Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Uphostery Blog: Craftsman's Eye

I thought I'd share an interesting piece I just posted on The Upholstery Blog on how to work with a custom furniture builder to get that one of a kind look for you or your clients. While this is written with the professional designer in mind, the tips will work for anyone looking for something special.

Floor Plans, Sketches & Specifications

Architect sketch of location for custom banquette seat

When you visit your furniture designer, don't forget to bring along a detailed floor plan that indicates where furniture will be located, as well as exact dimensions of the piece. Be sure to also include measurements for all doorways, halls, stairways and elevators through which the furniture will travel to reach its final resting place. Even the most experienced designers make fatal errors that are evident only upon delivery. Almost any space constrictions can be accommodated if they are known in advance. For instance, a sofa can be made to come apart and re-attach on site. Forethought is key.

What is the style you are looking for? Do your homework before you meet with a furniture maker. Take time to go through design magazines, trade journals and design books. Pull photographs of details such as tailoring, trims and the overall look you are hoping to achieve. Don't be afraid to take an upholstered arm from one photo, a back from another and a skirt treatment from a third --- good custom furniture makers are skilled in bringing the varying elements together. Pictures that show what you want will save a thousand words of explanation. If you are able to do a schematic sketch on your own - that's great. But if you are not, your furniture maker can still create a design from your photos and conversation for your approval.

Above all else, be as specific in your instructions as possible. Once you have instructed the manufacturer, ask for written confirmation of your instructions that includes a drawing of how the piece will look. Take the time to read the manufacturer's instructions and look the drawings over carefully. Design deadlines and budgets rarely permit costly errors.

Construction and Customization

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Let's face it, custom furniture is expensive. Ask the manufacturer tough questions to ensure that you're getting quality merchandise. Is kiln dried wood used for the frame? Are the frames dowelled, glued and screwed on corner blocks? Are stretchers used when required for added support?

Go over fine details of the design with your manufacturer. The thickness of the back, the seat and the seat cushions will affect the overall depth. The width of the arms can affect the seating space. Inside and outside pitch will determine the angle of the back. Discuss your client's special requirements with the manufacturer. If your client is especially short or tall, large or slight, the manufacturer can make design changes for which your clients will be grateful. After all, comfort is the final determining factor in the overall success of your design.

Fabrics, Fillers and Flame-proofing

Example of a client's purchase order for custom kitchen banquette

Don't forget fabric samples. Your upholsterer will need to see what you have selected and can help you make your final choice. Will the fabric run horizontally or vertically? How wide is it? How often does the pattern repeat? Will seams show? Wait until you consult with the upholsterer before you order the fabric. Even the slightest style change can dramatically alter the amount of fabric you need. It is also a good idea to bring along samples for any welts, gimp, fringe or tassels you plan on using.

Next, take a moment to consider fillers. Once again, be specific. Will the furniture be used extensively or only occasionally? Standard cushions are generally made of a medium density urethane foam wrapped with a Dacron fiber. A more luxurious, comfortable cushion, however, is made of innerspring and cotton wrapped in foam. White goose down is also favored for comfort.
If flame proofing is required, be sure to let the upholsterer know at the beginning of the project. This is especially essential for commercial projects such as restaurants or salons.

Of course, organic and green materials are also available for any upholstery project.

Tailoring, Treatments and Toss Pillows

Custom upholstery adds a new dimension to your design talents. The final details --- tailoring, treatments and toss pillows --- are crucial in determining the end result.

Ask your upholsterer to show you samples of how the cushions can be tailored (knife edges, box welted and weltless, Turkish corners, waterfalls and hand-sewn are among the finishes available). Finalize treatments for the arms (round arm tuxedo, square arm tuxedo, roll arm, and flair arm, to name a few); the bases and legs (plinth; will they be upholstered, painted or laminated? Will the radius corner have a recessed bull nose base? Harem, upholstered bun feet?, parsons legs, or castors?) If there is to be a skirt, how will it be treated? (Kickpleat, dressmaker's, pleated corners, ruffles?) What about the overall upholstering? Will it be tufted (diamond and biscuit), hand channeled, quilted, trapuntal? And, what form, if any, will the final topstitching take? (Double needle, french-style back, fox edge?)

When choosing toss pillows, talk with the upholsterer about how they will be used. Do they have to hold up for a family of five? Ask questions. A good upholsterer will cheerfully answer your questions and respond quickly to your special requirements. Your design reputation is on the line; never allow yourself to be intimidated or pushed into a hasty decision.

