Upholstery Lesson: Finishing Stages Of Leather

Summer’s over it’s back to work with a vengeance, as the upholstery lessons reach the finishing stages with our 1950’s vintage industrial style office chair.

Leather back attached, upholstery class continues with more essential layering, firstly rubber to give support to the back…


Another piece of calico follows the rubber…


Then some lovely fluffy wadding to smooth out any unwanted lumps and bumps!


Finally we’re ready for leather once more! (Woo hoo!) So folding the top over in place, I go about fitting the front piece to the back support.


Under the strict tutelage of Sarah B it’s an arduous process of firstly temporary tacking all the way around.


Time to limber up the fingers to give the piece of leather a good stretch to smooth out any baggy saggy bits (if only it were that easy to iron out our own bodily decline!). Onto the seat, and a layer of polywad.


Getting oh-so-close methinks (is this being optimistic or simply delusional?), as I lay on a big piece of lush leather onto the satisfyingly plump seat. According to fellow upholstery classmate Layla: “It’s all about having a plump bottom!(followed by obligatory dirty cackle)”

Now to the dreaded corners and I turn to Sarah B for help in how to cut – using the ‘Y’ or ‘half Y’ template. It always feels nervewracking this part because once you cut too deep it’s hard to disguise your mistake, and I don’t want to have to throw away such a big (and expensive) piece of leather!


One corner done, three to go…


For the top of the backrest it’s a case of folding over the corners as neatly as possible.


Now here’s a neat little upholstery trick with some back tacking – folding the leather over the piece of card to produce a perfectly tidy edge which you’d be quite happy to have on show.


All the leather is on at last, albeit temporarily tacked.


For the front of the seat we decide to go for folded over corners, so with a big tug and a pull said corners are folded over.


Onto exciting shiny things…Brass studs will complete the vintage style look very nicely, so it’s just a case of what finish to go with. I’m excited about using ‘real’ studs as opposed to ‘fake’ studs on a roll, and there’s the full gamut of choice from bling-bling- style shiny to burnished antiqued, it’s all just a matter of taste.


With much deliberation we go for burnished distressed looking studs, and I have a go at spacing them out. Sarah B advises me to go for minimal studding, but on discovering that some of the leather shows marks from the temporary tacking process, I decide to go all out with a ‘more is more’ look!


I soon discover that hammering in studs is a tricky process…they are long, bendy and unwieldy and I soon end up with many bent-out-of-shape studs. Cursing and sweating as I go, I soon work my way through Sarah B’s huge collection of studs (the casualties are sneakily hidden under my bag for fear of being ticked off by aforementioned (terrifyingly acidic-tongued) tutor.


Perseverance is key, and after numerous extractions and redoing of ‘ugly studs’ I finally get to a place where I feel happy to lay down my hammer. I can’t wait to get my reupholstered vintage chair back to the shop to show my partner, Mr. Antique Dealer.

And just to remind you of what this vintage 1950’s chair looked like before…

Green chair

This is the ‘da-dah! after’ shot.


Finally, roughly five months after starting my journey in upholstery, here it is…re-upholstered in a racy retro red leather, my 1950’s industrial style office chair!

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I hope that you’ll agree that the pain, sweat and tears was worth every moment! Watch out for this item in the Napoleon Rockefeller shop coming soon!