Shropshire named on Abta 10 global holiday destinations list

Shropshire has been named by travel experts as one of 10 destinations to watch for holidaymakers this year - the only UK location to be featured.

The "rural gem" appears on travel trade organisation Abta's list alongside the Spanish region of Extremadura, Saxony in Germany; Vietnam and Zambia.

Abta said its list aimed to inspire travellers and the county has beautiful landscapes, towns and villages.

What can I say? When we have visitors to Shrewsbury, they do love the town. Many independent shops and restaurants, its just not a clone town. We've had our shop for 23 years in Shrewsbury town centre now. I remember customers who were not local, asking where is Shrewsbury?  When I explained, the response was often "oh that place we pass on the way to Wales". I did chuckle. 

Here is what Abta has to say:

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Bespoke red leather arm chairs

A customer visited us last year enquiring about making them a pair of leather wing chairs. They had ordered a pair from a company, and they were very unhappy with the quality so had decided to send them back. We don’t make wing chairs, but we do make an Edwardian style armchair which suited their Victorian home. Their request wasn’t straight forward. They wanted a higher seat, no cushion and to be upholstered in leather. Mark was reluctant at first. It would mean redesigning the chair which would take time and upholstering them in leather costs more and takes longer.

This did not discourage them much to Marks surprise. After visiting Mark at the workshop and talking the whole thing through, we agreed to make them. The legs would need to be longer, the rails changed to tie the springs to, the springs 3” higher than we usually use and they would be firm. This is what they wanted which would help with mobility.

The fun then began. Mark stared making a prototype to figure out where the rails would go in comparison to the seat height. This took time. The front legs had to be higher, the back legs higher but ensuring the difference between the arm height and the back was the same distance to the normal chairs we make. Time consuming, head scratching and working out time had to be factored in. It’s not just as simple as using bigger timber. We had to order wider beech to make the back legs which all come out of one piece, as the 4” wasn’t wide enough to get the extra length. This took a while to arrive, and some had to be sent back due to inferior quality. We were beginning to wonder if someone was trying to tell us something. The ordering of the leather was the next thing. Pillar box red was required, and the leather company told me it was due in stock in a couple of days. Six weeks later it arrived. We were beginning to wonder if these chairs would ever arrive with the customer.

Individual close studding is the only way to finish leather. We don’t cheat and use stud strip, so 1500 brass studs later, they were finished.

The customers patience and understanding of the job Mark had said yes to was very much appreciated. They knew it wasn’t a simple job. This morning they were delivered, and I’m pleased to say they were delighted, and probably relieved that they had finally arrived. We were too.

 
 

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A new coat of paint

Our Shrewsbury shop has been re painted and the sign has been redone this last week. Its amazing how many more people have noticed the shop, we've only been here 22 years! It had been due to be done last month, but the great British weather got in the way. Our name above the shop front is the original from 22 years ago so really was due to be redone. This time though it has been had painted by Andy Field, the sign writer. He's been doing this for 40 years, so an expert in his field but he does know everyone, which meant everyone stopped to have a chat. Not a problem, we much prefer to do business with people who are local and are experts. Its much easier to have something printed off and stuck on the front, but we decided to go down the hand painted route and we are very pleased with the result. Here's to the next 22 years.

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Upholstery workshops

Upholstery can be a rewarding hobby or profession. If you'd like to learn more, take a workshop if you can. This is a great way to learn the basics of upholstery from a professional. Videos and books can be helpful but there is nothing like getting hands on experience with a professional.

With plenty of practice, you can learn how to transform old furniture into beautiful new pieces. Upholstery is a skill that takes time and practice to learn. Don't get discouraged if you don't get it right the first time. Be patient.  Consider your skill level and experience.  Don't try to be too ambitious on your first project. You may want to give up.

Removing all the old upholstery is hard and dirty work. It's part of the re-upholstery process so try not to get down hearted if you have to remove lots of staples and tacks. 

