Artisanal Upholstery: Gilded Antique French Settee and Chair in the Traditional Manner

DSC_2935

I had these antique pieces in their run-down state for a couple of years. When I acquired them, I knew they were the kind of thing that would not settle for ordinary. When they came to me, they looked like this:DSC_1069

You really couldn’t sit on the settee because the springs were falling out of the bottom, but the seller had stripped the old fabric off and put this muslin on, I think to make them more attractive. She needn’t have done that; it was pretty easy to see their potential no matter what. The gilding on these pieces was untouchable–shiny in many places, worn, dull in spots, greenish in others, glazed in some crevices, missing in some areas–and tells a story that no one will ever hear. They are very old, and obviously hand-carved, in mahogany. They needed a special fabric, and when I saw the Designers Guild Mattiazzo, there was no question about their future.

I don’t use foam when I upholster antique pieces. I have invested in learning and practicing the traditional ways of upholstering that include hand-tied coil springs, excelsior foundation, burlap, stitching the integrated sculpted edge roll for structure, and stuffing with horsehair and cotton. It’s labor intensive and expensive, but beautiful and long-lasting. When I’m done, it feels like I have created a piece of art, not just furniture. I call it “artisanal upholstery”.

Come into my studio! Here are a few process shots to show just how intricately constructed the guts are in these pieces:

IMG_0853
Fitting the muslin cover to hold in the bridled horsehair. After that, several layers of cotton go on, under the finish fabric cover. You can see how many previous layers of upholstery had been applied by the number of tack holes left behind!

 

IMG_1117
Wood wool (excelsior), gathered up and bridled into an approximate foundation shape on top of the burlap covered hand-tied coil springs.
IMG_1123
Wood wool (excelsior), covered with burlap and tacked down, ready to stitch into shape.
IMG_1131
Wood wool under the burlap, stitched with linen twine into an edge roll. The stitches go through the wood wool and keep the stuffing rigid all around, so the seat won’t sag.
IMG_1136
Lots of hairy horsehair to make a comfy seat when compressed under the cover.
IMG_0886
As with the chair, the settee got eight-way hand-tied coil springs.
IMG_1195
On the inside backs, there’s fluffy horsehair under the lovely designer fabric, covered to keep it pristine while the seat gets built. The seat front is not going to sag on my watch! All those stitches keep it firm for the second stuffing of horsehair.

And, voila! Many steps later, we have the finished product!

DSC_2876
French Antique Gilded Settee in Designers Guild Mattiazzo
DSC_2884
The back of this unique settee is wrapped in a lush cobalt blue velvet with double welt all around. Makes for a cohesive look.
Version 2
French antique gilded chair, covered in lush cobalt velvet, with double welt.

 

DSC_2909
Designers Guild Mattiazzo is applied to the back after sagless burlap and a layer of cotton. Double welt all around completes the look.

Here they are together, comparing notes on how far each one has come over the last 100 or more years. We’ll never know where they started, but they aren’t planning to quit anytime soon!

DSC_2935
Antique French Carved Mahogany Gilded Settee and Chair. I can see them in an art gallery or sprinkled in with some modern pieces in a collector’s home.

These are for sale. Check them out in my Etsy shop. You can also contact me directly.

Advertisements

Chinoiserie Style: Blue and Gold Vintage Credenza

My favorite adjectives in decorating happen to be: colorful, bright, and gilded. I have been noticing a lot of Chinoiserie style pieces popping up on the design sites and blogs I read. These pieces tend to fit the adjectives I prefer, so I was excited to paint this latest piece with color, brightness and gold!

I got this piece a long time ago, and it was in such good condition that all it needed was color. See? Dull brown wood does not go with anything.

before

But I couldn’t decide which color until recently. General Finishes, smart marketers that they are, gifted me some lovely Corinth Blue Milk Paint, so from that the Chinoiserie style credenza was born. Of course, I had to adorn it with something unique, like hand-painted abstract panels, gilded accents, and new, polished brass hardware. So, now I have this:

Deep Bright Blue Green Credenza Buffet Media Cabinet

Deep Bright Blue Green Credenza Buffet Media Cabinet2

Deep Bright Blue Green Credenza Buffet Media Cabinet4

For the abstract panels, I used deep hot pink (looks red), mint, green, light blue, and pink. The legs and borders are gold oil paint. I think the piece now has a lot of personality! It even has a finished paneled and painted back so that it would not have to be used against a wall.

This sweet piece is in my Etsy shop.
I’m on facebook, of course.

Fortuitous Find: the French Baroque Sofa

I have gotten so much braver since beginning my furniture business. I have begun considering purchases that I would not have before. In fact, I would have thought myself crazy for even considering this recent purchase I am going to tell you about.

For some reason, French furniture never appealed to me until recently. All those curves and plump parts looked a little too girly for me. Then, I came across a French serving cart in a thrift store that was a great price, but needed a makeover. I was not at all sure that I could get into it, but I decided to have fun with it, and it came out great. I’ll show you that in another post.

So, after that, I found a gorgeous French bombe-style dresser that needs a redo but I haven’t gotten to yet. I’m savoring it for a color scheme that I can’t decide on. And then one day, I was out yard sale shopping and came across a jaw-dropping piece:

french sofa4

Okay, yes, it needed work. But it was amazing. It used to be gilded and shiny! Parts of it still were! It was old! Shiny! Old! It had burlap on it! Old burlap! Foreign writing! Hay hanging out! How much cooler could it get?? I took photos and chatted with the seller. Turns out she found it in Tennessee and brought it back to sell in the big city. She took the fabric off because it was horrible, which was a good move. It was very sturdy, and heavy. I drooled, imagined, stroked it, and left.

I had been on my way to rearrange my pieces at the vintage market, so I showed the photo to the manager there. She affirmed my attraction to the amazing sofa. I thought about it all afternoon. I had hoped that it wouldn’t be there when I got back because I really wasn’t at all sure of what to do with it. But I had to have it. I didn’t know if I would attempt to reupholster it, have it done professionally, or re-sell it. But I had to have it. Obviously, it was still there, and meant for me!

I made a deal with the seller, brought it home, and Mr. City Girl nearly had a cow. He thought I had gone completely nuts. But that’s why he has the 9 to 5, right? I took it over to the market, and most of the vendors I asked there had an opinion. Interestingly, it was split down gender lines: Men who thought it was cool: Zero. Women who thought it was cool: All. Validated.

I’m no forensic scientist, but there were some clues as to its history. A friend had the Arabic writing translated. It said, “Made in Syria” along with the name of the company, which no longer exists, and their phone number. It was obviously old, with old school furniture upholstery methods, like hay for padding. So it may be pre-1943, since France occupied Syria from 1920 until 1943, and may have had some influence over the styles in that country at that time.

frenchsofa5

frenchsofa7

french sofa3

Since I didn’t have any room for the huge piece at my house and workshop, I put a price on it for the market. I really didn’t expect to sell it, nor did I really want to, but I thought I could think about it for a while safely. Within four hours of opening that day, a couple fell head over heels just like I did, and couldn’t leave it there. I was happy to have them take it home and do something wonderful with it. At least I had it for a little while!

Leave me a comment? I appreciate comments and generally respond by email.
Check out my Etsy shop for some nice items.
I also have furniture adventures on facebook.