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A very brief history of upholstery

Meet Rachel Axnix, Needle Rock‘s new monthly blogger. Ali and Rachel became firm friends whilst learning the many skills of upholstery in Hereford, through the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers. Rachel provides a much needed upholstery service in Bradford, West Yorkshire and as a new hobby is currently studying creative writing.

What a great opportunity to merge the two talents, as well as using Rachel’s background in history. Needle Rock are delighted to welcome Rachel as the new blogger to give you a monthly insight into the history of upholstered furniture.

What is ‘upholstery’? In a nutshell, it is where padding or stuffing is fixed to a hard surface to make it comfortable. People have made cushions to sit on since ancient times, but these were not attached onto the chair until much later. It is only in the last four hundred years that true upholstered furniture has developed, where the paddings are an integral part of the piece. 

Seating was not the only use of upholstery, and the first upholsterers made tents, mattresses and coffins. In fact, they worked with all manner of textiles and household goods. Many surfaces can have upholstery on them: beds, tables and carriages, even walls and doors. Chairs were scarce before the 1650s. Only the most important would sit on a chair (or throne) with everyone else on stools or benches. 

As western society changed, so did the upholstery. For example, ideas of equality from the 1600s onwards meant chairs became more common. Anyone could now sit on one! Industrialisation in the 1800s created a middle class who wanted the luxury of upholstery. Thus, mass production in factories began. In the 1900s, two world wars meant a lack of money and resources. As a result, countries needed quick, cheap furniture. This continued throughout the century with the ‘disposable society’ and the idea that we should throw away worn-out items and replace them with new. 

Styles of upholstered furniture also changed with the times. Chairs without arms could accommodate the large skirt of a Victorian lady, for example. Arms and wings made chairs easier to relax in. People gained more leisure time, so their furniture became more and more comfortable. 

Without doubt, upholstered furniture is here to stay. Who wants to sit on a hard chair to watch a film? Current concerns for the environment mean that more and more people are interested in reusing and repairing their furniture to keep it out of landfill and reduce their carbon footprint. This is especially good if you can use natural and sustainable resources. What a perfect reason to have your sofa reupholstered!

Our monthly guest blogger Rachel!
Pair of Roman Curved chairs
Pair of Roman Curved chairs
Granny Smith Chair & matching footstool
Granny Smith Chair & matching footstool
Victorian Era image on the coastline where Needle Rock got its name
Cocktail Chairs for 'Cocktail o'clock'.
Cocktail Chairs for ‘Cocktail o’clock’.

Jacobean Revival Chair | Functional Art
Jacobean Revival Chair | Functional Art
Wing Back Chair
AMUSF logo
Needle Rock is a member of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers

Meet the boss

If you have a much loved piece of furniture you want us to work our magic on please get in touch

A nursing chair is a chair that’s comfortable when nursing an infant. In Victorian times the nursing chair was a low seated partially upholstered chair. Nursing included caring for children as well as breastfeeding. The low seat of the chair allowed the mother, who would have been wearing a stiff corset, to interact with small children without bending over. This chair form was particularly popular in England and found primarily in upper class homes. Nursing Chair. The types of wood most frequently used were oak, rosewood or walnut. The seat was often sprung and could be button decorated or adorned with a circumferential braid or pair of braids. The chair legs were frequently of a cabriole style or a straight-legged spindle design. Needle Rock upholstery repair refurbish new vintage period piece.If you have a much loved piece of furniture

Contact Dr Ali Wright: [email protected] 07534 216297

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