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Exotic antiques!

Being an American shop, we find that most of the newer frames we get in are made in the US, with the occasional exception of the international companies like Natuzzi and Roche Bobois. Vintage pieces from the 60s and 70s will often be Scandinavian designs, some of which were actually made in Denmark but more often outsourced to Asian manufacturers. It’s a rare day that we get to see an antique piece that has any evidence of being made overseas.

A few years ago we had a settee come in that the customer said was shipped from France in the teens (1910-1919), and the bottom of the seat still had the address and shipping information on it. We thought this was going to be our ‘unicorn’, with such a great personal story attached and proof actually on the frame.

Antique French settee

Antique French settee


Imagine our surprise and excitement when we found handwriting and dates on the sofa we got in recently. The writing was hard to decipher, and definitely not in English, but the dates 1937 and 1946 were clearly written in wax pencil on the muslin cover.
Further research found that the writing was Swedish, and said something to the extent of “so-and-so worked on this next”.
Sofa back under padding
The frames also had makers’ tags on the underside with a name and city of origin. Real Swedish antique furniture! And the way they were built was a beautiful example of vintage upholstery padding and style. All of the original horsehair padding was intact beneath the muslin cover, and all of the seats and arms were hand built using traditional materials and mattress stitched burlap.
Maker's tag on the bottom of Swedish chair

Maker’s tag on the bottom of Swedish chair


The carvings on the arms and feet had similar motifs to American antique furniture, with ball and claw feet, and acanthus leaves on the arm fronts. The dogwood flower on the front of the arm is slightly more unusual and may be indicative of the area where it was made.
Finished faux mohair sofa

Finished faux mohair sofa


All in all, a very exciting project, and an unusual set of furniture to find this far from its origins.
Chair with down envelope cushion

Chair with down envelope cushion

Antique Swedish sofa with down cushions.

Antique Swedish sofa with down cushions.

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What the heck is a jacquard, anyway?

If there’s one thing we’ve noticed to be true here at Rose City, it’s that if you have one of something, suddenly you will have several. This is the only possible explanation for the fact that we’re currently doing work for FOUR customers named Terry and THREE customers named Linda.

A formal vintage sofa in Charlotte 4121 Gold

A formal vintage sofa in Charlotte 4121 Gold


The reason I bring this up is that we’ve had a bunch of customers select formal jacquard fabrics for their chair projects.
This cream jacquard looks very elegant on a curved profile.

This cream jacquard looks very elegant on a curved profile.


Greenhouse fabrics has been the preferred vendor for this product, since they have such rich colors and interesting patterns.
This vintage channel chair just glows in Greenhouse A4900 Ruby

This vintage channel chair just glows in Greenhouse A4900 Ruby


A deco inspired jacquard for a vintage Hollywood bedroom

A deco inspired jacquard for a vintage Hollywood bedroom


Luxury fabrics has some similar products too, that come pretreated with a Nano-tex stain repellent, which is a big benefit when you’re using your formal furniture for entertaining (Glass of red wine, anyone? How about some coffee?).
This Luxury fabrics product has glamour, and stain repellent.

This Luxury fabrics product has glamour, and stain repellent.


All of these pieces sparkle like jewels with their glossy new covers. Jacquard is a great way to bring some glitz to a small antique chair.

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Rags to Riches

A recent project arrived in VERY poor condition, which makes its transformation all the more rewarding when it’s completed.

This piece had been in the client’s family for 90+ years and had spent its most recent time on the front porch. The old cover was rotting away, and the springs had long since stopped being supportive.

The old fabric had started to tear and disintegrate

The old fabric had started to tear and disintegrate


We took it down to the wood, with all new webbing, spring tie and padding.
Richelle rebuilt the seat, then webbed and stitched the back springs on before padding.

Richelle rebuilt the seat, then webbed and stitched the back springs on before padding.


One of the casters had busted out the front leg, so we had it rebuilt and found a replacement caster and brass plate to match the existing three.
The front leg arrived in this condition

The front leg arrived in this condition


An antique wooden caster from stock and a reproduction brass plate complete the repair to make the leg match the others

An antique wooden caster from stock and a reproduction brass plate complete the repair to make the leg match the others


Cleaning the wood really brought out the colors in the decorative inlays, and now it’s a beautiful and unique piece of family history.
Decorative wooden inlays really shine once they're cleaned

Decorative wooden inlays really shine once they’re cleaned


The settee fully restored with a new damask cover inspired by the original fabric.

The settee fully restored with a new damask cover inspired by the original fabric.

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Green!

Pantone has announced their color of the year for 2017 is Greenery, but we have noticed a trend toward greens in our own shop as well.

