The owner of this brown leather pouf also owns a black leather lounge suite and asked if it was possible to recolour it to match. Not a problem!
"The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you." — Coco Chanel
These two Briarwood leather handbags were sent to me from Taupo with the request that I recolour them to match specific colours in the supplied fabric swatches. As you can see from the rose-petal design on the front of each bag, this was not a straightforward job. One of the bags had small metal studs which I was happy to mask off, but my client said not to worry about them. She was thrilled with the results shown below.
This job illustrates why leather restoration is often more an art than it is a trade. This handbag was badly faded and decorated with handpainted flowers. I was asked to restore the original colour of the bag but to leave the artwork untouched. As masking off the decoration was out of the question, I resorted to applying the pigments around the artwork using an artist's brush, which requires patience, an eye for detail, and a very steady hand. It probably helps that this type of skill runs in the family—my father was a signwriter, as are my brother and sister. Once the colour was applied, it was finished off with a clear coat and ready for its owner, who was delighted!
"Shoes for men are about elegance or wealth; they are not playing with the inner character."
I am rarely asked to restore leather shoes, but the shoes which appear below were a favourite pair of their owner, whose wife had approached me about getting them recoloured as a surprise anniversary gift from her. Both were delighted with the result.
"She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere, so I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair."
Norwegian designers are world known for their experimental yet natural design in furniture. A couple of well-known examples were the brothers Adolf and Ingmar Relling. In 1966, Ingmar became famous for his chair "Siesta" made of leather and laminated beech, pictured here.
In December 2013 I was approached by a client to restore the leather cushions on two original Ingmar Relling "Siesta" chairs and matching footstool. The leather had been exposed to the sun and as a result had become faded and dry, and a couple of buttons were missing, but otherwise it was in good condition.
After we had replaced the missing buttons, it was simply a matter of restoring the colour and refinishing the leather. The cushions not only looked good, but the leather felt great once again and, best of all, our client was delighted with the finished result.
"Any colour—so long as it's black."
This is my final post for 2013, and while it is substantially about a couple of refinishing jobs which were combined because of their both being black, this second year in business has been bright. I have grown from a business perspective as well as gaining further experience in product knowledge and techniques, the fruits of which I will continue to pass on to my valued clients. A highlight for the year was being awarded Multiple Finalist status once again for the David Awards: Heroes in Small Business. Most of all, however, I am grateful to everyone who has supported Leatherwise throughout 2013, and I look forward optimistically to 2014.
In the final week prior to our closing for the year, I recoloured the worn armrest of the end of a black La-Z-boy recliner, then applied a new finish to a small black chair with a mottled appearance which would not improve with cleaning, even though the surface was a synthetic material (i.e. not leather). Both jobs were fairly straightforward, but my clients were especially pleased that I was able to fit them in before year's end.
"To stay ahead, you must have your next idea waiting in the wings."
Recently I received a call from the owner of a local second-hand store asking me to come and inspect a leather wingback chair and its matching footstool no longer wanted due to their condition. When I arrived in the store and saw the chair, I could see why. Apart from its unattractive mustard orange colour, the chair had suffered severe damage through deterioration in areas typically most neglected: the headrest and hand areas of the armrests. Sadly, this problem can generally be avoided simply by regular care and maintenance. By the time it gets to this stage, however, it requires professional attention.
After a brief appraisal I gave the store owner an indication of what it might cost to restore the chair. A few days later, I had another call: a prospective buyer was interested in the chair and would I undertake its restoration? No problem. I contacted the buyer to discuss options, provided a quote, and got the go-ahead.
By all appearances, the ends of the armrests on this leather chair were in the worst state and initially looked beyond hope. They had clearly been subject to years of hand oil and soiling, causing the finish to break down and the leather to develop surface cracking. A close examination, however, revealed the potential for restoration. I had to remove the surface contamination, prepare and fill the cracks, then allow it to cure. The following photos show the dramatic transformation before and after the repair work when the base colour is applied, but before the final antiquing process with the darker top coat blend and clear finish.
The remaining photos show the very pleasing contrast between the original condition and finished result, and we received a wonderful testimonial from the happy owner.
"I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes 'til I touch the sky."
Recently I was introduced to the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, described by the company as the successor to the SLR McLaren and a spiritual successor to the original 300SL Gullwing.
This car was only six months old and yet the leather driver's seat already had minor scuffing due to friction wear at the point of entry.
