Maintaining upholstery on unique furniture

This is part one in a two-part series on trends and tips for upholstery in hotels. Check back Wednesday for part two.

What is a hotel to do when it invests time, effort and money into designing a unique piece of seating for its public areas or the guestroom, and then is forced to replace it just a few years later? Hotel furniture is expected to last anywhere between five and seven years, but the interactions between guests and furniture can wear down furniture over time, which can break both hearts and the bank if the piece is unique or an antique.

Mark Goetz, founder of TZ Design, a New York-based furniture design firm, said it is important for designers to select furniture for hotels that can be upholstered in the first place, and to seek out designers and pieces that are purpose-built to be reinforced.

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“The key is in the details,” Goetz said. “Look into the welting, the way the fabric or leather is stapled on to find if a piece can have its upholstery replaced at all.”

Pieces that cannot easily be reupholstered, according to Goetz, sometimes are not worth the cost and should be replaced. One of the biggest barriers to upholstery maintenance in antique furniture is when a manufacturer glues the fabric directly to the underlying foam, which is not only very difficult to separate without damaging the piece, but also raises environmental concerns regarding the glue’s disposal.

MaryEllen Walsh, VP of furniture product development for Kravet, said that maintaining unique furniture begins with its frame. For the best results during reinforcements, Walsh said to make sure all hardwood frames are corner block screwed and braced in all corners, and suggested an eight-way hand tie on the bottom. Walsh also recommended the use of mohair fabric in antique seating for its long-lasting resilience, but conceded that many hotels would resist the idea due to the cost of the fabric.

“In an antique restoration, I would use leather or mohair,” Walsh said. “The key is to spend the money on a good solid frame, because if a piece of furniture is going to be around for a while in a hotel, it is going to get beaten to death.”

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