My Love Hate Relationship with a Victorian Style Duncan Phyfe Couch

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Note: This picture is not an original of the one discussed in this post. I just loved this picture and I did not take a lot of shots of the one I was working on. (saved from pinterest)

How many times have you gotten that thing that you wanted really bad, then discovered it was wonderful and awful wrapped up into one conflicting package?  Like that hair you had patiently grew out because of all the different hairstyles that you wanted to try out.  At first, you loved it and paid someone else to wash and style it. However, once the style was gone, you were left with all that hair. Now you had no style and all this hair and you had to maintenance it every day. Now this wonderful hair had become a problem. Wonderful and awful wrapped up into one conflicting package.  My most recent "wonderful and awful" moment came in the form of a beautiful but nasty vintage couch with some hidden surprises.  Until now I knew nothing about vintage furniture, besides being able to look at it and sense that it was vintage.  My children would say it was just old.  However, vintage carries so much more substance than just old. It is the quality in which it was crafted, the details, the time period it was created in and the wondering who had it in their home prior.  To say the least I was quite excited to have a vintage piece.  

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The very first thing that I loved about this couch was that it belonged to a very sweet friend of mine whom was moving into her very own place and was entrusting me to bring it back to life. This was my very first piece of furniture of this size EVER! On top of that, it was vintage! Yeah, some might say that upholstery is upholstery. However, still being somewhat of a beginner, there was still room for self-doubt to creep in. Also, because I have done enough to know that no one piece is done the same, which can be a blessing and a pain in some instances. Nevertheless, this project was new and it was going to challenge me to become better. Each project is an opportunity to be better than the previous upholstery project and I was in love with that great expectation. This couch would be yet another project of fun, discovery, mishaps, hard work, and accomplishment.

This is the seat of the couch. GROSSNESS!!! WEAR GLOVES, just sayin!!

This is the seat of the couch. GROSSNESS!!! WEAR GLOVES, just sayin!!

This if from underneath the couch. I had to remover the bottom in order to get to the staples securing the seat and side pieces of fabric. Always wear a masking when tearing down an upholstery project. There is always stuff flying in your face.

This if from underneath the couch. I had to remover the bottom in order to get to the staples securing the seat and side pieces of fabric. Always wear a masking when tearing down an upholstery project. There is always stuff flying in your face.

So, the first thing to do was to start taking it apart and removing all the old nasty fabric. I started with the back and this is one of the moments that I love. This part was simple. Ripping the cording was easy and it fed my confidence because it was very simple and basic. I knew what to do and what came next. After removing the cording and the outside back fabric, it exposed an opening.  I had to remove the staples from the back of the seat. You will hear me say quite often that I hate removing staples. Staple removing is to upholstery as sanding is to woodworking.  The first layer of the back was gone, which included the cording, fabric, and batting. Now, the wood boards were exposed with a lot or screws and nails and I did not know what to do next. I looked around on the internet, which seemed like forever, looking for videos of how to re-upholster a couch like this, like the one I was working on. I found nothing! I had to make a decision.  I didn't know if removing the screws and nails was the move to make, but I decided to go for it.

I know, where is the picture?



I'm working on taking more picture of my process. To be honest, I am always just so focused on trying not to completely screw up a client project that I forget about taking pictures.  For now, I'll try my best to illuminate your imagination.  Okay, back to what happened next. So, I removed the screws and nails and the board came off along with the top edging that was covering the top part of the back rest. It was just sitting on top.  Then my love for this couch returned. I had solved the mystery.  However, on this couch the backrest was two separate pieces side by side.  Sort of like the shape of a heart at the top with a split down the middle.  Now that the back had been removed, the two back rests just popped out. But then came those damn staples again.  The staples and buttons needed to be removed from each backrest which meant more staple removing.


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After every single staple was removed, the love of this couch surfaced yet again. Now it was time to put her back together. Sewing the cording, laying down fresh cotton and muslin, then the new fabric is exciting because the pieces were coming together.  Recovering a furniture piece really feels like art.  Before the last four or five years of my life, I wouldn't have put myself in a category anywhere near artist.  It still feels a bit foreign saying it in my head as I type, yet I am embracing the artist in me.  Each time I redo a piece or sketch a design for a new table or bed (sneak peaks to come), it feels like magic. Why the adjective "magic"? Because each time I start something and make my way to the end, there is this product that looks the way I imagined it. Sometimes it is even better than I imagined. Or the times that I start and become stuck or mess things up, and I am convinced there is no way to fix it. And then somehow, I end up fixing it! Only to have that excitement short lived sometimes by making another mistake.

As you will hear and see quite often, I screw up a lot.  However, I have learned to enjoy my process of growth(sometimes).  As it relates to this situation, I was putting on the fabric and in my excitement to be at this stage, I moved way to fast.  With upholstery, when it’s time to put on the fabric it is best practice to install four temporary tacks or staples on the back, front, and both sides to accurately position the fabric. Then slowly add permanent ones as you get the fabric pulled and shaped the way that you want it. Well, I went crazy and the fabric on one of the arms was very noticeably cricket.  I had to undo it and start again which mean more staples to be removed.  I could have cried and then I almost repeated the same mistake to the seat area.  Nevertheless, I put on some good music and got to it.  Before I knew it, it was done and ready for pick up!

Another beautiful project for the books. A happy client & friend, along with a few more stars on the self confidence meter.