Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Perfect Covering for the Sought-After Chairs, Part II

As some of my readers may remember, seven months ago to this very day I posted an essay titled The Perfect Covering for the Sought-After Chairs, Part I, in which I discussed my pleasure in finding a pair of New York City side chairs, circa 1800, for our drawing room at Darlington House.   In the essay I described the process Boy and I went through in removing the rather pedestrian fabric that was on the chairs and our excitement in discovering the pattern of the original nailhead decoration on the frames.

One of the chairs reupholstered in haircloth
and trimmed with brass nailheads

Well, as you can see from the photograph shown here, the chairs have now returned to Darlington House in their new slate colored haircloth (a term for material made with a horsehair weft through a cotton warp) upholstery, with the nailhead decoration restored to the original design.

Boy had the chairs reupholstered at Baron, a to-the-trade upholsterer he uses in his interior decorating business.  Baron did a superb, museum-quality job, and I am absolutely thrilled with how the chairs now look.  They are marvelous in our drawing room, too, where they fit in as if they have always been there—the hallmark of a truly successful addition to a room, in my view.

Reggie is an advocate of using period-appropriate techniques and standards when reupholstering antique seating furniture, as we did with these chairs.  That includes using horsehair stuffing and cotton batting for filling, rather than foam rubber or polyester, and attaching the materials to the frame with tacks instead of staples.   While it is challenging to find upholsterers who are well versed in the correct proportions of period upholstery—much less willing to use the techniques and materials employed of old—it is most satisfying and pleasing when one does.  Not only is the end product a thing of lasting beauty, but also it looks "right" and is respectful of the original intentions of the furniture's maker.

And, in the case of these chairs, well worth the wait, too.

Photographs by Boy Fenwick 


  1. Excellent! Antiques should always be reupholstered using the traditional methods. This recovering should last you for the duration.

  2. A truly beautiful restoration. I've been wondering if I would ever see the after photographs, and now I know it was well worth the wait. I'm sure that's exactly how you feel!

  3. SO sharp! Your painstaking research and insistence upon quality materials and correctness of detail have paid off once again. I would love to see a photograph of the chairs in place. Just beautiful.


  4. Beautifully done!! I love everything - the fabric, the color and the nailhead trim. So hard to find anything done the right way but so satisfying when you do!!

  5. Dear Mr. Darling,

    Your chairs are a picture of refinement and elegance. They exhibit a perfect balance of feminine grace in their delicate form, and masculine boldness in their sturdy fabric and shiny tacks. Exquisite! I hope they give you many years of enjoyment.

  6. Classy. I love the clean lines of your New York chairs.

  7. Perfection. The design of the nailhead trim is stellar. It must feel immensely satisfying to have restored these for now and the future.

  8. Those are fabulous!

  9. Dear Reggie, they are stunning! The brass nailheads look superb xx

  10. Beautiful fabric, Elegant and Refined, BUT it also gives the chair a bit of a modern feel.

    The nice thing about the fabric is that it does not fight the sculptural shape of the chair.


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