Our upholstery workshops are held in our Craven Arms showroom. We offer a four week booking of 2.5 hours per week, for a minimum of four weeks. You may need longer depending on your project, but 10 hours gives you enough time to see if you love or hate it. If you've never upholstered before then short stints are a better way to learn. It gives you time to rest rather than having a whole day which you will be shattered at the end of it. We want you to finish your project and not give up at the first hurdle if you are worn out having spent 7 hours upholstering. Mark has been doing this for 36 years and knows how tired he is at the end of the working day.

All tools are provided so no need to invest in tools. If you fancy having a go, then please do get in touch to discuss dates, and what sort of project you may have in mind. 

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1960s chairs

1960s armchairs are a popular choice for those looking for a stylish and comfortable piece of furniture. They are characterised by their sleek, modern lines and their use of bold colors and patterns. 

There are many different styles of 1960s armchairs to choose from, and we have our own version which is handmade and copied from an original 1960s chair.

No matter what your style, there is sure to be a 1960s armchair that is perfect for you. These chairs are a great way to add a touch of vintage style to your home.

Here are some of the benefits of owning a 1960s style armchair:

  • Sleek, modern design: 1960s armchairs are known for their sleek, modern lines. They can add a touch of sophistication to any home décor.
  • Comfortable: 1960s armchairs are also known for their comfort making them perfect for relaxing or reading.
  • Vintage style: 1960s armchairs are a great way to add a touch of vintage style to your home. They can make a statement and add personality to any room.

If you are looking for a stylish and comfortable armchair, our 1960s armchair is a great option. These chairs are available in a variety of fabrics and price points, so you can find one that perfectly suits your needs and decor.

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Furniture Re-upholstery

There are many reasons why you should reupholster your furniture. Here are a few:
 
  • It's more eco-friendly than buying new furniture. When you reupholster your furniture, you're keeping it out of the landfill and preventing the need to produce new furniture. This is a great way to reduce your environmental impact.
  • It's more cost-effective than buying new furniture. The cost of reupholstering a piece of furniture is often much less than the cost of buying a new one. This is especially true if you have a high-quality piece of furniture that is just in need of a new fabric.
  • It allows you to customize your furniture. When you reupholster your furniture, you can choose the fabric, style, and colour that you want. This gives you the opportunity to create a piece of furniture that is perfectly suited to your taste and décor.
  • It can extend the life of your furniture. Reupholstering your furniture can help to protect it from wear and tear, and can extend its lifespan by many years. This is a great way to save money in the long run.
  • It can update the look of your home. Reupholstering your furniture is a great way to update the look of your home without having to make major changes. This is a relatively easy and affordable way to give your home a new look.

If you're considering reupholstering your furniture, be sure to do your research and find a reputable upholsterer. This will ensure that your furniture is reupholstered to the highest standards and that you're happy with the results.

Mark has been re-upholstering furniture for 36 years so please do get in touch for advice and a re-upholstery quotation.

Here is a before and after re-upholstery example.

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Handmade Furniture

Handmade furniture is furniture that is made by hand, rather than by machine. It is often made with traditional woodworking techniques and materials, such as wood, metal, and stone. Handmade furniture is often considered to be more high-quality and durable than mass-produced furniture, and it can also be more unique and personal.

There are many reasons why people choose to buy handmade furniture. Some people appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of handmade furniture. Others like the fact that handmade furniture is often made from sustainable materials. And still others like the fact that handmade furniture can be customized to their specific needs.

If you are thinking about buying handmade furniture, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, handmade furniture can be more expensive than mass-produced furniture. Second, handmade furniture can take longer to make than mass-produced furniture. And third, handmade furniture can be more difficult to find than mass-produced furniture.

However, if you are willing to invest the time and money, handmade furniture can be a wise purchase. It can be a beautiful and durable piece of furniture that will last for many years.

