Saturday, February 1, 2014

"Old Upholsterers never die, they always re-cover." Or…Restoration of an Adrian Pearsall sofa Part One

Yeah, I know, a saying THAT stupid/corny could only be found on a t-shirt. And yes, I did have that shirt and wore it more than once. (Underneath something, of course) Hello Modtomotrists. My name is Jeff, and I'm an upholsterer. An upholsterer who loves mid century design, and attempts to give new life to vintage furniture that may otherwise end up in a landfill, or worse yet, a man cave.

  So, aside from the cornpone saying in the title, I will be documenting the reupholstery of a vintage

platform sofa designed by Adrian Pearsall for his company Craft Associates. And although there will

be no near-death experience, there will be plenty of (probably) carcinogenic dust, splinters,

sharp-ended tools, rusty broken staples, and a trip to the urgent care clinic.

  This is the patient, model 889-S, measuring 10+ feet in length with Italian travertine end tables, and

oiled walnut base and legs. At a glance it looks great, if you're into funky, flowery red velvet, but a

closer look reveals...

  Why is the fabric so loose on that seat you ask? Is that the way its supposed to be? No. The foam 

padding along the front of the seat has deteriorated past the point of hardening, and turned to powder. 

This is pretty much the standard for most upholstered furniture from the 1950's and '60's, as latex 

foam replaced "hog hair" and cotton as commonly used padding. Although most latex foam has held 

up for decades, when it goes bad, things get messy.  Lets take this thing apart so we can see how bad 

it really is!

  First we need to get the upholstered seat and back section off the base. It's attached with a number of 

screws, and four bolts that fit through the wrought iron frame. once they are separated, we are left 

with a more manageable 75" piece. Lets pull staples!  If any of you plan to try a DIY upholstery 

project, or have tried before and discovered how much this part sucks, go get these tools.

  I'm not gonna lie to you, pulling staples still sucks even with the right tools. Just a bit less. The 

yellow handled tool provides a sharp end to dig under the staple, and leverage to lift it. Then it's just a 

matter of pulling the lifted staple out with the plier/sidecutter.  Now we are going to remove the dust 

cover (that black meshy fabric on the bottom of most chairs and sofas), and un-stapling the seat and 

back fabric from the frames bottom. This usually involves pulling hundreds of staples, but if the old 

fabric is thick enough, you may be able to get ahold of an edge and pull the fabric off along with the 

staples. Those are good days!  We're gonna set down the puller and pliers for now, go put some 

bandaids on, and come back later to pull that fabric off and see what's underneath. 


  1. Jeff, it's was so nice to see you here this morning!

    1. Thanks Hannah. I'm surprised you recognized me behind my clever "alias"

  2. This will be good to see, as I am about to embark on a sofa reupholster job of my own. I've done chair seats before, so I know how much "fun" it is to pull all those staples!