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Its All in the Detail

Reinvent your much loved furniture; a few reasons why you should choose to invest in your existing pieces over 'disposable' trends


Maybe you are just starting out making your first home, or maybe you are looking to refresh your existing home. The temptations of the High Street and Internet offer so many opportunities for ways to achieve the look you crave, but is that always the best way?

Manufacturing practices have had to change and adapt to keep up with the current demand for affordable options for new furniture and whilst this is a good thing, sometimes in that quest they have not been able to provide the durable quality of traditionally made pieces. Upholstered items are often created with foam over chipboard, and whilst they look good when you buy them they can let you down in the not too distant future. The craftsmen that created upholstered goods of the past are often seen as too expensive for everybody’s pocket, but maybe there is another way.

I have been asked a few times recently to look at dining chairs or armchair as the upholstery has had its time. This can be a great way to reinvent the much-loved furniture that you know works in your home and give it a new lease of life. During the refurbishment of a dining chair for example, the joints can be overlooked to ensure the frame is reinforced if necessary to make it good as new and from there you have a plethora of wonderful fabrics to choose from to really make them your own, rather than the small selection that you usually get in a furniture store or online.

Ask for guidance as to which fabrics are recommended for upholstery, from there if you look in the back of a fabric book you should see the upholstery icon & there may also be a Martindale or Wysenbeek count. Martindale & Wysenbeek tests are industry tests to determine the durability of a fabric, the higher the count the more durable it should be – don’t be mislead, this does not mean that it will not stain, but it will last. Anything under 30,000 should be avoided for upholstery unless it was intended as more of a decorative piece & not to be used often, for a dining chair, I would tend to look for a count in excess of 50,000 & you shall often find velvets & the like with counts in excess of 100,000.

Now before you set off to get it reupholstered straight away, think a little more. Is the wood colour right for your home or would you prefer it darker or possibly painted to tie in with the shabby chic dresser or kitchen units you have just bought (make sure the paint finish is durable for the purpose & the wood has been prepared properly before using). You could also ask the upholsterer to add piping if you would like more definition to the shape – this could also be done in a contrast colour or a leather if you would like. Maybe that is not for you, but how about removing the piping & using furniture pins instead – these could be in brass or nickel or chrome or black. Fringing or braid could be added for extra wow & the chair could be made to look completely different by adding a skirt beneath the seat to take the upholstered look right to the floor. To go just that one step further, a ring or drawer pull could possibly be fitted to the back (this will depend on the frame as it need to fix to something solid!)

So you are starting to see where I am going. The same principles apply not just to the upholstered items, dining table, chests of drawers, wardrobes can all benefit from the same type of make over. Adding colour or fabric to the interior can add an accent to the room and that added level of thought. I have an old wardrobe that I converted as a drinks cabinet in my dining room – not that I am a massive drinker, but whenever people came to my home I found I was always in the kitchen mixing drinks and my guests were elsewhere – to me, it made sense. In this instance you could add mirror to the interior, possibly with glass shelves and lighting. It’s all about how you want to live and how you want that life to feel. It doesn’t need to cost a lot, but when you are starting with something that you like, that works and is good quality, it can often be far more efficient to revisit that than to start again with something that is what you can afford, but is not made as well.

I appreciate that having something new has its own excitement, but having a make over of something we are familiar with certainly has its place. Maybe from here, if you are looking for furniture, you shall start to look a little more, after all, it’s all in the detail.


For advice, inspiration or a full Interior Design service, get in touch or visit our studio at

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