A Chair Built for Two

Communication, Communication, Communication…

Emily_Allen Drawing.jpgAside from quality, which must be a given, the first (and key) ingredient that allows a workroom, designer and client to create a beautiful piece of furniture is communication. It’s the collaboration and clear understanding of every detail that will create success. Size, scale, angles, firmness, tailoring, wood species, stain colors and fabric specifications are all components that must be agreed upon for a custom product.

I was working on a lobby renovation recently with Eric Hilton, www.erichiltonltd.com and needed to expand the seating capacity in one of the sitting areas. The client had a chair they really loved which was in need of reupholstering. Given their love for this particular chair, the style and scale of which fit the space perfectly, Eric chose to reupholster this piece, and create another one… but, the really cool part is, as a settee.

To construct a new frame and do the upholstery work, we collaborated with Manzanares Furniture Corp., www.manzanaresfurniture.com one of New York’s most respected and talented custom upholstery workrooms. I was speaking with Emily Nomer (principal) over lunch last week and asked her what ingredients go into successfully upholstering a piece of furniture — or in this case extending the line to a settee — a chair built for two.

Experience Counts.


Springing the frame.

In the case of our chair (for one) becoming a chair (built for two) the original scale and angles were accommodating to the design adaptation Eric envisioned. Experience has taught me to create benchmarks and checkpoints in the process to assure we’re on track all the way through. Emily calls it “disaster aversion” — nice goal!

We began the process with a sketch and dimensions that would go to the frame maker. Specifications were communicated, both in writing and in “sketch” format. The frame maker, whom we’ve worked with for many years, interprets the drawings and specifications, then proceeds with construction. (Checkpoint) Once the finished frame is QC’d it proceeds to the workroom for prep. Frames are “sprung” in the workroom and if there is finished wood it is finished after springing and prior to going “on the bench”. (Checkpoint) The piece then proceeds to upholstery.

Settee Complete.jpg

Finished Settee.

In most high quality custom shops the furniture is “bench-made”, meaning one highly skilled upholsterer works on it from start to finish. He works closely with the cutter and seamstress, and is always checking the measurements against the approved drawing. Once the “body” is upholstered, the piece either is complete (if there are no loose cushions) or it proceeds to the cushion department, where cushions are hand-fit and the client’s preferences are interpreted. At this point, a client will often come in to “sign off”.

The final step: You guessed it, a final “check” before furniture is delivered to the client, to make sure it is “groomed” and “detailed”. When the furniture arrives, I want our clients to be totally thrilled and not distracted by a loose thread or a wobbly seam.

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