Now more than ever people’s stories and connections matter. I’m very privileged that I get to hear them and be part of them. I am a valuing those connections more than ever right now.
There are all kinds of reasons why people embark upon an upholstery project. It can be prompted by a house move, an urge to redecorate, a family milestone or a significant life event. What’s almost always guaranteed is that there will be some emotional attachment to an item. And there’s always a story that goes alongside it.
In fact, re-upholstering a treasured piece of furniture can be a hugely uplifting process. Whether it’s honouring a memory or celebrating a fragment of family history, I feel so privileged to get an insight into all the tales a tatty old chair can tell. This connection was a particularly special one…
Fulfilling a final wish
Janette contacted me with a particularly poignant mission. Her husband had suddenly passed away and on his to-do list for a few years had been to get their sofa and two armchairs reupholstered. Janette previously had never really understood why he wanted to keep the old sofa and chairs, and had wanted to buy new, but now she was determined to fulfil his wishes, and his passing had given the project so much more urgency and meaning.”
To say this commission was special is an understatement and the conversations we had were emotional but filled with memories and laughter. I felt the rawness of her grief, but I also felt the happiness in every memory she shared with me.
With a 20-year history behind them, the sofa and chairs held some really fond memories. They were a place where Janette’s husband had read stories to their children and played music. No wonder she wanted to do them justice.
Janette felt it was important the set worked together, but she didn’t want them to necessarily look the same, and getting the right fabric was key – we agreed that her choice should somehow reflect her late husband. His favourite colour was green, so this needed to feature somehow.
Finding the perfect fabric
Together, and with some collaboration from Janette’s friends and family, we came up with a fabric from the Abraham Moon & Sons range. During the 1800s this cloth mill supplied fabric throughout Leeds. In later times it was responsible for manufacturing materials for global fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Paul Smith. All production processes are undertaken at their mill in Yorkshire from dyeing and blending the raw wool fibres, spinning the mélange yarns, warping, weaving, and then finishing the fabrics.
These days, the company is still a main supplier of apparel fabrics but also has some of the most incredibly brilliant British wool tweeds and checks I’ve come across for upholstery. After some deliberation, we chose a particularly handsome grey wool as the basis for the sofa and chairs. And then – a feature fabric to tie the three chairs together. For this, we selected a smart check on a grey wool base shot through with navy, cream, plum and most importantly green, again from the Abraham Moon & Sons collection.
“Almost like a decorating domino effect Janette was enthused with a desire to rethink her home and give it a new lease of life.”
We’d achieved our mission to get green into the colour palette but we also decided to cover a contrasting selection of the scatter cushions in lime. It perfectly linked the three pieces and also paid tribute to Janette’s husband’s favourite colour.
This was a massively optimistic project. Rather than being a process shrouded in sad memories, it was uplifting. Janette found that by tackling this project it spurred her on to start on more. Almost like a decorating domino effect she was enthused with a desire to rethink her home and give it a new lease of life.
Bringing new meaning
Her joy when she saw the items again was emotional to say the least, we all shed a few tears. In fact, her words were that while the sofa and chairs still had so much meaning, they felt brand new, and she now totally understood why re-upholstering the sofa and chairs was so important to her husband and exactly the right thing to do. That’s just one of the many things that I love about my job. To be able to bring new purpose to something so precious is a real gift that I can give.