Gran’s chair gets new lease of life

Re­uphol­ster­ing is back, with women at the fore­front writes Katie New­ton.

Taranaki Daily News - - Homed -

If you’ve in­her­ited gran’s spe­cial arm­chair and aren’t sure how to make it work in a mod­ern home, re­uphol­ster­ing it will re­sult in a truly unique and spe­cial piece of fur­ni­ture.

Uphol­sterer and fab­ric im­porter Asha Pay­ton of Lit­tle & Fox, has no­ticed an up­surge in in­ter­est from peo­ple want­ing to restore heir­looms and vin­tage finds. ‘‘It used to be that peo­ple were all about buy­ing new but now there’s a move to restore some­thing older and have a be­spoke piece,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s about liv­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and re­con­nect­ing with the past, and also hav­ing re­ally spe­cial things in your home that make you tin­gle when you look at them.’’

Pay­ton has started of­fer­ing up­hol­stery night classes at her Napier work­shop and al­ready has a wait­ing list of more than 50 peo­ple want­ing to learn. ‘‘I’m try­ing to work out a way to keep up with de­mand!’’ she says. Lit­tle & Fox has clients from Auck­land to In­ver­cargill and has two other up­hol­ster­ers on the team.

Self-taught uphol­sterer Kristina We­ston of Red Couch in New Ply­mouth says there has been a rev­o­lu­tion in the art of up­hol­stery, which used to be a trade dom­i­nated by men. ‘‘Now there’s lots of women in­volved who don’t just en­joy the phys­i­cal na­ture of the job, but have knowl­edge of fab­rics, styling and how a piece of fur­ni­ture works in a room,’’ she says.

Vel­vet is one of the most pop­u­lar fab­rics to re­uphol­ster with, thanks to the pop­u­lar­ity of art deco and mid-cen­tury de­sign, and the fab­ric’s prac­ti­cal­ity. Most vel­vet con­tains polyester, so it’s hard wear­ing and can be wiped clean, but it also has a luxe look. Flo­rals, stripes and jewel colours are other bold choices, with the baroque de­signs of House of Hack­ney and Ti­morous Beast­ies from the UK par­tic­u­lar favourites of Pay­ton’s.

Both Pay­ton and We­ston take their clients through the whole process to choose fab­ric, pip­ing, but­tons and wood fin­ish, and learn about the his­tory of each piece. Old fur­ni­ture tends to be made of qual­ity hard­wood and be in­ner­sprung so the qual­ity is su­pe­rior to buy­ing new.

It’s not a cheap process how­ever, with a stan­dard arm­chair restora­tion from Lit­tle & Fox cost­ing around $550, with fab­ric and pip­ing ex­tra. But Pay­ton says: ‘‘You’ll end up with some­thing that will re­ally make your room.’’

Pay­ton learnt the art her­self sev­eral years ago when she ap­proached an uphol­sterer named Beau Hol­ly­man to restore some old fur­ni­ture. She ended up spend­ing four years learn­ing from him. Af­ter Hol­ly­man died she in­her­ited his equip­ment, and now keeps his legacy alive through her work.

‘‘Once you’ve got the bug for up­hol­ster­ing, you’ve got the bug,’’ says Pay­ton. ‘‘You’ll never look at a piece of fur­ni­ture the same way again.’’

PHOTOS: FLORENCE CHARVIN

Re­uphol­ster­ing fur­ni­ture is not cheap, but you’ll end up with a stand­out piece.

Flo­rals, vel­vet, jewel colours and bold pat­terns at Lit­tle & Fox.

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