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Sofa reupholstery: how to reupholster a Chesterfield

Home All Sofa reupholstery: how to reupholster a Chesterfield

Chesterfields are one of the most popular types of couch. Becoming popular in the early Victorian era, traditional styles have stood the test of time. Now, these sofas are more diverse in their design and covered with a wide range of modern fabrics from new. Older pieces are often given a new lease of life with reupholstery in similar modern fabrics, not necessarily the traditional leather..

Our Master Upholsterers do a significant amount of Chesterfield reupholstery in our workshop. They tend to be a much loved piece of furniture that people want to hang on to.

Features of a Chesterfield

  • Traditional styles have large, rolled arms and a low back of the same height
  • Modern teaks and additions to the design can have higher or even winged backs
  • Most Chesterfield sofas have deep tufting (buttoned padding) seats, seat cushions or backs
  • Tufted Chesterfields won’t take a loose sofa cover – reupholstery is the only way to rescue and revive
  • The traditional choice of covering is black, brown, green or oxblood leather
  • Older models look amazing reupholstered in modern fabrics including velvet and chenille
  • Traditional styles of Chesterfield have the characteristic nailhead trim as a design feature

The process of Chesterfield reupholstery

Prior to our Master Upholsterers starting work on your sofa, you’ll have contacted your local Plumbs consultant to visit your home. Their job is to help you get the most out of your Chesterfield reupholstery. You can book a free consultant’s visit by your area’s local representative on our website.

1. Assessment & unpicking

When your Chesterfield arrives in our workshop, the Master Upholsterer who will be working on it will review the paperwork and photos submitted by your consultant.

The upholsterers give the armchair a thorough inspection, which involves stripping it down to the frame. This stage of Chesterfield reupholstery is also called ‘unpicking’. They will carefully remove the old leather or other fabric, as well as the foam. This enables them to examine the condition of the frame and springs.

2. Repairs

Time and use usually take their toll on a sofa frame – even an old Chesterfield. Now the fabric has been removed, the upholsterer can see if anything needs attention. They will inspect the joints and tighten them if they’re loose. They’ll check there are no splits in the timer and replace wood if necessary. Meanwhile, they send the old fabric to the cutter so a template can be made.

3. Preparing the frame

Next, the Master Upholsterer prepares the frame. After any repairs have been made to the joints and timber, the springs will be checked and replaced if necessary. We keep a wide selection of pocket (coil) and serpentine (also known as sinuous or zig zag springs) springs on site.

At this stage in the Chesterfield reupholstery, the upholsterer will also replace the hessian, and affix and shape the foam or other filling material, as defined by the customer order.

Old foam will have corroded and will need replacing. In addition, foam that’s over 30 years old is – unfortunately – usually toxic and should be removed. The replacement we use is a safe, approved silicon-based foam that is treated with a fire retardant. If our customer wants to keep the old foam and it’s in good condition, we’ll add a fireline.

4. Fabric

While leather is the traditional fabric associated with Chesterfields, in recent times it has become less popular. One of the main reasons for this is that there’s so much leather waste during a sofa refurbishment. On a large Chesterfield, it can take as many as 9 skins to reupholster the couch, when you consider you have to discard imperfections.

Fortunately, there are many other suitable Chesterfield reupholstery fabrics – from 100% cotton and polyester, to blends, to recyclable velvets and chenille. Our reupholstery fabrics are available in a wide range of colours, from Cardinal Royal blue velvet to patterned Morris & Co fabrics like Strawberry Thief in Crimson/Slate. The Cardinal range alone is available in 49 colours, while the Morris fabrics come in 9 gorgeous colours and designs.

The cutter will carefully unpick all the seams, inspecting it. They’ll note how the pieces go together and if there are any quirks that will need to be replicated when the new sofa upholstery is fitted onto the frame. This includes marking where the buttons go onto the new fabric – this can also be done by the upholsterer.

The cutters lay the original fabric onto the new and start cutting the pieces out, aligning patterns where necessary. If there’s anything the Master Reupholsterers or sewers need to know, the cutters will brief them.

5. Fitting the fabric kit

When they receive the fabric kit back from our sewists upstairs, the Master Upholsterer will check the positions of the buttons and make sure the patterns line up and look good in situ. The fabric kit comprises all the pieces of fabric needed to complete the Chesterfield reupholstery – the back, arms and seat and cushions if applicable. Not all seams will arrive sewn – some will be stitched or tacked in position by the Master Upholsterer to ensure the best fit.

Our upholsterer will begin fitting the fabric kit to the sofa frame, piece by piece. Because the new pieces were cut to the exact size of the old fabric, they are the correct fit; on the restored frame, the snugness of the fit will be exactly as it was when the chair was brand new.

With tufted Chesterfield reupholstery, half as much fabric again is required to create the depth of the buttons and padding on the back and, if applicable, the seat or cushions. Each piece is tacked onto the frame, and visible seams and buttons are sewn by hand.

Sometimes, a Chesterfield frame will arrive without any covering – which means we can’t create a template from the fabric. In this case, our Master Upholsterer will tailor the fabric directly onto the frame. When this is done, they will add the braiding, nailhead trim and other finishing details.

There are a few ways of doing it when you don’t have the original fabric kit. I did a 9 foot long Chesterfield with a buttoned seat, gold buttons. It didn’t have an original kit, so I did it myself, working from top to bottom, backwards to forwards, letting the button lines guide me. If there had been no buttons, I’d’ve let the frame guide me.

Mick, a Plumb’s Master Upholsterer for more than 13 years and has reupholstered thousands of Chesterfields

6. Cushions

Not all Chesterfield sofas have cushions – some have an integral seat. If your sofa refurbishment needs them, the team in the Foam Room will be working with the cutters and sewers to create new seat cushions. They will be made to the Chesterfield’s reupholstery specification, as requested by the customer – foam, fibre or feather – or the original specification. The cutter deconstructs the cushion and the sewer makes the cushion cover in the new fabric.

7. Quality check

The Master Upholsterer will check his own work before sending the Chesterfield to be quality checked. Our Quality Checkers are trained to inspect every detail and make sure the finished reupholstery is the standard it should be – including seams, nailhead trims and buttons.

What is Chesterfield reupholstery?

Reupholstery is the perfect way to revive a much loved piece of furniture, without compromising on the comfort and style of the original design. It’s much cheaper than buying a new armchair and better for the environment (it doesn’t go into landfill). Plus, our armchair reupholstery service comes with a 3 Year Quality Guarantee.

Our master upholsterers strip your furniture down to its frame, inspect and tighten joints, replace worn or broken webs, springs, padding and stuffing, and reupholster your seat in the fabric of your choice.

Can a Chesterfield have loose sofa covers?

Chesterfields with buttons aren’t suitable for loose sofa covers, though they can sometimes be used to refresh a model without buttons. Buttons are used to create attractive and characteristic padding on a Chesterfield on the seat and back. This type of padding is called a tufted seat or tufting.

A loose cover could never be made to fit snugly into the shapes created by the buttons, pleats, folds and padding. Reupholstery is the only way to rescue and revive a tufted sofa (almost all other couches with no tufting can have a new removable cover, no problem).

Free swatches and a free consultation

Why not browse our Chesterfield reupholstery fabrics and shortlist a few favourites? We’ll send you a free swatch pack of your chosen samples in the post.

When you’re ready to talk through your options, it’s time to book a free visit from your local consultant. They have a lot of experience and can make sure your sofa gets the makeover you deserve.

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