Monday, February 8, 2010

Victorian Furniture Upholstery: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Victorian Side Chair, pleasing color with button tufting priced
a 100.00 a bargain and available from us. A great starter
piece for any room

Essentially when it comes to Victorian Furniture there are "buyers" and there are "collectors". The buyer buys anything, doesn't matter what it looks like, if its Victorian they buy it. the collector on the other hand is looking to improve their collection. they buy with an eye towards design and style and possibly manufacturer. They are usually looking for the best piece they can find on the budget they have.

Upholstery is an important part of a Victorian furniture decision. It can be a great piece but if its got that orange patterned 70's upholstery on it, is it really worth the asking price?

Hard to find Victorian corner chair. Reupholstered
by us. 1800.00 (SOLD)
The answer is , it depends. If you are looking at "high end" Victorian furniture it doesn't matter. A Meeks , Belter or other high end quality manufacturer you are buying the piece for its maker and its finish. Finish is the most important part of furniture in this range. Originality, even if its worn ads value. Refinishing takes away value. While original upholstery is desirable it is not critical and in fact in theeth auction world high end pieces are often sold with just the base muslin cover because it is assumed that the buyer will want to reupholster to their own taste

Chances are you are not collecting at the high end, so what you are looking at is condition and upholstery. We all know bad upholstery when we see it. Antique dealers are lazy and often a
piece comes straight from auction to booth with no consideration about the upholstery.

This piece was a good example. We acquired this piece from a "antiques dealer", well really not
an antique dealer but a buyer with delusion that they were an antique dealer. They were dealing in "mid century'(Junk from thrift stores). In the middle of a booth full of "campy 50's furniture was this Victorian Fainting sofa . Upholstered in a 1970 "bird' motif it may have been 'campy' but was hardly appropriate for the piece. Apparently no one else like "campy" because it had been marked down 5 TIMES, its tag a kaleidoscope of different inks and scribbles as the dealer realizing their sense of style didn't match the rest of the world had marked it down over several months to finally get rid of the elephant taking up expensive booth space.

We however saw the potential in this piece. it has nice lines for late piece of Victorian furniture. It had flexibility because being a later piece, in red oak, it could also be a 'crossover' piece that also would work in a craftsman era home and would have appeal as an 'accent piece' in an Urban
contemporary loft.

We selected a rich green fabric, one of the staple range of color in the Victorian Era. this fabric has a slight subtle pattern which worked well for today. Victorian furniture palettes. Red, Dk Green, Gold, lack, Dk blue. Victorians DID NOT do white furniture because of coal dust that permeated the air. Because of the red Oak finish we selected a slightly lighter gimp to make the transition between the two and to add a little Victorian punch we added a row of fringe gimp across the back for added interest in the same lighter green color. As you can see the finial product looks very appropriate. This piece had already had its strings retied and new webbing so it was not a major labor intensive upholstery job. An affordable piece for any collector we have priced at 425.00.

So when looking at piece of furniture remember condition of the Finish is number 1, upholstery is number 2. Consider the cost of reupholstering if you find a piece you like. Upholstery costs will vary depending on the style of the piece and complexity issues such as tufting and pleating. Know when to "pass' on a piece. remember you want to be a Victorian Collector not a Victorian buyer. After all you still have all those house projects to do!

Note: Victorian Antiquities & Design offers Upholstery and fabric services, feel free to ask up about your "project".

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