Category Archives: Upholstery

Tired Feet

A little while ago, I posted a bit about a chair I built. One thing that was lacking about that chair was an ottoman. I actually built the frame of it a long time ago, and was convinced to let someone else finish it. now 2 or 3 years later, I got tired of waiting.

I finally finished turning and carving the legs, I finally decided that given the patchwork nature of the original upholstery job, it would be kind of fun to mismatch the legs.

Ottoman Legs

On top, I decided that I would upholster this in a slightly less sprung way than the chair. The chair has a sprung deck, on top of which sits a sprung cushion, (see below.)

The hassock, by contrast, is getting a marshall unit, (pre-wrapped spring set,) spring hassockdirectly onto the webbing, then surrounded by felt, foam and cotton batting.

Felted Spring foamed hassockso far I’m up to the foam rubber. the next step is going to be to make a light weight calico bag for the cushion top that will encase the foam and a couple of layers of cotton batting so that I don’t have to worry about abrading the foam or messing anything up with the outer fabrics.

btw, here’s a basic rule of thumb about upholstery. it basically breaks down into a few simple steps. start with an uncomfortable frame. then add progressively less uncomfortable layers of padding wrapped in progressively finer fabrics until you’re done.  so long as every layer is pretty secure before you go on to the next layer, the rules are pretty loose… sounds tongue-in-cheek, but it’s pretty much how it’s done. For example:

first the frame:

for future reference, use thicker beams around the spring box at the bottom. the webbing tension is considerable.

then webbing and springs:

framed and webbed

then burlap/felt:

burlap and felt layers

then nice cloth:

cleaned up deck

then nicer cloth:

finished deck


n.b. for the foam rubber, around seattle you can go to pacific fabrics or joann’s, but I heartily recommend going to friendly foam over on Roosevelt in the U district. I’ve bought from them under both the old and new management, and the new owners remain quite friendly and knowledgeable. (and substantially neater…)  they also have a much wider selection of foam types to choose from.

furniture value

one interesting thing that I’ve learned since I started building furniture is the relative price and value of furniture pieces.  when I first looked at the settee at Domaine, the chair was $3000. I thought that was a ridiculous price for a chair.

victoria settee

the original, from the now defunct Domaine.


Then I built one. it was a pretty good copy. the problem wast that by the time I was done, the copy had cost about as much as the original. plus it had taken many hours to build. go figure.

home built settee

my copy, made from scratch

 so anyway, I am now all the way across the country to retrieve an antique chaise lounge I have inherited and shipping it home. because a comparable new piece of furniture would probably cost even more than the above chair.
Consider this for a moment.
It is actually cheaper for me to fly across the country, buy the materials to build a very large crate, build it, and have it shipped professionally all the way back across the country, than it would be for me to buy that piece of  furniture new. (or even used… (it is an antique after all.)) Does it make a statement about how much we as a society value furniture… or how little we value transportation. considering the technology needed to move a person 3000 miles in just a few hours…

mystery crate
you’ll have to wait til I get home to see the new chaise…

Tying springs…

I have a long story about building a chair. The major issue I had with the project was that when it comes to upholstered furniture, there is a multitude of resources around to help you reupholster existing furniture, but very few that explain the construction of upholstered frames from scratch.

un upholstered furniture frame

would restoration hardware qualify this as ‘deconstructed’…

There was one (and only one) book in the Seattle Public Library, a furniture design textbook from the 1950s that actually had design reference points specifically for the upholstery framing.  one of these days I have to go back and get the title and info, and I’ll pass it along.  It was astonishing to me that all the reupholstery books tended hide the frames, and made a specific point about the inadvisability of ever uncovering the frame.

for anyone who might care, the most useful bits in the frame are the vertical bars just inside the edges of the back, and the horizontal bars right above the seat frame at the bottom of the arms.  technically these parts aren’t necessary, but they make the process soooo much easier. especially the arms.

chair springs, hand tied

clove hitches, as far as the eye can see…

the most tedious part of the whole process was the spring tying. helpful hint, a jig made made up of a couple of 1″x1″ with a spacer between makes the first tie much, much easier.  the way upholstery springs generally work, you are supposed to tie the springs down and pre-tension them to create the initial firmness in the deck. using the jig, you can press down on the springs to the proper height, force the front springs out the front edge, then just casually tie them into place. see the linked article for details, follow it carefully, it’s the best resource I’ve found for the spring tying step.