Some of our forethinking clients were selecting beautiful shades of green velvet for their projects well before this announcement was made.
IMG_3323

Camelback sofa in Latimer Alexander Como Emerald

Camelback sofa in Latimer Alexander Como Emerald


And Apartment Therapy projects that green sofas will soon eclipse navy blue in trending sofa upholstery. Here in the northwest, green surrounds us, in the grass, trees and bushes, so why not bring a little of our natural environment inside? Here are some beautiful options from our vendors.
Duralee 90858-72 Blue/green

Duralee 90858-72 Blue/green

Maxwell Joey in Grass

Maxwell Joey in Grass


Maxwell Blossoom in Pine

Maxwell Blossoom in Pine


Duralee 90956-58 Emerald

Duralee 90956-58 Emerald

Duralee 15550-597 Grass

Duralee 15550-597 Grass

Robert Allen Wool Chevron in Billiard Green

Robert Allen Wool Chevron in Billiard Green

Robert Allen Fall Fun in Billiard Green

Robert Allen Fall Fun in Billiard Green

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Fabric Upholstery into Leather

If you were to walk up to an upholsterer and say, “Hey, can you change my fabric sofa to leather?” they would say, “Well, probably, but…” and then proceed to tell you why it’s not as straightforward as it sounds.

A client's walnut framed sofa before reupholstery

A client’s walnut framed sofa before reupholstery


First off, you’ll find that while leather is really really durable, it’s also going to feel firmer than the fabric did, even if nothing about the padding or cushioning is changed. Upholstery leather has been treated to have very little stretch (unlike garment leather), so it’s going to have little to no give to it. It also isn’t porous like fabrics, so it’s necessary to change the style or tailoring of some elements of your furniture to allow air to move in and out of the foam padding in your cushions. Seat cushions, for example, are built with a partial fabric panel on the underside or zipper to allow the foam to breath.
Crest Dante color Bourbon leather going onto a sofa that used to be fabric.

Crest Dante color Bourbon leather going onto a sofa that used to be fabric.


Another challenge to consider is that a lot of adhesives, plygrip and hand stitching don’t work on upholstery leather. Ever wonder why so many leather pieces have decorative nails? In a lot of cases, it’s because that’s the only way the leather can be attractively attached to the frame. Got a curvy piece of furniture that you want to be leatherized? You’ll have to discuss a lot of changes with your upholstery shop before the project can be completed. Fun fact: you’ll have a snowball’s chance of talking a shop into doing one of these in leather.
A Saarinen Chair from Knoll

A Saarinen Chair from Knoll


Many shops will be able to demonstrate the difference the added bulk of leather makes on seams and edges, making welted cushions look stiff and lumpy. Typically you’ll find most leather furniture has weltless cushions and topstitched details to eliminate the excess material in the seams and control their shape and location.
Stitching detail on leather cushions

Stitching detail on leather cushions


Lastly, keep in mind that real cowhide leather was once, in fact, a cow. These critters have been known to rub up against barbed wire, have brands and even urine stains. Large attractive expanses of leather are few and far between. Not only does your upholsterer have to have eagle eyes to spot imperfections, but also spend a lot more time laying out square pieces on a not-so-square shape. Be prepared to have extra seams on the larger parts of the frame that weren’t present when it was covered in fabric.
The same sofa after it's new leather cover, Crest Galileo in black.

The same sofa after it’s new leather cover, Crest Galileo in black.


One thing for certain, despite the extra work, leather upholstery is an excellent investment when the right product is selected and cared for properly. Choose your color well, as that leather is going to be with you for a long time.

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The right fabric for YOU

Gone are the days of formal living rooms and furniture covered in clear plastic. Our customers are looking for fabrics that are durable, and easy to live with. The challenge becomes prioritizing what features are most important as you’re designing your reupholstery project.

Image courtesy of House Beautiful

Image courtesy of House Beautiful


The thing we hear most around here is “I want something that’s durable”. Well our fabric vendors have heard you loud and clear! The number of patterns we have with a high abrasion rating has grown exponentially each year, to the point that there are very few light or medium duty fabrics left in our gallery. With an industry standard of 15,000 double rubs for a heavy duty designation, the majority of our fabrics have left that number in the dust. It’s now typical to see 30,000, 45,000 and even 100,000 double rubs on residential fabrics.
Crypton velvets from Robert Allen have both stain repellant and heavy duty abrasion rating.

Crypton velvets from Robert Allen have both stain repellent and heavy duty abrasion rating.


