A pair of leather scuffs sounds like a nice footwear treat for the summer, but it's not what you want to see when you've just invested in a pair of new Italian Natuzzi leather lounge chairs. Our client had just taken delivery of their new chairs and discovered that one of them had got damaged in transit, with severe scuffing wearing away at the finish. Not a good look on expensive new Italian leather! All was not lost, however. The Wellington furniture retailer contacted us at the recommendation of a local upholsterer, and their minds were put at ease when they saw the results.
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.
I've always been a fan of the Holden family of cars. My earliest memories of life in Whitianga during the late 1960's include our family's HR Holden, and I have been a Holden owner myself a couple of times through the years. My very first car was a 1972 Holden LJ Torana very similar to the one pictured at right. It had been fitted out for racing before being retired after its V8 engine blew up. The owner sold it with a 202 6-cylinder engine with Yella Terra head hiding under the bonnet scoop, but apart from that and its bucket seats, flared guards, mag wheels and rear spoiler, it was stock standard. I didn't mind; I loved that car. It is still probably my favourite of all the cars I've owned. (I later also owned an LH Torana with a 1900 Opel motor. Worst motoring decision I ever made.)
I could therefore relate to the feelings of the owner of a late model Holden Monaro who approached me with his pride and joy recently. The front driver's seat had suffered a bad split in the seam and both front seats needed refinishing. Naturally, I was pleased to be of help. The following photos show the repair to the split seam by our upholsterer, after which I refinished the leather. The owner's reaction? "They look [...] awesome!"
"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts." — Marcus Aurelius
The metaphor used here by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is most apt. When we allow certain thinking patterns to become ingrained, they can define our very personality and are difficult to erase, which is probably why we have English idioms like "colourful personality" to describe a vivid character, and "dyed in the wool" to describe a person who resists change.
Interestingly, the same metaphor can also apply to leather. If a dyed material (such as blue denim) comes into constant contact with leather which is not regularly cleaned and protected, the dye can transfer to the leather finish and be absorbed by it. This is most noticeable on cream and light-coloured leather. Once the stain is there, it is difficult to remove. In effect, the two pigments have become one, and it is impossible to remove the foreign dye without partially removing the original finish.
An example of this is a job which I completed recently for a client whose taupe-coloured leather armchair recliner had a distinctive pink tinge to the lumbar support and inside back cushion. The pink was the result of dye transfer from a non-colourfast, scarlet-coloured scatter cushion which had been used to provide additional lumbar support. Unfortunately, this stain was unable to be removed by cleaning because the colour had penetrated deep into the pigmented leather finish.
The photos above illustrate how dye transfer can damage your leather's finish and why it requires professional attention. Once the dye transfer had been completely removed, I was then able to apply a new finish which I had colour-matched to the chair's original colour, followed by a protective clear sealer to lock the colour in. The chair looked brand new, and the owner was thrilled with the result, which is shown below.
"A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous."
Sometimes I embark on projects which I can see are going to be incredibly difficult, or at least very challenging. This was certainly the case with four dining chairs which looked to be around 100 years old and were brought to me for restoration. The leather inserts on the back were thin and on two chairs were worn completely through at the bottom corners, as can be seen in the accompanying photos.
However, my client told me that she didn't want the chairs to look perfect but rather that they retain their old and worn look, and so I had the challenging task of repairing the damaged leather panels rather than replacing them entirely. Once the repairs were completed, I carefully masked off all the exposed wood to protect it during the recolouring and refinishing process. The final result was very pleasing and my client was delighted.
The expression "getting thinner on top" usually refers to a diminishing hairline. This week, however, the phrase took on a whole new meaning for me.
Someone had spilt glue on the rear leather seat of their Hyundai Santa Fe. That was a problem in itself. But then a solvent thinner was used to try and remove it. The thinner did not remove the glue stain, but it did succeed in removing the leather finish on the surrounding area, along with some of the colour.
There is a simple lesson here: Don't use solvents on leather. Practically all upholstery leather vehicle interiors and most household leather upholstery are pigmented or coloured and then sealed with a clear finish. Using a solvent will weaken the finish and cause colour loss. This is not something that can be solved by cleaning. The only remedy is professional refinishing.
Fortunately, we could reverse the damage for our client, and you can see the results for yourself in the photos below.
"There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment." — Orison S. Marden
The owner of an antique leather chaise longue (French for "long chair") was cheered by its keenly-awaited return home yesterday after being without it for a short period while it was undergoing restoration.*
This project had involved more than just a mere tidy-up. (See previous blog entries "Getting the stitch" and "Putting our best foot forward.") The original green colour had all but gone and the bare leather was exposed in many places, stitching needed to be replaced, holes and tears repaired, wooden trim repaired and repolished, dust cover replaced, and then finally a complete refinish of the leather itself in an antiqued green with satin finish.
Finally, the work was all done and the day arrived for me to deliver the chaise longue to its owner. The chair had been in their family for over 100 years, and they had longed to see it restored to its former glory. Their reaction put a smile on my face and made all the hours of work worthwhile. The photos below tell the rest of the story. Thanks again to Tony Kilmister of Kilmister Furniture Restoration for the beautiful wood repairs and repolishing.
*Chaise longue is a French term adopted into English usage which is often incorrectly pronounced or written as "chaise lounge."
Some of the best things about the Wairarapa are its people. We have in this region a lot of highly skilled and talented individuals who have become experts in their craft.
