A COMPLETE RESTORATION OF AN AMAZING MID-CENTURY SOFA SET

A COMPLETE RESTORATION OF AN AMAZING MID-CENTURY SOFA SET

Mike Talks About...
Restoring a very cool three piece sofa set

What made this project worthy:

This classic undulating mid-century sofa set is just so much fun. Whoever designed it was in a good mood. If they weren't, they were in a good mood when they were done.

Add to that the fact that it is built like a tank -- you could park a car on this thing! So much style, and so solid. Definitely worth saving, despite the significant amount of work involved.

The process:
The original upholstery was too damaged to save. And to do the job right, everything had to be stripped off -- all of the fabric and all of stuffing materials. No small task. But after beginning that process in my own workshop, I realized how well the sofas were made, which made me commit even more to a top-notch restoration job for this set. These sofas may look like the life of the party, but they are also substantial furniture.

If you are a competent DIY-er, recovering the seats of, say, a simple dining chair is well within your reach. But the complexities involved with stuffed seating pieces require the hand of a professional. Good upholstery is like sculpture. It takes a keen eye and lots of experience to reconstruct a three-dimensional amorphic surface that has to be comfortable, structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

The upholstered sofas sit atop a wooden frame with permanently attached legs. I took that section off to be repaired and refinished in my own workshop. Then I delivered the sofas, without the wood portion, to the workshop of an old pro. He has done upholstery work for me before and I trust his skill and expertise.

As he continued to strip the sofas, I began the search for the fabric. I needed 22 yards of the Right Stuff, preferably a print to reflect the original, but not something so busy that the sofas would compete with themselves. After an exhaustive search of material suppliers, I was able to find a fabric featuring a modern amorphic pattern which echoed the original, as well as sofas themselves. The weight was substantial and the color was vibrant. Red may seem like a bold choice, but it plays surprisingly well with other colors...and these couches aren't for the timid anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the upholsterer's shop, it turned out that because the sofas had been originally so well-made, they didn't need new springs. In fact, discarding the original exceedingly strong metal springs would be not only unnecessary but, frankly, a step backward considering the fact that 'they just don't make 'em like that anymore.' Indestructible infrastructure like this is one of the main reasons to restore vintage furniture in the first place. Each spring needed to be re-tied, however. This involves skill -- the aforementioned skill of the experienced upholsterer -- because there is tension in them and they must stay even and uniform in order to make a desirable seating experience. (Which was achieved in spades -- these sofas are amazingly comfortable!)

After the springs were re-tied, the body of the sofas was recreated with natural cotton stuffing combined with high-density sponge.

While this was happening, I was doing the work on the wood frames in my own workshop. First, I completely stripped the factory-applied paint. They were a hard wood but once stripped, a much lighter color. Therefore, I used a hand-polished tinted urethane method to refinish them, in order to maintain the same dark aesthetic as the original black.

At some point, a mirror had been put over the ottoman table. It was clearly not original, and in truth, it made the ottoman table look like a pedestal for a giant Hummel figure or perhaps the centerpiece for a well-attended 1970s cocaine party, instead of what it was, a versatile piece of very cool furniture. The mirror had to go.

Because the glue for the mirror had damaged the wood extensively, I re-fabricated the top altogether from new wood, then applied the same multi-layered urethane finish used on the sofa frames and legs.

When it came time to reupholster the ottoman, it was clear that to achieve the correct visual flow, the pattern on the fabric had to be oriented horizontally, not vertically -- just as they had done originally. This took three times as much fabric, which is difficult to swallow at first, but it was essential to maintaining the overall cohesive aesthetic of the finished set. Just another example of the fact that we did not spare expense nor effort in bringing these pieces back to life!

Interested in owning this amazing set? Read more here.



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