utility furniture

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….


Silk stockings and old bed springs

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!

Utility Furniture

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…