Here are some of the benefits of buying handmade furniture:

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Edwardian Style Chair

Our Edwardian style chair is back in stock for anyone to try who is looking for a small, supportive but elegant arm chair. It can take sometime to get these back in as they are individually handmade by Mark. The timber is all hand cut and shaped on the bandsaw, fitted and glued up in individual pieces so it takes a day for each part to be glued and the glue go off. These are not stapled together in half a day like lots of mass produced furniture so patience is required when all our new pieces are made.

The latest Edwardian style chair in stock is upholstered in a Pierre Frey fabric which we first used many years ago. An elegant timeless stripe made from linen and viscose which means its hard wearing.

If you would like to try this chair then please do call in and see how it fits for size. They can be made without castors too. The legs are higher so the seat would be the same height if we don't use castors.

Edwardian style chair

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Eco Friendly Fabrics

Natural fabrics are the most eco friendly, organic cotton, organic linen and wool, but a new range of eco fabrics are now becoming available. Fabrics made from recycled bottles are now available from a range of companies.

Linwood have introduced their new Omega Velvet collection, their first eco velvet fabric. Omega III is now woven with recycled polyester in the pile, removing 10 large plastic bottles from the environment for every metre woven. Their new Omega velvet is also inherently FR which removes the chemical back coat for fire retardancy, which is kinder to the environment and produces a softer, low chemical, more luxurious velvet. It’s taken years of research to develop, but they wanted to produce the best plain velvet fabric – a velvet that feels good, looks good and doesn’t harm the earth. It is extremely hard wearing, a 100,000 rub test which means its also suitable for contract use. 

Kirkby Design has a range of eco friendly fabrics. The Fleck collection has been re-engineered as a sustainable addition to Kirkby Design’s plains portfolio, Fleck Eco has been adapted to become a more environmentally conscious, textured chenille that retains the much-loved speckled aesthetic of the original Fleck fabric. Created from 47% Sustainable Tencel lyocell, 28% Recycled Wool, 20% Recycled Acrylic, 5% Recycled Polyester
As part of The Romo Groups commitment to reducing the impact on the environment of this collection, they have partnered with Trees for Life. For every metre of fabric sold a percentage of proceeds will be donated to support reforestation projects in the Scottish Highlands. For more information, please visit www.treesforlife.org.uk.

Linwood also have a recycled leather in their collection called Saddle. The collection is made using leather off cuts from shoes and bags, which are usually sent to landfill. It is available to buy by the metre making it a cost effective option.

These are just a few of the fabrics we have used personally and are happy to recommend. There more companies taking the initiative to offer eco friendly fabrics which is what the industry needs. Please do get in touch if you need any help or advice in choosing the fabric which suits your lifestyle.

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Bespoke Handmade Footstools FAQ’S

What size should a footstool be?

A footstool should not be too big, so it overpowers your space. If you have a large room, then a large footstool can make a very good feature piece, in the middle of a living room, or in between two sofas. If you have a smaller living room, then you don’t want to be falling over something too big for your space. We suggest marking out your space with either masking tape or newspaper. To decide on height, we suggest placing books near where you are wanting to put your feet up if that’s what you want to use it for. Not everyone wants to use and upholstered footstool as a footstool, but they want to use it as a coffee table or extra seating. The height of the footstool will depend on the size of the legs and the size of the timber we use to make the frame. All these things are taken into consideration when making your bespoke handmade footstool.

How do you make footstools from scratch?

We make footstools from scratch by designing and working out how to make them, so they are affordable. The legs we buy in are raw so can be stained and polished to the colour and finish you want. We make ours from a timber frame. We buy the planed timber, cut it to you size and make the frame. We sometimes make our own square tapering legs as Mark must make the frame a different way. Some companies make their footstools using a piece of chipboard and foam glued to the top. We refuse to make them this way as they do not last, and you cannot use them for extra seating. They are much cheaper, but this is not the way we work. We do not compromise on quality. The frame is covered in a high-density foam, wadding, calico and the final top cover.

What can I use a footstool for?