How do these fabrics look and feel ? Typically they will be solid, or lightly textured fabrics that have these high numbers. Velvets have by far the best for performance of all the options we carry. Whereas in the past durable fabrics were hard or scratchy, modern mills are making fabrics with a soft pile and tight weave so you don’t have to sacrifice performance for comfort.

Another thing to consider is care. Sure, it would be great to be able to chuck our cushion covers in the washer/dryer when we want to clean them, but washable fabrics are few and far between in the furniture industry. With few exceptions, upholstery fabrics are designated solvent clean to prevent damage to the feel and appearance of the fibers.

Upholstery fabric will have one of the following codes for care.

Upholstery fabric will have one of the following codes for care.


Before you consign yourself to a plain canvas cover, keep in mind that these cleaning codes mostly apply to stains. The best thing you can do for your upholstered furniture, no matter what the cleaning code, is to vacuum it. It’s amazing the difference you will see gently using the upholstery brush on your cushions, seats and arms. Vacuuming prevents general dust and dirt from accumulating, helps fluff up your cushions (especially down!) and gives stains less to adhere to if they do happen.

If you are in the habit of having your upholstered furniture cleaned, there are solvent cleaning products available through home improvement stores, and many professional rug cleaners also do solvent furniture cleaning as well. A lot of vendors are also offering various after market stain repellent treatments for a nominal cost per yard, like Nano-Tex, or Teflon. If you like to enjoy nachos on your sofa on game day, this would be a great option to consider.

A good piece of advice is to think about what is most important to you as you approach a new upholstery project. Knowing what your intended use is, the color/texture you want, and how long you want to keep the piece will set you in the right direction to get exactly what you want for your piece.

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Camira fabrics

We’ve had samples of Camira fabrics here at Rose City for a few years now, and I think it’s about time that I mention how excited we are to offer their line to our customers.

Camira is a European mill specializing in textiles with natural fiber and recycled content. We’ve fallen in love with the colors and supple hand of their wool products, of which they have several different weaves, textures and even patterns. The saturated jewel tones in the Aquarius line have been in high demand for customers working on Mid-Century or Scandinavian furniture, and the Hemp line, which incorporates hemp fibers with virgin wool is remarkable for its softness and variegated texture.

Camira Aquarius wool

Camira Aquarius wool


Many customers turn to wool as they look for a natural option in upholstery fabric, both for reasons of sustainability and environmental impact. Camira has received awards for their environmental responsibility, both in their manufacturing practices, and their final product.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Camira line is that they are able to create a beautiful product in a socially responsible way, and maintain a competitive price point. Compared to wool offerings from other vendors, Camira has impressed us greatly with the excellent quality at a very reasonable price per yard.

Patterned wool fabrics from Camira

Patterned wool fabrics from Camira


We are proud to work with a company of this quality, and to present their offerings to the Portland area.

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Built in seating for everyone

With a lot of local homes being on the more compact side, we have a lot of clients looking to built-in seating to maximize the utility of smaller spaces, or unusual locations.

Turret seating in a kitchen nook

Turret seating in a kitchen nook


Banquette or booth seating in kitchens allows for maximum seating in a space that might not accommodate an equivalent number of chairs or stools. A lot of builders include lids or drawers in the casework as auxiliary storage for infrequently used items.
Kitchen seating

Kitchen seating


Many clients opt for Sunbrella fabrics or faux leather/vinyl for ease of use and simpler cleanup. Fabrics with stain repellents like Teflon or NanoTex are a great option for back cushions which receive less wear and tear but are still at risk for food stains.
Sunbrella cushions (Design by Christina Tello)

Sunbrella cushions (Design by Christina Tello)


Some clients even opt for restaurant style booths for a more diner inspired Mid-Century look.
Restaurant style booth (Design by Alice Bozkaj)

Restaurant style booth (Design by Alice Boczkaj)


Built-ins are also a great option for libraries or play rooms, as they can be proportioned to fit the space more effectively than sofas or chairs. One client used the casework as the unifying element between a loose cushion “sofa” and bookshelves behind it, with the additional benefit of having loose cushions for forts and story time.
Reading and play room (Casework by David Best)

Reading and play room (Casework by David Best)


Even a small seating area in a bedroom built-in creates a place to put on your socks or fold laundry.
Built in cushion (Design by Wendy O'Brien)

Built in cushion (Design by Wendy O’Brien)


With a wide variety of shapes styles and sizes available, built in seating can be a solution to solve small space and usage problems in almost any room in a house.
Library seating

Library seating

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How to Talk to an Upholsterer vol 1

We sometimes get calls from customers who have questions about a project or repair, but aren’t quite sure how to explain what the problem is. With this in mind, we’re going to do a continuing theme of upholstery terms and products entitled “How to Talk to an Upholsterer”.

