These days, the modern three piece suite may only have a ten year shelf life before it is either sold on or discarded. Yet there are antique armchairs and sofas in use today that still have their original upholstery.
Early upholstery was a highly prized commodity, where the cover cost far more that the chair carcass itself. For this reason, all upholstered furniture was supplied with loose covers to protect the tapestry work from light and dust when the furniture was not being used.
By 1650 many wealthy households had some form of upholstered antique furniture and basic construction hardly changed until the middle of the 19th century. Crude webbing was stretched across the seat frame, which was then covered in sacking. Then different types of stuffing, such as animal hair, feathers, wool and even straw, grass or leaves would be placed in the centre. If overstuffed, the cover was then tacked into place and braid was then attached round the edge. Horsehair was favoured for chair backs, sometimes with vegetable fibre added. The chair back cover could then be buttoned to keep the stuffing in place.
As well as tapestry, many grand 17th century armchairs were covered in silk. From the 18th century onwards, home produced needlework, damask and leather was also used. By the 19th century all these earlier coverings came back into fashion, plus hardwearing cotton chintz which created a lighter look.
If you are looking for period or revival upholstered antique chairs in Lancashire or Cumbria, visit local antiques dealers who will tell you about basic construction techniques.
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