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Extra Large Footstools

We often get asked to make bespoke sizes, and in particular very large footstools. They are often a feature of a living room, a place to pop a tray on with drinks, somewhere to place your books and magazines, but somewhere to put your feet up.

The footstools we make are made from a timber frame. This means they are strong enough to sit on, but it does means they are heavy. We make them to last so bear this in mind if you are thinking of moving one on a regular basis.

When choosing fabric for a extra large footstool, you will have to think about the pattern and texture. Most fabrics are around 137cm (54") wide so may not be wide enough to fit across the width of the footstool. There are two ways of getting around this. The first way is if your extra large footstool is not quite as wide as the fabric, then you can have a border around the edge. This means the fabric just fits over the edge, it is then upholstered with self piped fabric and the border fitted in four pieces. This does involve more fabric, and if there is a pattern, this needs to be taken into account to make sure the top and border match. The bigger the pattern, the more fabric will be needed. Having a border gives a neat and elegant finish.

If your extra large footstool is more than the width of the fabric then the option is to have the fabric running up the length of the large footstool rather than the width. This works well if you have either a plain fabric without a pile, or a fabric that looks fine whichever way the fabric is run. (Hope this makes send. Please ask with any questions)

Fabrics that work well this way are wool checks, the kilim fabric we use works well but if you used a plain velvet for example, the pile would be running the opposite way to what it should do. This is fine if your happy with that but velvet has a pile and can look a different colour when the pile is brushed. 

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1970's inspired fabric, Arts & Crafts chair

When local artist purchased a pair of chairs from us, he asked if we had a chair which we could upholster using the fabric he had designed. When he showed me a photograph of the fabric, an Arts & Crafts chair which we'd had for years, instantly sprung to mind.

We'd had this Art & Crafts chair for years and Mark and I could never agree what fabric to put on it. We didn't want to go down the traditional route, possibly William Morris fabric, so the chair sat in the workshop gathering dust and cob webs. The customer visited our workshop and brought a sample of the fabric for Mark to look at. We all agreed this would look amazing. Mark knew it wouldn't be an easy fabric to work with due to the way it was designed. It was done by computer and was too complex for us to understand how it was designed, so here are a few paragraphs from the artist on how its done.

This the pattern is mainly inspired by the cool funky patterns of the 70s, but it's put together like Islamic tile design. Islamic tiles (which are beautiful) often have mathematical geometric designs on them, that form complex patterns across the floor or wall as you combine the tiles in different ways. There are often rules about how you place the tiles, rotating them, alternating them and so on. As you put the tiles together and follow the rules shapes and patterns emerge.

So, with that in mind. The "tiles" on the fabric, are made of either a set of curves, or straight lines. The "tiles" can then be arranged randomly next to each other, and it'll form a pattern that our eye enjoys following, they all seem to link up in an almost human design way. Because they are tiles, and will always connect to each other, a group of tiles can be repeated like, well, a fabric pattern.

The computer is given a selection of colour palettes to work with, and then after that an infinite number of patterns can be generated. Meaning that each run of fabric is unique, and therefor each furnishing (or set) is a one-off, while sitting within a theme/style.

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Shropshire Sofa

Traditional Danish sofas have been renamed by ourselves as Shropshire sofas. We use this term fondly as they are a very  traditional style, and the houses they tend to go into are traditional old houses which don't always have the space for a larger sofa. These traditional Danish sofas are cosy and often fit into a nook or crannie of an older house. They are not deep which can often be a problem with modern sofas. They are also very shapely and elegant, will seat two people comfortably as they tend not to have large arms. We buy they because we like them, and small sofas are not easy to find, so if you are looking for small, stylish and comfortable sofa, perhaps one of our "Shropshire sofas" could work for you. 

Here is the latest one with before and after photos. Hope you like it.

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Mix and match

Don't be afraid to mix styles and ages of furniture as they can often compliment each other. This photograph shows how Danish mid century rosewood dining chairs work well with this round Victorian dining table. Our tastes change over the years and rather than starting from scratch, updating one part of a piece of furniture can work well and save you money. Why buy a new dining suite if you can update your chairs?

