Case Study #3: The Maple Leaves & Owl Victorian Chair
I met Jane at a craft exhibition in Rutland. She had apparently been following me for a while on social media but wanted to meet me in person and see my work up close before discussing a possible commission.
We chatted for a while and then set up an appointment for her to visit my workshop, in the meantime she emailed me photos of the chair she would like me to work on.
The chair was a Victorian, button backed arm chair. It had been in the family for many generations and Jane had inherited it from her great aunt.
She showed me some photos of family gatherings from years past, with some of Jane as a child sitting in the actual chair. There also seemed to be a Labrador in every photos ~ lots of happy memories.
She really loved the chair and it was obviously of great sentimental value to her so she wanted to restore it back to its best, but at the same time make is something original and special for future family memories.
The chair looked in fairly good order, and had been upholstered about 40 years previously. The upholstery was now a little jaded and it didn’t really fit in with her décor and style of her home.
Jane had in mind a theme for her chair. She happens to live in Maple Tree House and had previously commissioned stained glass artwork for above her front door and various paintings. We came up with the concept of swirling maple leaves falling down the front of the chair in various autumnal colours. Using a selection of silks and velvets we could add some texture to the design. Jane had also brought some left over remnants from her new curtains that would fit into the scheme and tie the chair in nicely with her décor.
Jane also wanted some sort of wildlife incorporated into the design. We discussed hares and deer, but I knew we would have problems with scale and positioning due to the buttons on the back of the chair. I suggested an owl down the bottom of the inside back possibly peeping up from a pile of leaves that had fallen down from the tree over the chair and landed on the seat. Jane really liked that concept and it turned out that owls were a favourite of her great aunt and she had a collection of ceramic owls. I love it when a design comes together and has a special meaning for a client.
I put together the design brief and sourced the main fabric for the project. I did some research into embroidered owl designs until I found the perfect one that would work on the chair and look like he was peeping out through the pile of leaves. It was a little bit different to what Jane was expecting on the owl front, but she absolutely loved the design.
Once the design brief was signed off I started work, only to find a host of hidden horrors under the old top fabric. This happens a lot with antique furniture. The frame needed a lot of repair work and in places the original upholstery was still in place but it was filthy dirty and very lumpy so it had to be replaced if it was going to last another 100 years. This delayed the project by a few weeks, but when she saw it, Jane said it was worth the wait!
“I can’t tell you how delighted I am with the chair. It now has pride of place and whilst it is a beautiful old piece of furniture, it is now a gorgeous piece of unique art that we can admire for years to come!”