Once upon a time, furniture was made to last several generations. A dining suite, a bedroom chair, or a lounge suite, was an heirloom item which was lovingly oiled, smothered with antimacassars (headflaps to the uninitiated), and sat on only after Dad had showered. They were the days when names like Tessa, Parker and Chiswell were bandied about like Sass & Bide or Manolo Blahnik. Don’t get me wrong, there are still furniture manufacturers out there who take incredible pride in their creations, but for some time now, the trend among supplier and consumer, has been increasingly towards the D-word. Disposable!
But I am delighted to say the tide is turning. After almost 40 years observing the quirks of the interior industry, consulting on upholstery fabrics, design and furniture, I see a glimmer of hope where only recently I felt despair. Where once the path to our factory door was trod mainly by those who wanted to talk of upholstering the chairs they received decades ago as a wedding present, or the Grandfather chair they inherited from an aged aunt (and feared a curse from the grave should they leave it on the kerbside), we now find young families with a real passion for saving these gems. Where only several years ago, imported meant Asia not Europe, and new furniture purchases were being made with a view to replacement in a couple of years ‘when the children are a little older’ or to fit a spontaneous predilection for brilliant tangerine faux fur, common sense is once again prevailing. Phew!
I often wonder what a consumer would feel if they saw the naked truth inside a piece of furniture. If they saw what we saw. The difference between a chair rustled up by a process worker from faux wood, and the chair stroked, sanded and polished by a master craftsman in aged mahogany, or oak. The difference in the comfort of a seat supported by high grade elastic webbing (or springs), layers of foam, feathers or Dacron wadding, compared to the seats that are supported by strips of cut up inner tubes from car tyres (yes, we have seen it).
The difference six months down the track with the condition of chair fabric when it was a good quality heavy domestic selection compared to a cotton curtain fabric which was designed for hanging not upholstery (yes… seen it!)
All in all, I am passionate about the value of good quality furniture, and the value in preserving, recycling and enjoying the very best of manufacturers past. I honour the young family who appreciate kerbside finds and secondhand store treasures, and who then slavishly select a fabric that will cater to their family needs for years to come. To them come the rewards. In our factory we love nothing more than getting stuck into rectification work, because we know that with the right care and attention a great piece of furniture will keep on giving in a way that lesser quality furniture cannot. Whether it is a 50 year old dining chair that simply has the wobbles because it took the brunt of Uncle Ted one Christmas Day, or the Victorian bedroom chair that was on the receiving end of Rovers frustration one rainy day, they are worth the effort. They were designed to endure and endure they will.