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Owner, Sondra Ashton
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About the Recovery Room
Owner Sondra Ashton began the Recovery Room in 1984 while searching for a way to make a living and still be home when her children were home from school. Formerly she had taught school, worked in social work, and as a sales representative for Kimberly Clark.
I quickly found that the hands on work combined with the opportunity to exercise my creativity with fabrics suited me. It is particularly satisfying to me to have the opportunity to transform old “stuff” into beautiful furniture. I am happy with the work I do.
I recently relocated from the Pacific Northwest woods in Poulsbo, Washington to the community where I grew up in Harlem, Montana. Being back in the open spaces of “home” gives me a sense of renewal. I am proud to be here to serve you.
This Old Chair
by Sondra Ashton
What should you do with your old chair? You know the one, the chair that sat by the fireplace in the living room for years. Then one day you shoved it into a corner in the crowded guest bedroom and tossed an afghan over it to hide its shabby fabric. Eventually, when you turned the small guest room into an office, you dragged the chair to the garage where it sits piled high with boxes of Christmas ornaments.
Do you harbor such a chair? It is solid and used to be comfortable-until the springs started to poke you when you sat on it. So what should you do with it; haul it to the landfill like you have threatened many times? Can it be restored? Should you have it recovered?
As an upholstery professional, let me offer points for you to consider. Do you really like the chair? Is it comfortable? Can you envision the chair in a particular room? Will it fit the room? Do you like the basic style? Does it need frame repair or woodwork? Can you picture it with a different fabric, new color, texture and design? As a part of the information gathering and decision-making process, I also urge my clients to go shopping, to explore the variety of styles currently available in all price ranges.
A piece of furniture need not be on its last legs before one considers re-upholstery. Maybe your chair is simply beginning to look old and tired and will benefit from a face lift with different fabric. Perhaps you have recently moved and the fabric clashes with your new walls. Maybe you are remodeling and changing your color scheme. (Sometimes I wish I could remake me as easily as I can remake furniture.)
How do you decide that your furniture is worth reupholstering? Now we add the consideration of value in addition to size, balance, sturdiness, and the other factors you have already looked at. Value is a personal decision and will not be the same for everyone. Antiquity is a value that appeals to some. I like vintage furniture, especially from the 1940 s and 50 s. Maybe your piece is an heirloom that was bequeathed to you by your favorite Aunt Jane. But I think perhaps the best reason to recover that old chair or couch is that it is comfortable, it has good bones and you simply like it. (But if you never did like a particular piece of furniture, a new fabric is not guaranteed to work a miracle.)
So back to that old chair in your garage; assess it carefully. Yes, you have now decided your derelict chair is worth recovering. After all, you kept shuffling it around so many years after it fell into a state of ill repute, too disgraceful for the living room. You stow the Christmas ornaments on a shelf, drag it out of the garage and call a professional. She will ask questions about how and where you live, about the kind of use the chair will get. She will want to see the chair and the room. This will help her to know what fabrics to offer. For example, if you live on the farm with four small children and two large dogs, your fabric choices might be vastly different from that of your grandparents who just moved into a retirement townhouse. Your professional will answer questions about durability, clean-ability and the appropriateness of the fabrics that appeal to you. She will carefully consider your information and help you choose fabric which will restore the chair s grace and beauty.
By now you might be thinking there is more to reupholstering than meets the eye. And you are right. You have chosen a fabric and given your chair to the professional upholsterer. What happens next?
Let me use as an example a couch which at this writing is perched on saw horses in my shop. It is a sturdy couch needing no frame repair, has classic lines, and is well constructed with good bones. It is a quality piece, purchased from Bullock s in Chicago approximately seventy to eighty years ago. I removed the original damask covering, an elegant, formal fabric, which had become quite threadbare, the victim of years of cat attacks. My customer, to create a casual, relaxed look, chose two new fabrics. The fawn ultra-suede will cover outside arms, outside back and the cording. The insides and cushions will wear a stripe with muted reds, greens and fawn.
Together these fabrics will create a definite change, rendering the couch casual, relaxed, easy to live with, in keeping with the home and life-style of my customer.
Next I ll replace the old webbing and re-tie the springs. As I restore this couch, I will discard all the old padding, and renew the down-filled back cushions and the down-envelope seat cushions. This couch sits quite low. My customer wants the seat raised for comfort. I will add an inch to the seat cushions. We chose new legs which will add another inch to the seat height of the couch. In keeping with the country look we want, I suggested a design change, the addition of a double skirt, laying the stripe over the ultra suede, which will peak out beneath the stripe.
When this job is finished, I will have transformed a stiff proper couch into a relaxed handsome piece, in keeping with the setting and lifestyle of my customer. I am confident that the end result of this careful process will be a product of which both my customer and I will be proud.
So with this information, take a critical look at your old chair. Appraise it carefully. Now you can decide whether you want to restore it to its former glory, turn it into something new, or perhaps transform it into a stunning work of art.
Ms. Ashton owns the Recovery Room Upholstery Shop, 27 years in business in Washington and now in Montana.