What goes into making one of these chairs?
56 hours of hand sewing
1.5 metres of fabric
2.5 kg of coir stuffing
0.5 metres of 4-gram-weight wool
1.7 metres of piping
65 hours total work
The idea for this chair came from a variety of sources, but primarily a fascination with what British Vogue has christened 'millennial pink.' I have always dreamed about having a pale pink cocktail chair as a bedroom chair, its soft femaninity making the room feel both cosy and stately. When I stumbled across the antique-rose velvet fabric, I took it as a sign.
The chair is a 1950's original cocktail chair, that I firstly stripped and sanded. I then tinted the wood and re-varnished it with three layers of varnish. The varnish needs to be dry between coats and once the last coat is applied, the chair needs to be left to dry completely for another couple of weeks.
Both the front stuffing and the back padding of the chair have a double layer of coir. Coir, is a more humane substitute for horse hair, made from dyed coconut fibres. This is what differentiates traditional upholstery from modern upholstery which uses foam. Building up layers of coconut fibre makes for a squishy but firm base, and this is then covered with a layer of wool, so that the surface beneath the fabric is smooth. This is by far the least glamorous part of upholstering a chair...
The button-back has become our signature and I love it as the ultimate in luxury with 22 hand sewn buttons added to the curved back of the chair.
I have the buttons specially made locally, and it can take a couple of days of solid work to get them all in to the back of the chair, as the stuffing has to be carefully layered around them in order to give them the look of being deeply sunk into the fabric. This is called deep-tufting.
Once the front and back are on, I then hand sewed a length of fabric around the seam, to hide the join of the two fabrics and to accentuate the shape of the back of the chair. This part takes a long time as some of the areas are very difficult to manoeuvre a needle in, without ripping the fabric.
And once the hand sewing is done, so is the chair! When a chair is finally complete there is a great sense of accomplishment. It takes hours and hours of concentration, hard work and plenty of problem solving as things rarely run smoothly.
Because there is a lot of hand-sewing and hand placement of buttons etc, the chairs will always have small quirks and differences, unlike something that has been made by a machine where quality control can ensure identical pieces every time.
As soon as this chair was finished, it was time to photograph it. You can read more about what we got up to on our photo shoot, here.