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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Reducing furniture waste

Reducing furniture waste is becoming a big concern in the UK. 670,000 tonnes of furniture and 310,000 tonnes of textiles are sent to landfill every year by householders. A truly eye watering amount. Less than 1 in 10 consider having their furnishings repaired so they last longer.

I'm wondering why? When our shop first opened more than 20 years ago, we were selling antique furniture. Antiques were thought to be only for the rich, but we wanted to bring quality restored antiques into anyone homes and we wanted them to be affordable. As the years have gone by, we were having some rather horrid comments about our furniture being second hand. This had never really happened when we first opened, but some people just could not grasp the concept of old furniture being restored and re-upholstered to be used in the 21st century. The only thing second hand would be the frame. Antique furniture was upholstered using natural materials, so no toxic foam or man made fabrics. Very sustainable. If a piece of furniture lasted 100 years, then restored and re-upholstered, it has another 100 years life span. Antique furniture fell out of fashion, so we started making a range of our own furniture, based on traditional frames, natural materials, the furniture antique of the future.

We also started to sell mid century and Danish furniture as that what the market demanded. Many mid century and Danish furniture is beautifully designed and made, with some beautiful wood grain. It is all upholstered using foam. Now foam from the 1950's and 1960's is toxic which is why we have to legally re-upholster it. We recycle any metal springs, but quite often the foam has degraded so much, it just crumbles away. This has to go into our bin. Although we then re-upholster using foam, the foam now is much better than foam from the 1950s. It also lasts. If a mid century chair has lasted 50 years, then it has another 50 years life span. Upholstery doesn't last forever but hardwood teak, beech and oak can last for 100's of years. What you also have when buying restored is a piece of furniture which is unique. 

I do believe that many shoppers buy new because of their lack of understanding what re-upholstery actually means. To be honest, much of the modern mass produced furniture isn't made to be re-upholstered. That's not what the manufacturers want. If you look at a lot of cushions, there is only matching fabric on one side so not reversible. This means you cannot turn the cushions so they are likely to wear out quicker. Many cushions are not piped. Piping makes cushions sit better and look neater. This all adds time and cost to a piece of furniture which means a higher price. You do get what you pay for as the saying goes. Retailers want you to replace every 5 to 10 years and make some furniture so cheaply that it is cheaper to throw away and buy new. Its a cycle that many get into, but if you spend more and buy quality, it will last longer and therefore be better for the environment.

Only you can make that decision if you want a better future for our children and grandchildren.

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Restored Danish Chair

I'm trying to improve my before and after photographs so you can see what can be done if you have the imagination and that is what you need, imagination.

These Danish arm chairs have always been popular, probably because the are small but also comfortable. Perfect for everyday use, and most comfortable with a good book.

Much of our unrestored Danish furniture doesn't get into the shop. Customers can see our stock on the website, then visit our workshop, and if they have the imagination they can choose the fabric and finish. This means you have a truly unique piece of furniture in your home. Now I know its not always easy to see past the often grubby old fabric, but if you look at a Danish sofa or chair, you can see the shape. They often have a lovely grain in the wood. Whoever made the chair or sofa had taken time to choose the timber and think about where it would look at it best.

They are often not huge pieces of furniture either which is what we specialise in. Small sofas and chairs are not always easy to find. If you have a small space, or indeed you are not six foot tall and want something comfortable and supportive to sit it, Danish chairs and Danish sofas are well worth considering.

The Danish sofa or Danish chair is stripped back to the frame, which means every piece of upholstery is removed. The frame is re-glued and repaired if required, legs sanded, stained and polished to the customers requirements. The frame is then upholstered so it complies with the UK fire regulations, and the final cover of the customers choice to finish. Hand stitched piping is often done to finish a piece off with studs or braid as requested or required. A completed Danish sofa or Danish chair ready for another lifetime of use. When you have quality frames, and use quality fillings and fabrics, this is what you have, a Danish sofa or Danish chair which will last.

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