Details and Delivery

Prepare a checklist. Go over it twice. Make sure your order is confirmed in writing and is accompanied by a sketch. Don't be afraid to ask for a specific delivery date, but make sure you do your part and get all fabrics and trims to the manufacturer as promised.

Don't leave the final detail --- delivery --- to chance. If your manufacturer leaves delivery arrangements up to you, and many do, locate a reputable firm and take prompt possession of your merchandise.

Finished custom made kitchen banquette for This Old House, Newton project.

Visit The Upholstery Blog for more!

Sponsor Love: Welcome, Terrys Fabrics!

I want to welcome new ::Surroundings:: sponsor Terrys Fabric in the UK to my little corner of blogland.

Among their many offerings, Terrys Fabrics carrys a wide range of window coverings including shades, wooden blinds, and venetian blinds.

A window treatment can effectively be used to improve proportions and balance in a room. It is sometimes important that fine architectural features should not be disguised by heavy swathes of fabric and as Venetian blinds are usually used within the window recess they create the perfect solution for exposing such detail.

The beauty of Venetian blinds lies in their simplicity. Used on their own Venetian blinds are purely functional items, but with the addition of a neat pelmet top or facia to add a touch if detail, is sometimes all that you need for a stunning window treatment. On occasion it may be desirable to have a Venetian blind inside a window recess as a functional item (maybe as a sun screen during the day in a very bright room) and curtains simply to dress the window or to be used for cosiness and added privacy.

Venetian blinds come in a range of sizes, colours and types; including Aluminium Venetian Blinds and Wooden Venetian Blinds - have a look below and you will see some of the blinds we have in stock.

A big thanks to Terry's Fabrics for their support. I appreciate their support so much!!

If your company would like to reach out to a wide range of readers from designers to design enthusiasts and the media, please contact me for sponsorship rates.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Travel Tuesday: The Milestone, London

On a hot tip from my pal Ms. Place, I present the spectacular Milestone Hotel in London. Swoon!

The Milestone. 1, Kensington Court. Two gracious 19th century townhouses.
Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

The Milestone Hotel and Apartments are situated at 1, Kensington Court, just opposite the park and palace where Lady Diana used to reside. The Victorian house was designed by John James Stevenson (1831-1908) and constructed by Holland and Hennen in 1883-1884 with red bricks and pink terracotta dressings in the Flemish revival manner. (from

The reception area. Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

Prince Albert Suite. Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

Ready for a banquet. Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

The black and white Conservatory.

View of the resistance swimming pool.
Photo © The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, London.

There are more photos available on their site. Have you been?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Design Star 3 - Finale in New Orleans

And then there were two:

Matt Locke

Jennifer Bertrand
Their final challenge is to design a kitchen, dining room and living room for two families who lost nearly everything in during hurricane Katrina. To pull on our heartstrings all the more, one family is headed by a fireman and the other a police officer.

They have:
36 hours over 4 days, which was broken up as follows:
Day 1 – 8 hours with 1 carpenter
Day 2 – 12 hours with 3 carpenters; plus Mikey and Trish show up to help. Matt selects Trish to help with paint and therefor leaves Mikey to Jennifer to help her to with installing a kitchen.
Day 3 – 12 hours with 3 carpenters and Trish and Mikey switch designers.
Day 4 – 4 hours with no help

Budget: $20,000
Sears – kitchen appliances
Lumber Liquidators – flooring

Yay to Jen and Matt for being such nice people and making the final task all about the homeowners. You are both winners!

Yay to HGTV for providing sufficient help to get the job done well for the sake of the homeowners and the designers. It's so frustrating when the producers shortchange the projects in the name of creating more drama. Poo! We want to see real work and real design - not forced drama by lack of time or support staff.

Here are images of Jen's space:

And here is Matt's space:

Click over to HGTV for more images, including the "before" images and see how HGTV viewers are rating the spaces. There seems to be a clear winner.

After last week's epi, I asked two questions - who do you WANT to win and who WILL win. Clearly, Jennifer was the big winner on both counts, although Matt has fans in the "want" category.

Now that we've seen their final challenge, let's have one more poll:

Who will win Design Star?
Matt free polls

To vote for real:
Via cell phone, text the letter A to 44881 for Jennifer Bertrand or the letter B to 44881 for Matt Locke.
OR go online and vote once per day. Voting ends on Wednesday 7/30 at 10am EST.

Click here to read all Design Star posts, including my recent interview with Jennifer Bertrand.