The same applies to fabrics for upholstered furniture. Be bold and different. Just because a chair is an antique and traditional, you don't have to have a traditional fabric. This Victorian Arts & Crafts chair was restored and reupholstered for a local artist using a fabric he designed, and had printed onto velvet. Its very bold but I can guarantee you will never see another chair like this. It truly is is one off. Whether its your taste or not, the fabric is a top cover and can be changed. 

Life is too short to to be pleasing anyone but yourself. Buy what you like, and buy it when you see it as the chances are if you have to think about for a while, someone else will have seen it in the meantime and bought it. 

 

 

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We are 21

I cannot believe it either, 21 years old. I remember the day we opened, it was the end of May bank holiday weekend. We had already sold a Victorian sofa we'd had in the window before we opened. It was quite bizarre. We had been finishing getting the shop together and a customer knocked at the door wanting to buy the sofa they had seen in the window. We were excited and unsure if we had done the right thing, but we opened the doors and had a fantastic response. We sold quite a few pieces that first day, but then had to work hard to replace them!

As the years have flown by, working for yourself is not easy. We had two boys of which both came into the shop from six weeks old. We converted the back room into a nursery which was not easy at times, but customers were patient and always happy to see a baby. They are now 20 and 15 but often help in the workshop or with deliveries. 

As times have changed, so has the furniture we sell. Victorian and Edwardian furniture is not what customers are currently buying, so we have changed as the market has changed. If we hadn't changed then we would not have still been in business.

21 years on and we now have another showroom in South Shropshire. Mark does all the upholstery and making of furniture there, and there is also a larger showroom. Its not easy, but then life isn't but we make it work as we have done for the last 21 years.

We even managed to get ourselves in the local newspaper for the first time. Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the last 21 years. We do appreciate it.

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Wish you were here

Last week a friend of mine’s daughter went to visit Denmark and Sweden over Easter, what a treat for anyone! Of course, happy though I was, jealousy was also there as I knew she would get the experience that I’d love! Thankfully, she did take a lot of photos and grabbed some leaflets from the Blox Museum of Architecture by the waterfront of Copenhagen (oh to be young and childfree in a museum!). 

A young girl in Copenhagen meant that she was far more excited by the hippie communes and anarchy, however she did find out a lot about Vankundsten for me - they are an architectural firm located, to this day, in Copenhagen. Their ideologies exactly epitomises what I love about design in Scandinavia - ‘low rise, high density’ was a sign she took a photo of. Their idea is also that the people can do anything, and really encourage DIY and using wood as a building material, which is something we love at  A Little Furniture Shop. 

A huge part of Danish, Swedish and general Vandkunsten design is malleability of design and making spaces feel truly spacious and bright (even when they are not), albeit more with the architecture rather than the furniture within it. Perhaps this is because the designers whom I love were already focussed on making the interiors of yesterday just as fashionable as they are today. 

Finally, the idea of ‘re-beauty’ was one which my friend’s daughter learnt about in this exhibition. This is a big Vankundsten idea. They collected 80,000 square metres of parquet flooring and made it into mobile walls for inside people’s homes to be able to partition off areas of homes when and if needed - she said it was ‘very cool’ and they had examples of moving the walls around, I must admit it looked fascinating. Regardless, it fits so beautifully with what we do here, I know we do make some furniture from scratch, but when we restore and reupholster exactly to order for customers I suppose we are following Scandi ideas of re-beauty, and that makes me feel so involved in the processes that I already respected. 

I think what has made me happiest and most proud about her visiting this museum for me is not the fact that we are so fitting with Danish ideas of architecture, but that I heard a 24 year old girl so very excited by the very idea, which is so refreshing - I know exactly who she will call when she buys her first home and wants to fit out her living room in a bright and sustainable way. With a spare 10 minutes today, why not google Vankundsten? You won’t be disappointed! 