While the title suggests that you should be calling with rampant praise and flattery (and this does work!), our intention is to provide a sort of glossary to help our customers describe problems with their furniture.
This time we will be starting from the bottom: Webbing

When you look at the underside of most furniture what you see is a piece of black fabric. In antique pieces, this is often a sheer piece of black woven linen, which by this time is most likely very brittle and discolored. Cheaper furniture manufacturers will use a heat-bonded fibrous material in a black or dark grey. Most manufacturers use a lightweight black fabric similar to landscaping cloth, which is called ‘cambric’. Around the shop we tend to call it ‘bottom cloth’ or ‘dust cloth’, since its original purpose was to keep compacting cotton or burlap fibers from shaking out onto the floor beneath the furniture. Anymore, this product is intended to give a uniform look to the mostly unseen part of the furniture.

Black bottom cloth

Black bottom cloth


We’ve lost count of the number of calls we get with people having questions about “straps”. In our industry, straps are typically pieces of metal used to support coil springs, and not many pieces of furniture have straps. The correct term is ‘webbing’ and there are several kinds that are used in different types of furniture.

Jute webbing has been in use for over a century to support coil springs in seats and backs. It can also be used on its own to support cotton, horsehair, or foam padding in a chair seat. When the seat in your antique starts to sag, this is usually the culprit, as this product will become brittle and tear when it gets quite old or dry.

Jute webbing

Jute webbing


Callers who are requesting replacement “leather strapping” typically have mid-century furniture, and what they’re looking for is actually rubber or Pirelli webbing, which is made of natural rubber. This can be used on its own as a slightly springy seat, or suspension for cushions to sit on. It can be either brown or tan, and sometimes will have clips on the end that fit into a groove in the frame. As you can see from the picture, the straps lose their stretch when they age, and start to flake. Because it is made from natural rubber, Pirelli webbing is significantly more expensive than other types of webbing.
Rubber or Pirelli webbing

Rubber or Pirelli webbing


An alternative to Pirelli webbing is a product known as elastic webbing or Elastaband (brand name). This is a heavy-duty elastic, which is similar to the elastic found in garments, only thicker and less stretchy. There are two types: one is stretchier and intended for use in chair or sofa backs, the other is less stretchy and intended for seats. We see this product a lot in imported furniture, and as a replacement for the rubber webbing in larger projects, or pieces that have a thin profile that doesn’t allow for springs.
Elastaband webbing

Elastaband webbing


Now you know what to say when you call your friendly neighborhood upholsterer wanting to fix the webbing in your furniture.

Stay tuned for our next installment: Springs!

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Bring on the patterns!

We’ve been collaborating for many years with Amy Estrin at the Whole 9 Yards fabric store to create multi-fabric chairs both for her clients and ours. The results can be striking, dramatic, or playful but always eye-catching. Here are a few photos of some completed projects, with some reasons the designs were so successful.

This slipcovered chair was built around the antique map fabric the client loved, with the accompanied fabrics referencing the secondary colors within the main fabric. Amy and her staff assisted the client with finding the additional four fabrics to compliment her initial choice.

A cheerful slipcover for a Laura Ashley chair

A cheerful slipcover for a Laura Ashley chair


Amy’s design for last years’ Chair Affair event showcased a whimsical fabric with birds for the large back expanse of the wing chair, but used solid textured fabrics, and both small and medium scaled patterns to create a cohesive look with blue, yellow and pale green.
Chair affair 2015

Chair affair 2015


Sometimes a designer or artist will inspire a client to create pieces that are nothing less than art. This client loved the black and white geometric patterns of MacKenzie Childs and the oversized chair for the project had plenty of surfaces for this dramatic look.
Multi-fabric chair

Multi-fabric chair


This client’s sofa belonged to her grandmother, who had an eye for color and very good taste in furniture, so she used her grandmother’s style as the inspiration for this vintage tuxedo sofa.
Down cushion sofa

Down cushion sofa


For this year’s Chair Affair, Amy was inspired by the work of artist Roy Lichtenstein and used a small curved chair as a canvas for a bold pop-art fabric and high contrast patterns.
Chair affair 2016 front

Chair affair 2016 front


Chair Affair 2016 back

Chair Affair 2016 back


We’ve found that the pieces that really finished beautifully had a mix of soft pile fabrics such as velvets or chenilles, and flat or tightly woven fabrics such as Sunbrella, canvas, or printed linen. Each of the patterned fabrics has a noticeably different repeat size and pattern type, such as a small stripe, a medium floral and a large geometric. Equal amounts of contrast and variety lead to the most successful projects with the most beautiful results.

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