Why broken is beautiful

May 9, 2020

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The ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi is based on the belief that ‘broken is beautiful’. Celebrating flaws and imperfections, it’s a technique where damaged objects are put back together using precious metal lacquers. The repaired object is then displayed with pride – a symbol that its unique history is something to be admired and not disguised.

I love this philosophy, and it’s something that I come across in my workshop all the time. For me, the character of a piece of furniture or almost any possession around your home is all in its history. I’m never daunted by damage – there is always a way back for anything, no matter how ruined it may appear on first sight. Quite often people will say to me, “I didn’t realise my sofa/chair/chaise longue would be fixable.” My answer is, it always is.

Chris and Lindzi, who are regular clients of mine, both have a brilliant eye for style and a talent for picking up great antique furniture, ripe for re-invention. They had spotted this 1920s bed online and had it delivered to me via the dealer they sourced it from. Destined for their daughter Misty’s bedroom, it was utterly riddled with signs of wear and tear. But – oh – it was SO pretty and had stacks of potential.

Old 1920's bed in need of reupholstering

Getting down to business

Every joint had something wrong with it and the fabric was stained, dirty and in a total state. The faded, painted frame had scuffs and knocks wherever you looked, but I prayed the couple didn’t want to repaint it. To me, the chips just added to its charm. Thankfully they agreed, and so I set to work.

I cleaned up the frame and a new fixing system was added to the footboard. With an upgraded slat system, the frame would be as good as – better in fact – new.

One of the first rules of upholstery is that you never cover over old fabric. Instead, you strip off what’s there and start all over again. So, when I tore off the top fabric and saw that the original duck egg fabric awaited me underneath, instead of groaning, I was pleasantly surprised – the original fabric was intact underneath. A riot of florals, all roses and ribbons in delicate patterns of pinks and greens – it was an unexpected treat to see what it had looked like all those years ago.

Original 1920's bed fabric ready for reupholstering

“I’m never daunted by damage – there is always a way back for anything, no matter how ruined it may appear at first sight.”

Despite having had no idea and never seen what the bed was formerly covered in, Lindzi had coincidentally chosen something very similar for the revamp. Sourced from Home Décor, the Studio G Lolita Summer linen is a watercolour vision of traditional cottage garden flowers. A perfect match for the pretty bed, and also an uncanny reinterpretation of what it looked like in its former life.

Studio G Lolita Summer linen fabric on reupholstered 1920's bed

A surprising history

And then – more surprises. The bed had an even more interesting history than we could have imagined. A tag tucked away under the frame, showed that this piece of furniture had travelled all the way from New York where it had been made in 1927!

1920s bed tag

It’s always lucky to discover clues that help you piece together the puzzle of your newly acquired piece of furniture. Unless it’s an heirloom that has been handed down through a family, you can be left wondering about its exact origins. How lovely to get this rare insight.

And so, finally, this antique bed – well-travelled and careworn but as cute as can be, got sent off to its new home, pride of place in Chris and Lindzi’s daughter’s bedroom. Another commission which captures the essence of Kintsugi to a tee.

Reupholstered 1920's bed in Studio G Lolita Summer linen in child's bedroom

Reupholstered 1920's bed in Studio G Lolita Summer linen with teddy's on top Reupholstered 1920's bed in Studio G Lolita Summer linen

To anyone who has something in their house they think is battered or broken, I urge you to please look again. Let me help you celebrate its imperfections because I promise, with some TLC, that forgotten piece of furniture can have a whole new lease of life and be celebrated for all its flaws and imperfections.

To discuss a project and arrange a quote, get in touch with me by filling in the online contact form. Alternatively, you can email me directly at sharon@vintiqueupholstery.com or call me on 07764 182 783.

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