New Leather for Old Chairs

Church Chairs Re-Upholstered in Leather

The property manager of a church congregation called about having some sanctuary chairs reupholstered in time for Christmas services.  Three of the chairs were in such poor condition they had lingered in storage for years.  Two had been 'reworked', but were no longer serviceable.

More recent upholstery, springs peeking out.  Booth trim.

Old brittle leather, springs and strings flopping out all around.

The chairs had been with the congregation longer than anyone could remember.  Lovely carvings adorned the frames, which were stable, deep and heavy.  The two taller chairs had been quickly covered with velvet and lovely hide-a-tack welting at one point, but the seats had since collapsed.  Three shorter chairs had dry, ancient leather covering with springs and stuffing popping out.

New Leather Old Style

The fabric decision was very simple.  They wanted a black leather as on the short chairs.  And with a finish that would befit the antiquity of the chairs.  From the handful of samples we sent, they chose a full weight aniline leather with a slight crackle pattern (Cheyenne Black from United Fabrics.)

Full Rebuild

We started by removing the deteriorated foundation for the leather covering.  Dry rotted burlap, matted cotton and musty hog hair came off in a cascade of dust.  The seat springs were the only survivors.  It had been a while since any of us had encountered a 12" spring! 

The new foundations were laid up in the traditional style with the springs tied in a crowned pattern.  The new padding went on in layers. 

Leather, Edges and Nails

After cutting and mounting the new leather covers, we copied the edge treatment style from the original chairs.  A flat tape sewn from long strips of leather cover the cut edge of the leather.  Spaced nails help hold the tape and provide a transition from the wooden frame to the leather. 

Delivering the completed chairs turned into a history lesson.  While helping move tables and altars around to place the chairs, one of the senior congregation members gave us a short history of the church - moves, expansions, fires, organ overhauls - and some sense of its future.

The restored chairs looked right at home and the client was thrilled to have them back in service.

The upholstery workshop at JH Conklin & Co re-upholsters furniture and provides window treatments in the South New Jersey area.