As someone who is still relatively new to upholstery, having worked at Lefebvre's Upholstery since June 2013, I was excited to start looking for my first sofa and replace the two torn-up sofa chairs that I've been using for the past 10 years. After a bit of searching, I found this lovely antique settee for 30$.
Before (as purchased):
I knew the piece was in desperate need of a complete overhaul, but the price was right, and it looked like it had a good frame, it had coils (better than modern springs), and the size was perfect for my old house.
In this post, I will be doing a quick recap of the entire project, but if you wish to see the entire project in detail from start to finish (with nearly 80 photos) in 4 parts, you can have a look at these posts on my house blog:
My Settee Project Part 1 - Choosing Fabric
My Settee Project Part 2 - The Tear-Down
My Settee Project Part 3 - Frame Repairs & Foundation Work
My Settee Project Part 4 - Finishing The Settee
Before starting, the seat was very lumpy, the sofa was not very comfortable, and I had no idea what I would uncover. As it turns out, the sofa had 3 complete covers on it. The current dark green, followed by a rough beige corduroy type fabric (1970s or 80s), followed by a beige and brown striped cover (which could be as old as 1920 or so).
Green cover removed:
Beige cover removed:
Beige & brown striped cover removed, showing green "rough covers" over the original horsehair, moss, and straw stuffing:
Main stuffing removed. You can see why the seat was lumpy. The spring ties had broken, and the burlap was worn through. No one had ever bothered to properly repair the base layers of stuffing, and past upholsterers had simply covered-over the old layers and did awful patch jobs to try to fix the problems without actually doing the work needed to fix the sofa.
Seat stuffing, burlap, and ties removed, showing springs:
Bare frame (after many MANY hours of work). This is prior to repairing the frame (all the joints were loose and the legs needed to be sanded and refinished back to a dark mahogany). I also patched some of the wood, and filled the old holes:
And now for the new (traditional) upholstery! New webbing is first:
Springs are installed, and tied with an "8 way hand tie":
New burlap, and re-stitching the front edge roll (using the original straw and moss stuffing):
The base layer is straw. Yes, STRAW. It is used very often in antique pieces, and it lasts centuries.
Then moss and mixed hair:
Then the nice black horse hair:
Followed by cotton, and then the rough muslin cover.
The same basic procedures were done on the back and arms.
And here's the finished piece!
And here it is back in my living room.
Again, there are additional photos and more information if you follow the links above.
The same level of care and attention is given to all the antique pieces that come into the shop, and hopefully this "extreme restoration" will give you an idea of the work involved in restoring an antique sofa or chair.
I am proud to say that the sofa is now quite comfortable, and it should last a long time before it needs another overhaul. Comments are always welcome.