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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chair Love?

It's a bit of an ambiguous title, I'll admit. I don't have a fetish for inanimate objects, at least not in the same way that lady from San Fran who married the Eiffel Tower does, but I do have a special place in my heart reserved for chairs.

Why I love chairs

Beauty and function.
I just find them aesthetically pleasing. And you can sit on them. The basic rule for any design is “Form follows function.” If an object has to perform a certain function, its design must support that function. With chairs however, the sky's the limit.

Each chair could tell a story, from a plastic chair in a school classroom to a King's throne. Chairs hold history, you can track time through their design. One of the most exciting things about carefully stripping a chair down to its frame is to find what lies underneath, whether it's the original fabric, the type of stuffing used, or carvings on the wood frame, all hidden by the new upholstery. It's a form of archaeology.

Why I want to upholster them

When I moved to the United States, I arrived with only a backpack of clothes. When I moved into my first apartment, I had no furniture and barely any funds to buy anything new. A colleague at work told me I could have her old couch and a chair that she no longer used. The chair was an old Danish modern wooden chair, the cushions were falling apart and covered in cat hair, but the frame was solid. I removed the cushions and fell in love. I've dragged that chair frame around with me for twelve years, with every intention to do something fabulous with it. It's currently in storage, but watch this space...

That chair, and subsequent chairs I've gotten my hands on, have all sparked my interest in upcycling old furniture. I've always baulked at spending a lot of money on... well, anything, but in this throw-away culture, how wonderful is it to be able to reinvent something you already have? Freshen it up, restore it, upcycle it, whatever floats your boat. The pictures below are the before and after shots of a Victorian Balloon Back chair I upholstered at Tresithick last year. Transforming that chair restored my soul. But that's a story for another time.



My Grandfathers.
Both my paternal and maternal Grandfathers were craftsmen.

Grandad Lewis, now retired, was a furniture designer and maker for a traditional English cabinet makers called R E H Kennedy. He travelled the world with his designs, one of which, a reproduction crib, is now a part of Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Massachusetts, USA.

Grandad Pearce, now deceased, owned a wrought iron works, based in the village of Bredfield, in Suffolk. You can see one of his pieces in the village here. His work also went all over the world, and he was commissioned on several occasions by the Royal Family.

I'm really proud of them. Both were true artisans of their generation, and I would like to carry on that tradition.

Me with Grandad Pearce
Grandad Lewis (standing), on the HMS Mauritius during WWII.


  1. Never mind a "job." Stick with the chairs. You got this.

  2. Is your blog supposed to make me cry? I miss you.... you ex-expat....