One of the main challenges of a job like this is getting the colour right. The leather upholstery in the SLS AMG is not just any old red; it is based on the original classic red of the seats in the 1954 300SL. As anyone involved in colour matching can appreciate, there is red, and then there is candy red, fire engine red, tomato soup red, wine red, and a myriad shades in between. On some jobs (as was the case with this one), I can spend more time on getting the colour right than on doing the actual repair. This is because the colour will look different under artificial light, natural light, and direct sunlight. The gull-wing door also cast a shadow over the work area, which added to the challenge. Therefore, I had to move the car a couple of times for examination purposes (and not just because I loved the howl of the 6.3L V8 and its throaty exhaust note), although I chose not to take up the owner's offer to "take it for a spin."
Once the colour was matched, it was a matter of masking off the affected area, preparing the damaged panel, applying the colour, blending it out, then applying the clear finish. When the car's owner turned up at the end of the day, he examined the seat and told me, "You have done a beautiful job!"
The following advertorial appeared in the December 3, 2013, issue of the Wairarapa Midweek, and it seems to have struck a chord with its readers. Since its publication we've had a number of calls from people with leather furnishings in need of love and attention!
The Greytown owner of a new red leather suite was dismayed to find that the piping between the cushions had succumbed to premature wear. The retailer asked us to inspect and remedy the problem for their customer. Because it was only a small job, I was able to touch up the affected areas on site using portable equipment, which meant less inconvenience for the customer and a reduced cost for our client, who was very pleased with the result.
A common problem we encounter when asked to clean or refinish leather upholstery is contamination on the headrest and armrests from an accumulation of natural body and/or hair oils. Fundamentally, this is a problem that is entirely preventable by following a good leather care regimen using products such as those recommended on our Leather Care Products page.
Sadly, we often see this problem when it is beyond the cleaning stage and the oils have penetrated deep into the leather, spreading far beyond what can be detected on the surface. Untreated, this can cause the leather to break down and rot, causing irreversible damage.
This was the case with the headrest on a cream leather recliner armchair we treated recently. While on the surface the damage looked minimal, it was necessary to remove the contaminated leather to reveal just how far the oil had spread. The solution? In a small number of cases we can extract the oil and refinish the existing leather, but often we recommend replacing the affected panels, as we did in this instance. Our client was very pleased with the finished result, which can be seen in the photos below.
"Fashions fade, style is eternal." — Yves Saint-Laurent
This beautiful Victorian leather armchair and its matching footstool were once a deep, luxurious green. I know that because the original colour still sits underneath the folds and other areas which had never been exposed to the light.
However, due to years of exposure to damaging UV rays, the pigments had severely faded, leaving an irregular mixture of mottled green and teal. However, that is the only thing that detracts from this beautiful piece of furniture, and the owner was very keen to have the colour restored.
This chair attracted a lot of attention due to it being featured as a "work in progress" exhibit (with the owner's permission) during the recent Made in Wairarapa Expo. Many visitors to the Expo wanted to see the finished product, and so I am pleased to be able to finally post the results below.
The owner of this old leather pouf was thinking about discarding it when she saw our advertisement and asked me if it was possible to recolour it, suggesting black sides and a tan top and base. I initially applied a solid colour as requested but it drew attention to the flaws in the leather, and thereafter applied an antique, slightly distressed look. The results were very satisfying and are shown below.
"In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the leather care industry, the term "hand" is used to describe the softness and feel of the leather surface. Some of the softest and most luxurious leathers, however, are also the most prone to soiling and stains can be very difficult or even impossible to remove.
This was the case with a very expensive semi-aniline handbag presented to me for cleaning recently. The leather was heavily soiled by natural body oils from regular handling, and it also had a number of watermarks. Some of the stains were permanent, i.e. unable to be removed by cleaning.
The bag not only represented a significant investment but was also very much loved by its owner, who wanted to know if I could not only remove the stains but also add a protective finish. I explained that this was possible but that the protective finish might not have quite the same soft feel, or hand.
The photos below show the results from recolouring and applying a protective finish to the bag, but best of all—and to my client's great delight—the leather felt as soft and as luxurious as before!
Sometimes I am asked to repair leather where the cause of damage is unknown. This is not so much a problem for me, although it can make all the difference for the owner if an insurance claim is involved. In this latest job, the footrests on two leather recliner armchairs were severely damaged by tears and cuts. The solution? I supplied new replacement leather for the damaged footrests which was cut to shape and sewn on by our upholsterer, then it was simply a matter of recolouring the new leather to match the adjacent panels. The colour had a subtle two-tone antique effect which is always a little more challenging than a single solid colour, but I enjoy that kind of challenge as I personally am not satisfied until the colour is right. The owner was very happy with the finished result, which is shown in the photos below. *
* Any variation in the colour between photos is due to different lighting conditions at the time each photo was taken.