A CUSH­ION JOB

Lon­don-based Aiveen Daly is part of a new world or­der in tex­tiles: the spe­cial­ist up­hol­sterer.

Robb Report (Malaysia) - - Ideal Homes & Art - Fe­bru­ary – 2017 By JOSH SIMS

“Of­ten we have to come up with a new tech­nique to bring a client’s idea to life.”

Up­hol­stery is not a word Aiveen Daly ( www. aiveen­daly. com) likes very much. “I wish it was called some­thing else,” she says. “It’s as­so­ci­ated with fuddy- dud­di­ness. It wasn’t al­ways the way - think of those grand canopied four-poster beds or even of lined coffins. The work was amaz­ing.”

Daly leads the way in the re­vival, and ad­vance­ment, of the tech­niques that made it so - in the cre­ation of a craft form she has, to date, called sim­ply ‘spe­cial­ist up­hol­stery’. This is the ap­pli­ca­tion of mul­ti­ple crafts to make a piece of fur­ni­ture con­sid­er­ably more than its form. One piece might re­quire the work of seven craft ex­perts.

“Of­ten we have to come up with a new tech­nique to bring a client’s idea to life,” says Daly, who says she’s in­spired by fash­ion, and keeps a keen eye on the cou­ture shows for ma­te­ri­als and pro­duc­tion meth­ods she might bor­row. “We have to learn to do some­thing for one job and then move on. But it’s what I wanted. When I was study­ing up­hol­stery, the in­dus­try seemed to be rather con­ser­va­tive. And just putting a

One piece might re­quire the work of seven craft ex­perts.

Laura Ash­ley fab­ric on a chair didn’t seem so ex­cit­ing. I won­dered why some­thing more ex­cit­ing couldn’t be done with it be­fore it went on the piece.”

That is what Daly does. And then some. Re­cent pieces have in­cluded a chair with finely pleated silk, cut with a scalpel and then fit­ted into leather pan­els. While Daly’s style may seem elab­o­rate - a Gucci-in­spired Par­adise Chair, for ex­am­ple, sees pleated gloss satin stitched on the bias with a swal­low mo­tif beaded and em­broi­dered by hand us­ing black, bronze and gold beads - sub­tlety is pos­si­ble.

“The work can be very sleek and geo­met­ric too. It doesn’t have to be fussy,” laughs Daly. “Spe­cial­ist up­hol­stery can cater to all tastes. We do a lot of work for men, for in­stance, and typ­i­cally they don’t want any­thing too fancy, though they still want the ex­pres­sive­ness that the up­hol­stery can bring, the more tex­tu­ral qual­i­ties.”

Cer­tainly this 21st-century ap­proach to up­hol­stery is on the rise. There is also the work of, for ex­am­ple, Los An­ge­les-based Kelly Wearstler ( www.kel­ly­wearstler.com). Her new Souf­fle col­lec­tion sees con­tem­po­rary arm­chairs, set­tees and beds cov­ered with a sin­gle panel of in­tri­cately pleated leather.

Or of Lon­don-based He­len Amy Mur­ray ( www.he­le­namy­mur­ray.com), who uses it to cre­ate three-di­men­sional wall pan­els, such as the one re­cently in­stalled in Longchamp’s Paris flag­ship. “Up­hol­stery isn’t sim­ply about cov­er­ing chairs,” Mur­ray notes. “It can be about mak­ing the ma­te­ri­als used for cov­er­ing fur­ni­ture as 3D as the fur­ni­ture, for ex­am­ple.” She works by sculpt­ing felt, suede, leather, ar­ti­fi­cial leathers and other ma­te­ri­als, lay­er­ing them, pre­ci­sion cut­ting and pad­ding them to cre­ate a re­lief ef­fect - “the ef­fect you’d usu­ally find in hard ma­te­ri­als,” she ex­plains. And that’s an ef­fect that can be ap­plied any­where - she has been com­mis­sioned to fin­ish en­tire rooms in it: walls, ceil­ings, but, she adds, not the floor. There are, of course, lim­i­ta­tions as to how the work of Daly or Mur­ray might be ap­plied to a piece of fur­ni­ture.

“Up­hol­stery isn’t sim­ply about cov­er­ing chairs.”

Daly stresses that, for all of the ef­fects achiev­able by spe­cial­ist up­hol­stery, a chair still has to func­tion as a chair. It’s why, while Mur­ray has done fully sculpted chairs, more typ­i­cally the work is con­fined to back pan­els, “turn­ing it into a piece of art you can still sit on”, she sug­gests.

Clients typ­i­cally re­quest the ef­fect to fo­cus around nat­u­ral, or­ganic mo­tifs - leaves, birds, an­i­mals - ei­ther to cre­ate a stand­out fea­ture piece in a room or to com­ple­ment a wider scheme. In­deed, such is the new­ness of spe­cial­ist up­hol­stery that it seems clients are of­ten ahead of the wider fur­ni­ture in­dus­try - el­e­ments of which are per­haps stuck in that old fuddy-dud­di­ness Daly wants to leave be­hind.

“Some­times a client has al­ready cho­sen a piece of be­spoke fur­ni­ture and we can work with the man­u­fac­turer to up­hol­ster it in a par­tic­u­lar way,” says Mur­ray. “But not all com­pa­nies are so open to that. On one oc­ca­sion the client had to or­der their fur­ni­ture made with the cheap­est pos­si­ble ma­te­rial, which we then took off and re­placed.” The re­sult, how­ever, was worth it. ≠

This and fac­ing pages: Aiveen Daly is renowned for her work, which al­ludes to Sav­ile Row tai­lor­ing.

This stun­ning Chevron chair fea­tures a solid hard­wood frame made in Eng­land and was metic­u­lously up­hol­stered by hand in Daly’s Lon­don studio. Be­low: Daly’s Pe­ga­sus cush­ion is beaded and em­broi­dered en­tirely by hand.

The body of Daly’s Con­certina bench has smooth piped up­hol­stery with soft leather at the base which has been twisted and woven.

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