Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reupholstering Scam

I'm currently taking a class in reupholstering and my guinea pig is a very old family chair passed down for generations.

It's been reupholstered at least three times before this one. Given that each upholstery job has a lifetime of 35-40 years, this chair is a minimum of 105 years old. It has the wounds to show for it. The wood underneath is brittle and pockmarked from all the nails, tacks and staples from past jobs.

Sadly, it is a beautiful, ornately carved mahogany piece that my grandmother refinished in an antique style cream finish in the late 70s/early 80s. I am now facing the decision to either repaint it and do the same antiquing again, or to strip it and completely refinish it.

But in the meantime, I've been carefully deconstructing it.

First step: Turn the chair over and see what's underneath.

This was a very bad sign. It meant that at least the very last reupholsterers were crooks. This webbing is probably original to the piece, although it may have gone back to the prior upholstery job in the late 50s to early 60s. It was dry rotted and appeared that the more recent reupholsterers (circa 70s/80s) just tacked a black fabric over it to conceal their laziness, instead of removing and replacing it.

Upon removing that webbing, I saw:

The original springs, which did not appear to have been retied. To add to my suspicions, once I turned the chair over and continued gutting it, I found the seat still had fabric underneath it that was from an upholstery prior to the 50s/60s job, which I knew was a deep rose velvet.

Here's a swatch of it: It's a nice silk fabric in a shade halfway between turquoise and robin's egg blue. It's possible it's the original upholstery. Because it was covered over, instead of removed, the color was preserved and it's in great condition:

I happen to know, from old family photos, that this chair was  originally a rich, dark mahogany. The blue would look lovely with it, though it would also look great with a cream finish.

I already purchased other upholstery to go with it, so at this time I won't try to find a similar upholstery. However, the laziness of others has created a time capsule that allows me to see how my wealthy great aunt decorated many, many years ago.

The lesson to take away from this: IF you hire someone else to reupholster a piece for you, you must insist on photos taken throughout the process. It's the only way to ensure you're getting what you paid for.