"Change in all things is sweet."
The mainstay of our work continues to be the refinishing of leather upholstery, and this cream leather suite is typical of what we see. The leather finish had deteriorated in the main traffic or wear areas, namely the headrest, inside back and armrests, and the seat cushion, and so the owners asked for these areas to be refinished. There were some issues with oil decontamination, which can present a problem if it is not extracted from the leather substrate first, so once this was done, the finish was restored and the results can be seen in the photos below.
"Animals of all classes, old and young, shrink with instinctive fear from any strange object approaching them."
Look at what happened to one client's leather La-Z-Boy recliner when the window on their woodburner exploded and a large piece of superheated glass landed on the seat. Fortunately no one was sitting in the chair at the time and it did not catch fire, thanks to the natural properties of leather, which is flame-resistant. You can see from the accompanying photo that it did little more than scorch the surface and shrink the leather. The insurance company gave Leatherwise a call and we replaced the damaged panel, colouring the new panel to match the rest of the chair.
"Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends." — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The owner of this deep-buttoned leather sofa had just finished redecorating the interior of his home and decided that this sofa needed the same treatment. The photos below highlight the transformation.
"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength." — Betty Friedan
Leather can last a lifetime if it is looked after properly, but sadly it will also deteriorate if neglected. When leather has got to the stage where it is very badly cracked, then I usually recommend replacing those panels. However, at times I am asked to "just do your best." This is one of those cases, but the owner was delighted with the result.
"One must steer, not talk." ― Seneca
“A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.” ― Seneca
One of the nicest gifts you can give is something you already own that has been restored and given a new lease on life. I often have clients ask me about restoring their valued investment, a leather furniture item that is much loved but somewhat the worse for wear. Sometimes even the most ordinary looking of armchairs can have sentimental value, or is just so comfortable that the family just don't want to part with it. This armchair fell into that category, and was restored as a gift to family members from its elderly and beneficent owner.
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 answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind." — Robert Allen Zimmerman (Bob Dylan)
One thing I have learned in this business is to expect the unexpected. Old leather household items are occasionally brought to me for repair, but nothing prepared me for this set of vintage bellows with a zebra mane decoration which its owner had brought all the way from Zimbabwe. They still like to use the bellows when lighting their open fire, but the poor old thing had lost its puff. And no wonder: the leather valve had perished and was full of holes. Using the old leather as a template and following the original design, I managed to restore the bellows to full working condition and improve its appearance at the same time, right down to its new brass decorative nails.
I enjoy challenges like this as they present an opportunity to find a solution while learning along the way, which is one of my Core Values. The photos below tell the story of how the job progressed to completion. The owner was absolutely thrilled with the end result.
"If there is some art involved, I'd like it to be that it came through the cracks of daily work." — Martin Mull
Recently I was asked to inspect two armchairs from a client's German leather lounge suite with a view to repairing and refinishing. One area of concern was the level of deterioration of the leather on the armrests due to prolonged exposure to natural body oils and lack of proper maintenance. Not only had the finish broken down, but the leather substrate showed signs of damage as well. In severe cases we recommend replacement of the damaged panels. Fortunately, in this case we were able to sufficiently extract the contaminants to allow a successful repair and refinish before reinstating the mottled effect.
Occasionally we get asked to do jobs which fall outside our area of expertise. When that happens, we like to refer our clients to local businesses which specialise in that particular craft. One example is Jill Rose of Spellbound Quality Bookbinding, who recently repaired a client's antique cutlery box. The box was encased with a heavy grade of embossed paper, which is possibly why its owner thought it might have been leather. I left the box in Jill's capable hands, and she did a beautiful job, as you can see below.
"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.
"Cherish all your happy moments; they make a fine cushion for old age." — Booth Tarkington
After a few years, seat cushions can feel as though they have lost their bounce. Foam, after all, doesn't hold its shape forever. Rebolstering seat cushions is a relatively inexpensive option compared to replacing your suite.
The owners of this gorgeous Scandinavian leather and oak suite had owned it for 20 years and asked us to restore its original colour and re-pad all the cushions—not just the seat cushions but the armrests and inside back cushions as well. The suite also had a matching coffee table which we had professionally refinished by a local craftsman. The owners were thrilled, saying the suite looked (and felt) as good as the day they bought it!
Give us a call or send us an email to enquire about options for rebolstering your flattened cushions.
"One who finishes, lasts." — Jeffrey Fry
The majority of leather upholstery found in homes today is what we describe as "finished" leather. While there are a range of finishes on the market, much of what we see is leather coated with a pigmented resin, followed by a clear protective coating. (In a future blog post we will describe the different types of leather finishes.) It is this combination of colour and clear sealer which acts to protect your leather, providing wear, stain, and fade resistance.
Without proper maintenance, however, the finish on your leather can deteriorate prematurely. Such deterioration is usually unnoticed to the untrained eye, and your leather may look ok even though the original finish is no longer protecting the leather.
The owner of this beautiful cream wingback armchair recognised the need to give attention to the chair's appearance after discovering that the colour was starting to break down on the armrests and seat cushion. This was because the clear sealer on the high-wear areas had worn off, exposing the colour pigment to contamination and wear. Once we had cleaned and decontaminated the heavily soiled areas such as armrests and head areas, we restored the original colour and applied a new clear coat, leaving a showroom finish.
Maintaining finished leather is simply a matter of following a basic cleaning and protecting regimen. (See our Leather Care Tips page.) If you have any concerns or questions about the condition of your leather, give us a call. We cover the entire Wairarapa region (or further if required), our advice is free and if you live in Masterton we offer a free on-site inspection service, with no-obligation quotes.
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!