In our Mission Statement, we highlight the importance of supporting such people as they make up the local businesses, craftspeople, and suppliers who share our passion to produce quality work for our valued clients. One such skilled craftsman is Tony Kilmister of Kilmister Furniture Restoration.
I am currently in the process of restoring an antique leather chaise longue (see my earlier post "Getting the stitch"), and part of what is charming about this piece of furniture is its wooden trim, including the feet. Our client was keen to see this restored along with the leather upholstery, so I asked Tony to have a look at it before I embark on the leather refinishing process.
Tony skilfully repaired and repolished the trim, and some of the results are shown below. This "long chair" really is beginning to put its best feet forward. Now all that remains is to refinish the leather.
Anyone looking at this photo could be excused for thinking that I burnt my toast for breakfast. In fact, when I posted it on my Facebook page, someone thought it was badly burnt pastry!
What you see is actually one of four leather dining chair inserts, or slip seats, which shows the combined effects of time, neglect, and sun damage. The leather had, quite literally, been "toasted"!
Naturally, the original leather was beyond recovery. After removing the tatty remains, I restored the webbing support and rebolstered the seat padding so that the new leather would sit nicely.
Once the seat frames and padding were tidied up, I applied a two-colour antique effect to new leather panels, then trimmed them and attached them to the seat frame. The result is shown below.
"Excellence is in the details. Give attention to the details and excellence will come." — Perry Paxton
I've always enjoyed minute detailing work. I don't know why, but I find a great deal of satisfaction in working closely with an object that demands dexterity and a keen eye for detail. When I was a kid I marvelled at anything miniature and enjoyed building finely detailed model aircraft.
These days I don't have time for building models, but I discovered that I get the same sense of satisfaction when restoring leather. Often I have to get very close to my work, and especially is this the case when having to repair damage caused by cat scratches. There is something quite rewarding in reversing the damage caused by an errant feline's claws.
Last week I worked on a cream chesterfield sofa which was in remarkably good order apart from a few small areas of concern:
This sofa was yet another opportunity for me to enjoy the rewards of finely detailed work, and to see the pleasure on my client's face when they took delivery of their furniture was a reward in itself.
Anyone looking at the title of this blog post might be forgiven for thinking about a song by Bob Dylan, but I chose it because it describes the final result of my latest refinishing project, a baby-blue leather-and-vinyl three-seater sofa.
The new owners of this unique-coloured sofa absolutely loved its appealing design, and it is indeed a good-looking piece of furniture. The main wear areas (seat cushions, arms, inside backs) are top-grain leather, whereas all outside panels are made of embossed vinyl, coloured to match.
Sadly, the leather finish had been allowed to deteriorate as a result of severe neglect, and some serious damage had been caused to the vinyl panel in the lower front. Nevertheless, by means of thorough preparation, painstaking repair work, and careful colour matching, the end result was rewarding.
And, as you can see from the photos below, it's baby blue all over now. (And for those who didn't know, the title of Dylan's song of 1965 is "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.")
"Today's preparation determines tomorrow's achievement."
I saw the above quote by an unknown author today and thought how well it summed up my latest project.
Preparation is the key to a successful result in the leather refinishing industry. I take this very seriously, and much of my time involved in any refinishing job is in the preparation.
For example, take the antique style office chair pictured below. Much more time than usual was required to prepare it for refinishing. The main areas of concern were the leather surfaces. The arms and seat back had deteriorated through neglect and some damage had been done to the seat cushion where a strip of adhesive tape had completely removed the finish.
I was equally concerned with protecting the non-leather components. The wooden framing needed protection from the leather refinishing process, and the metal pins required meticulous masking. All of this took considerable time, and there are no shortcuts to doing a good job.
All-in-all, I would say that the time spent on this job was 80% preparation, but the end result was worth it. The chair looks absolutely fantastic.
When it comes to rejuvenating worn leather, most prefer to invest in a full refinish to bring back that showroom look and feel to their entire suite. On the other hand, it may be that only the high-wear areas need attention, such as the seat cushions, arms, inside backs, and headrests. In such a case, you have the option of a PARTIAL refinish, which the owner of a blue leather two-seater sofa requested this week; she only wanted to have the seat cushions done. With a partial refinish, we match the colour to blend in with the original finish on the surrounding areas. The result is as shown in the photos below.
Note: Any variation in colour between the transition is due to a change in lighting between the time the photos were taken.
This week I refinished a blue recliner armchair which was part of a Kovacs Design Furniture leather lounge suite. The leather was still in great condition but due to lack of maintenance the finish had deteriorated in the high wear areas, particularly the seat and armrests. This highlights the importance of regular care using approved leather products such as Pelle. If the finish or colour on your leather upholstery is wearing thin or coming off, it is by no means the end of the road. The photos below illustrate how professional refinishing can give your leather a new lease of life.
Upholstery was never designed to be used as a scribbling pad, but one toddler with ballpoint pen in hand missed out on that memo (along with the one on interior wall graffiti). One of our customers had just purchased a brand new leather lounge suite when a visiting grandchild decided it would make a dandy place to demonstrate his drawing skills. The owner had tried to remove the marks with an ink-removal product but was unsuccessful. Fortunately, and much to the delight of our customer and her insurance company, we were able to reverse the damage. Now the only record of the child's work of art is in the photo below.