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Pierre Frey Sequana collection

Sometimes a fabric collection is launched and I fall in love with it. This new collection from Pierre Frey has the wow factor for me. The Tara wool is the perfect fabric for our mid century Danish chairs.

Pierre Frey say:

The characteristic of Donegal yarn is that it is made up of small flecks of bright and contrasting colours, finely and irregularly scattered over the entire surface of the yarn, which itself is often made up of several tones.  This mottled effect gives Donegal wool a handmade look that is both rustic and chic.

Tara is a pure new wool semi-plain tweed, is traditionally woven in Donegal and is made distinctive by the woollen flecks that punctuate its surface with fine coloured contrasts. If time has made the Irish tweed famous, the incredible work of yarn spinning as the exclusive colour range by Sequana make this fabric inimitable.

This Irish wool is soft, hard wearing and because its wool, sustainable. This wool does come at a cost, but quality and luxury costs that bit more and are worth paying for. Click on the link and watch this wonderful video showing how this fabric is made.

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Statement Chairs

What do you class as a statement chair? There was an article in one of the weekend newspaper supplements which was about statement chairs. Quite frankly I found them rather dull and ordinary. A statement chair in my mind is a chair which has the wow factor. It can be a chair which is mass produced but it needs to have style, and be designed to catch the eye. It could be a chair which has a stunning fabric on it which gives it the wow factor. Above all it needs to be different and I couldn't find anything in this article which was different. All the fabrics were also plain and run of the mill, just ordinary.

Maybe I'm expecting too much. Are there enough customers who want a real statement chair rather than a run of the mill chair? Maybe this is why mass produced furniture is ordinary as that is what customers want. Are you scared of having something a bit different and with a wow factor? If so why? 

A statement chair I would say also needs to be comfortable. Why pay money for something you won't sit on, so I would always recommend sitting and trying furniture before buying. Its a very personnel thing. What suits one person, won't necessarily suit the partner or other member of the family. We are all different shapes and sizes so its important to try, and sit for a while to ensure the chair is comfortable and has the support you need.

If you're looking for a one off piece, our Danish and vintage pieces and be upholstered in the fabric of your choice, which means there would not be another chair like this. Our handmade chairs are available to be upholstered in thousands of different fabrics, can you can be as wow as you wish.

If you need some inspiration, this Danish teak arm chair looks so different from when it was upholstered originally. 

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1960's Sofa

The 1960's style sofa we make is quite funky and retro. The look can depend on what fabric you choose, but they are great for small spaces and can seat two with plenty of space.

These 1960's style sofas are not easy for Mark to make. There are over thirty pieces of timber involved to make this frame due to the angles and shape. Getting the angles in the right position can be tricky and time consuming, but worth the pain in the end!

A beech frame means these 1960's style sofas are made to last. The seat is webbed and has a foam cushion for extra support and comfort. 

Fabric choices are endless. Traditional or retro, you can choose which means a unique sofa in your home.

We deliver nationwide so take a look for fabric inspiration, or if you have a fabric in mind, please do get in touch to discuss options.

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Ole Wanscher chairs

We sometimes find chairs which we fall in love with. The design, shape and style just shouts at us. When we first saw this pair of Ole Wanscher chairs, we knew nothing about them but had to buy them. We are always thirsty for knowledge about any furniture we buy. Its lovely to know who the designer or maker is and its fascinating researching these designers and craftsmen.

Ole Wanscher was a designer we knew nothing about but the more we read about him, the more we wanted to know. 

Ole Wanscher was a Danish furniture designer born in 1903. He was known to be one of the greatest Scandinavian designers from the 20th Century. He was one of the leading figures in the Scandinavian Design movement, at a time when Scandinavian Design achieved worldwide popularity. He studied at the Danish School of Art & design and was influenced by Professor Kaare Klint. After completing his studies, the two worked together, setting up an office specializing in furniture design.

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