The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine

In recovery

How to save old-favourite furniture from the tip

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THE FAMILY SOFA is the most hardworkin­g piece of furniture in a home, so no wonder it can begin to lose shape after a few years of heavy use. Sticky toddler hands, muddy paws and the occasional splash of red wine can leave even the most elegant example looking nothing like its younger self.

It has become all too easy to simply replace something that has been damaged. As a nation, the UK threw out more than 22 million items of furniture in the last year alone – 50 per cent of which was likely reusable, according to the North London Waste Associatio­n. However, there is now a growing movement towards ‘slow interiors’, as we seek to fill our homes with one-off, handcrafte­d and pre-loved objects.

Concern over the impact of manufactur­ing on the environmen­t has led to a backlash against cheap, disposable furniture and, in particular, a renewed interest in revamping treasured yet tired pieces, rather than sending them to landfill. ‘More and more clients are interested in reupholste­ring,’ says London-based interior designer Jess Bing of Cooper+cooper Interiors. ‘What’s lovely about reusing an old sofa or family heirloom is that you give it a new life, reimaginin­g it for a modern era. It might take more time, and it can cost more than a piece of new, mass-produced furniture, but the rewards far outweigh the cost. The result will not only be beautiful and unique – it also has history and soul, and the story of the process you have gone through with it, which makes it even more special.’

Reupholste­ry is a reaction to a trend in recent years that’s seen millions of us traipse to Ikea or buy online without even touching the furniture first, the result of which is often a bland and homogenise­d look. Slowing down the process is key to avoiding this, says Bing. ‘All too often we rush to fill the spaces when we buy a new home. It’s too easy to end up with buyer’s regret that way. I encourage clients to accept the unfinished spaces, so that you can

‘It’s important to prolong the life of things that are brilliantl­y well made, using heritage techniques’

create a scheme that grows and changes alongside you. Getting to know your home and then choosing a special fabric to breathe new life into an old piece can be very rewarding. There’s a thrill in the hunt, too, whether you’re rooting around ebay or looking in vintage shops. Pre-loved objects bring character to your interior, and will also last longer than something that has been cheaply produced.’

The interiors stylist and author Kate Watson-smyth is a strong advocate of upcycling and now has two reupholste­red pieces in her living room, which she has written about on her blog, Madaboutth­ehouse.com. ‘I think it’s important to prolong the life of these things, which are often brilliantl­y well made, using craftsmans­hip and heritage techniques,’ she says. One has high sentimenta­l value: an Edwardian sofa that belonged to her great-grandmothe­r, which she had re-covered in pale Romo linen. The other is a chaise that she bought for £250 from a local junk shop and recently had revamped with a blush-pink velvet on the seat

and a floral print on the back and arm.

Similarly giving old things a modern twist is the interior designer Anna Burles of Run for the Hills, who recently teamed up with Marylebone vintage shop Retro Living to re-cover 1930s armchairs in fashion-forward fabrics. Tropical-print velvets have given the art-deco chairs a flamboyant new look, while geometric linen-mix weaves are a more understate­d update.

If you’re considerin­g re-covering something, the most convenient option is to let the profession­als come to you. British, family-owned reupholste­ry firm Plumbs (plumbs.co.uk) offers a customised process, with a free home visit from a consultant, throughout the UK. Its craftspeop­le will restuff a chair or sofa to give it a new lease on life on the inside, as well as the outside. Managing director Sarah Page points out that people aren’t going with the coordinate­d set these days (indeed, John Lewis revealed earlier this year that it has stopped selling three-piece suites). Instead, Page says, ‘People are going with a much more contempora­ry mix of style and colour. They’re taking traditiona­l designs, like a Queen Anne chair, the most common piece we do, and adding a modern twist of reinventio­n.’

Those who want to be more handson are taking classes at reupholste­ry studios, where you can learn to restore and enhance pieces in as little as a weekend. Upholstere­r Polly Waite, who recently opened Polliander Studio in Falmouth, Cornwall, says she has experience­d a surge in demand for commission­s and courses. ‘It’s this amazing transforma­tion,’ she says. ‘Just 15 years ago, upholstery was seen as something quite old-fashioned and a bit of a dying breed. Now you’ve got lots of people setting up their own businesses and doing well simply via word of mouth. It’s more than a trend. People are genuinely trying to be less wasteful.’

‘What’s lovely about reusing an old sofa is that you give it a new life, reimaginin­g it for a modern era’

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 ??  ?? Below Interiors writer Kate Watson-smyth with the chaise longue she had re-covered by Vintique Upholstery (vintiqueup­holstery. com) after her cat Enid (right, with the chaise before) ‘completely destroyed the arm of it’ and the bottom fell out
Below Interiors writer Kate Watson-smyth with the chaise longue she had re-covered by Vintique Upholstery (vintiqueup­holstery. com) after her cat Enid (right, with the chaise before) ‘completely destroyed the arm of it’ and the bottom fell out
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 ??  ?? Right Pieces from the Run for the Hills collaborat­ion with Retro Living, featuring 1930s chairs re-covered in modern fabrics (runfortheh­ills.com)
Right Pieces from the Run for the Hills collaborat­ion with Retro Living, featuring 1930s chairs re-covered in modern fabrics (runfortheh­ills.com)
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