where it had been tucked inside the frame and had not been faded by exposure to sunlight. You could also see the threads of the raw silk… Beautiful!

The back upholstery was in fairly good nick so I just rebuilt the seat. These were the beautiful old Victorian springs inside which were a bit too distorted to reuse. I’ve kept them though as you know I’m partial to spring and these are beauties.

The back was left open so that the lovely webbing and hessian could be seen – all framed with deep pink velvet and piping. I chose a piece of the brightly coloured original silk to secure to the outside back.

I like to think of this chair eventually sitting in its new home in Vancouver Island. I’m quite jealous really – lucky chair!

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A little bit of give…

Double cone 420x130

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!