New Project: Phil’s Bar Stools



Sitting with Schumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon

Reupholstery-and-collage-with-Chiang-Mai-Dragon-fabricSchumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon is one of the best-loved fabrics and definitely a personal favourite. Lisa Jo at Princess Perfect was kind enough to give me a remnant and I’m going to use it on the inside back of a small wing chair I’m currently reupholstering.  My next task is to select a coordinating fabric for the rest of the chair.  Using Photoshop Elements 6.0, I’ve created a collage to showcase a few of the fabrics in the running.  They’re displayed next to my wing chair over which I’ve draped the Chiang Mai Dragon remnant (Alabaster colourway).  According to the Schumacher website: “Chiang Mai Dragon was originally derived from an exuberant 1920’s Art Deco era block print.”  Here’s a description of the other fabric contenders:

    • Option 1: In fashion and decor, mixing patterns is de rigueur.   In this case; however, I think a solid is needed directly adjacent to such a wildly colourful print.  Still, I just had to show off the perfectly matching hues in Joanne/JF Fabrics’ Roxbury, a cotton velvet.  Maybe I can use it for a throw pillow instead?
    • Option 2: Is grey still the new black?  Threadcount’s solid cotton velvet  really sets off the multicoloured print.  The thing is, I already have a chair reupholstered in this luxe fabric. On to Option 3.
    • Option 3: A black/brown weave from Joanne/JF Fabrics’ Winning Weaves .  At 75,000 Double Rubs, this has astronomical durability, and it’s washable, too.  I think it picks up the outlines in the Dragon print and it won’t show the dirt (considering the chair will be shared by 2 humans and 3 fur kids!)  I also like the weave texture next to the linen texture of the print – they’re relatable.
    • Option 4: Joanne/JF Fabrics’ Capri in a vibrant blue.  It really pops, but I think it’s a bit too much and may take away from our dragon’s roar.
    • Option 5: I just had to include this licorice red because it picked up the reds in our print so well.  It’s Joanne/JF Fabric’s Houdini – a faux leather that I’m hoping I’ll get to use on another project.

Which fabric will I choose?  I have no idea.  Stay tuned for the reveal in days to come.

Julie 🙂

Is it worth re-upholstering?

If you or a family member has a chair or sofa that you’d like to have reupholstered, read on. Perhaps the fabric is worn, dated, or it just doesn’t work with your decor. Perhaps, the chair wobbles, or the seat stuffings are deflated. Your first step is to ascertain whether your furniture piece has sufficient potential to be re-upholstered. Yes, reupholstery is an investment. You could probably purchase a replacement piece for the same price, but as I’ll explain in this blog: new is not better. Let’s start with reasons why people re-upholster:

  • You like the furniture and can’t replace it. I’ve had customers who have re-upholstered their favourite Ikea chair.  If you really love the piece, then re-upholster it rather than give it up.
  • The furniture has sentimental value.  It may be your Grandmother’s chair or a footstool made by an uncle.  These are irreplaceable, one of a kind, family keepsakes.  Keep in mind that you CAN make style changes to update a piece.  A knowledgeable upholsterer can explain your options.
  • If the furniture has any of the properties mentioned on the left-hand side of the chart below, these are telltale signs that the furniture is of superior quality and definitely worth keeping, selling, passing along to someone who will appreciate it, or donating it to your favourite second-hand shop or Sally Ann.

Quality Furniture –
Definitely Re-upholster it!

Substandard Furniture –
Think Twice

Hardwood frame, free of knots

Soft wood / plywood / press or particle board / MDF

Glued & dowelled joints

Joints stapled, fast-drying epoxy

Hand-tied coil springs (still done by upholsterers) or heavy-gauge sinuous springs spaced close together

Lightweight sinuous springs, and less of them per seat

Superior high-density foam or horsehair padding

Low density foam, looks nice at first, but breaks down quickly

Holds value as an antique or collectible

Little or no long-term value

Legs are built into the frame

Legs are separate from frame and  screwed in

Made in North America, South America or Europe

Shipped from China

Welcome to Bespoke Life: the Upholstery Blog

Welcome to Bespoke Life: the upholstery blog of Julie James!

I LOVE upholstery, but I don’t think it gets the respect it’s due.  In order to highlight the art and benefits of the crafts of upholstery and reupholstery, I’ve decided to write this blog. I hope you find this blog interesting and educational; but most of all that you gain new respect for the kingpin of interior design, creature comfort, and craftsmanship – that’s what upholstery is, after all.

My story (in brief):

Most of my career has been spent in IT, in a sales and marketing role. I left a lucrative job at Microsoft Canada (to everyone’s amazement and consternation) to embark on a new career in the decorative arts to pursue my passion. In order to learn the craft of upholstery, it meant starting with the experience of a lifetime: going to England for training (since upholstery training is no longer available in Canada.) Off I went, (quite happily) for an 8 week intensive course in traditional English upholstery in Kendal, England (the Lake District). I studied 6 days a week to complete the practical requirements at Kendal School of Upholstery.  I had completed the academic qualifications – a research project on 20th Century furniture in advance of the trip.  At the end of my sojourn, I was accredited by the AMUSF (the Association of Master Upholsterers & Soft Furnishers of the UK) with a Level 2 upholstery certificate. (For those so inclined, you can read more about my adventures in Kendal on my personal blog here, here, and here.)

I returned home to Toronto, Canada and found work at a series of upholstery shops before starting my own fledgling business. I still have a lot to learn about upholstery, design, furniture, fabric and materials; but I have begun this blog to document this learning and to share the art.

And that’s where you come in.  Please share your comments, questions and upholstery resources.  Enjoy!

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