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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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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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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Pink Velvet Sofa

When customers want to visit our workshop it can be a bit worrying. Not everyone has the imagination and vision to see what can be done beyond the grubby, and often pretty disgusting fabric! For those who have the vision, a truly unique sofa could be yours.

This Danish sofa was seen by a couple who had not lived in the area for long. They wanted something different. We had a few sofas for them to choose from but they loved the shape of this 1950's Danish sofa. The next step was choosing fabric which can be difficult if you're not sure what you are looking for. They looked through lots of samples, narrowed down a few choices, which they then had fabric samples sent to them. We like customers to have fabric samples so they can see what the colour looks like in their home. Fabrics often look different colours in different lights so its always good practice to make sure they are seen where the piece of furniture is going to sit.

We were delighted when the customers chose this pink velvet from the Omega collection which is from Linwood Fabric. There is a huge array of colours, bright and muted and its a very hard wearing, stain repellent velvet.

Mark stripped the sofa back to the frame, repaired where it needed repairing and re-upholstered it so it complies with UK fire regulations. The pink velvet top cover was moulded and stitched into shape, legs stained and polished and you can now see the transformation.

We were pleased with the result but most importantly the customers loved it. A very unique sofa which you'll probably not see anything like this again.

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Restored Danish Mid Century Sofa

I'm not always very good at showing before and after photos as I often forget to take after photos, but this small Danish mid century sofa really shows what can be done if you have the imagination.

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. This is what we love about much of the Danish chairs and Danish sofas we have, their shapes. 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.

The photographs below show what is possible if you have the imagination. If you'd like to see our currently availability then please take a look, or get in touch if you would like us to source something for you.

Danish chairs 

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Danish Sofa Restoration

The Danish furniture we buy to restore and re-upholster is quite often unusual pieces which you may not have seen before. We like interesting individual pieces, and we can see beyond the sad upholstery. We can see shapes and detail that lots of people would miss or would not even entertain! The skills Mark has lets us buy furniture which some would turn their nose up at and dismiss without a second glance.

This particular sofa caught our attention for a few reasons. Its actually bigger than we would normally buy, but what struck us was that it wasn't deep. We have so many people come into the shop complaining that lots of furniture is so deep, their feet don't touch the floor and its not good for posture. This hit the spot and the teak arm tops gave this simple looking sofa, style and elegance without being fussy. We don't like fussy show off furniture! 

It hadn't been long on our website when a local couple came into the shop to enquire about it. They had been looking for quite sometime but couldn't find anything new they liked and most sofas were just too deep. They came out to the workshop to see the unrestored sofa and decided it was for them. They chose the orange wool from Abraham Moon as they liked bright colours. Most of the modern furniture they had been looking at was beige so beige was not even and option on this piece. Orange works so well with teak and is one of our favourite fabrics. Natural wool and hard wearing so ticks all the boxes.

The sofa was delivered yesterday, so take a look at the video to see the before and after photos. If you don't have imagination then hopefully this will help.

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