Clive Payne

The History of Upholstered Furnishings


The covering of seat furniture can be traced back to ancient Egypt with the use of woven rush or animal hides stretched over frames and nailed to form a seat, it is not until the seventeenth century that the fashion for upholstered furnishings really began with the growth in foreign craftsmen from France and Holland setting up and trading in London for the royal palaces and wealthy land owners using silk and velvet brought from France and Italy, soon to be followed by materials from the looms of Spitalfields in London.

By the Eighteenth century the use of needlework’s with biblical or mythological scenes finely woven in wool and fixed using gilded nails became popular, also popular were silk damask fabrics brought over from Italy, the Italians perfected the use of the draw loom creating elaborate patterns these were of superior quality and even today remain unsurpassed, the techniques and looms were soon being used by French Huguenots in Lyon where they wove extremely complex silks soon they travelled to England to avoid growing troubles and set up looms in London, with the invention by Joseph Marie Jacquard of a new type of loom that could produce designs quickly although Jacquard never travelled to England his machines were copied the weaving industry took off in London.

Today Richard Ricardo Antique Upholstery employs highly skilled craftspeople who upholster fine antique furniture of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries using the same age-old techniques passed down through the centuries building up the seat and backs with hair tacked and stitched into place to form strong sharp edges giving the piece longevity and comfort, before using period needlework and fabrics, although these are not easily found today so new fabrics woven in the traditional manner from across the United Kingdom and Europe are sourced to give any piece the look of elegance.