While I was browsing the latest offerings in shoes the other day, I was struck by all the lacing detail that seems to be all the go. I've seen various Australian High Street interpretation of this look in flats all over town, and of course when you see them so attractively arrayed in colour saturated suede, glitter and leopard by luxury shoe maker Aquazzura it did start to have me thinking about the absolute need for a pair.

But then, I started to think about the most likely influence for these shoes.

Could it be that a referendum for Independence has inadvertently influenced a Columbian shoe designer?

Or perhaps Aquazzura the designer has also, like me, been busy binge watching Outlander on Netflix

Jamie brooding about the fact that in most of the photos of him on the Net he has his kilt off

After sitting though 7 hours of theatre earlier this year with the James Trilogy plays, I'm definitely having a Scottish moment, and it seems that others may be too.

But I think I'll have to reluctantly pass on these, because they just remind me too much of this

And a girl I was at school with who tortured us all by performing endless Highland dances in full getup to the wheezey back up tape of the bagpipes during school Assembly.

Scarred for life.

Any takers?!

shoe photos via Netaporter and Matchesfashion
I posted an image of the completed sofa in the kid's playroom on Instagram this past week, and there ensued a flurry of comments about the cost of reupholstery, and at what point was it worth doing. There were also a few misunderstandings on what I'd written, as can be the way when you're writing briefly and in tiny font that others might skim over... so here's a longer version.

 Client job completed last year- reupholstered French gilt armchair in linen with linen gimp

The mistakes people make when looking at reupholstering are:

  • using an item that is significantly broken and that will cost more to repair than buying a new frame of equivalent quality
  • having something reupholstered that you don't particularly like the shape of, that is uncomfortable, or because it was expensive a long time ago/ you have some sentimental attachment to but you feel it's wasteful to pass it on.
  • Having something reupholstered just because it cost a lot a long time ago. I recently advised a client not to reupholster a sofa that while originally expensive, but was not well constructed to start with and past its prime.

Re-upholstering is a good idea if

  • you have something of age, with a very solid frame and horsehair stuffing (Quality)
  • an unusual shape that cannot be found in new furniture
  • it's an item you've always found extremely comfortable for ergonomic reasons, and it's attractive (because Lay-Z-Boy recliners are never attractive, even if they are comfortable)

The cost of reupholstering is not insignificant. Here in Adelaide a fully upholstered Armchair will cost around $700 and a sofa will cost around $900, with fabric costs on top of that (allow approximately 5-7 metres for an armchair and 13 meters for a 3 seater sofa of plain fabric). Something like a French style armchair will cost around the $450 mark. You can buy new furniture, already upholstered for around this price from low to mid range furniture retailers such as Pottery Barn, Ikea, Freedom, Domayne etc but the difference is that the frame, springs and foam will not be of such good quality as an older piece, and you can probably expect a lifespan of 10 years maximum for a sofa that is used as the primary seating in a house from a low/mid quality retailer. Older pieces were made better as a rule as they were investment pieces - people didn't turn over furniture with the regularity that they do these days by casting an eye at current fashion.

The other problem with purchasing new and lower end is that you generally will get a fairly inferior fabric on the upholstery. It will usually be extremely cheap in quality which will make it wear poorly and stain easily, and there will be a limited choice as well.

When I'm buying new for myself, or for clients, I have a variety of sources that I use, but if I'm buying a new chair or sofa through one of my to- the- trade suppliers you can expect it to cost around 5 times the cost of reupholstering an existing chair/sofa (with fabric cost extra on both) to get equivalent quality, so you can see that reupholstering is often worth the cost.

If your upholstered item needs some work done to it, then you'll pay extra on top of the basic upholstery cost. Most upholsterers will include piping and gimp (the tapes used to cover the raw edges in lieu of piping) in the basic upholstery price and refreshing dacron wrap over seat cushions and replacing broken webbing as standard for instance, but other items that may add additional cost include:

  • Spings replaced - $200 and up depending on quantity
  • Feather top up in seat or back cushions - $50
  • Nailhead -$200 to an armchair, and $400 to a sofa 
  • Legs repolished/ colour changed - $50-100
  • Foam replacement - this can be expensive if it includes large seat cushions, so check before you proceed.

Your sofa could end up costing a bit to redo if all of these things have to be done, and this is generally why a lot of Decorators will say throw it out rather than redo it - if they don't like the shape they'll say it to you even louder.

Very old, very heavy small scale dressing room armchair upholstered in a GP & J Baker fabric, with new feather/down seat cushion

This all sounds like a negative, but I do love reupholstering items. The best part about reupholstering, aside from the environmental one of recycling, is that you end up with a completely unique piece. I had a fairly grumpy upholsterer when I first came to Adelaide, who interrogated me on how much I'd paid for two very small scale armchairs that I took to him. Both were free (happily), as they were from my husband's family. He thought I'd bought them from an Auction room and was going to tell me I'd paid too much (regardless of what I'd paid for them). They cost $650 each plus 5m of fabric to reupholster, and you could easily buy new larger scale armchairs for that price ready upholstered. The thing was, they were solid, with incredibly heavy frames, were attractive and unusual shapes, I had them upholstered in fabrics that I loved, and I've since found out that they're most likely George III and William IV based on their style, so they're very very old. They are too small for a comfortable modern armchair (which was how we ended up with them in the first place), but they're perfect for a bedroom chair to sit on putting on shoes, or in a child's room, which is how we have used them.

Armchair in Brunschwig & Fils fabric with contrast solid piping  in my daughter's bedroom

After I found a different upholsterer, I've had more recently the wingback armchair reupholstered. Total cost of reupholstery was $1,200 which included a loose new seat cushion in feather and down, spring replacement, webbing replaced, and nailhead trim to the sides and back. I had bought this chair originally at Auction, and it wasn't cheap to do it all, but equivalent style/ quality armchairs in an antique shop would sell around the $4,000 mark and can be hard to track down anyway, so it was worth it to me. The frame was in good shape, the legs are attractive, and it had the original horsehair stuffing in it (which is a mark of quality construction).

Antiqued brass nailhead, new feather/down seat cushion, Pierre Frey fabric

As for the sofa, well, it was certainly worth reupholstering. I could have bought a sofa as cheaply as $1,500 and sent this one to the curb, but I still liked the shape, and it was a solid frame. The spring replacement and extra feather infill in the back cushions have completely given it a new lease of life, and it is again incredibly comfortable (funny what a difference those missing springs made!). Most of all, by being able to select a fabric that was very child friendly (an indoor/outdoor fabric from Jim Thompson), it should outlast the children now while still looking good. If you have been reading the blog for a long time you'd know that I am fairly dull in that I don't change over my furniture or decor with much regularity, which doesn't make for the most exciting design blog....  I completely understand the thrill of the new, of changing things up and the high from buying something... but equally I think that if you've put thought, effort and money into something and it works, it's worth keeping and using for years and years... and years.

reupholstered sofa in the kid's playroom in Jim Thompson indoor/outdoor fabric, new springs and extra feather fill in the back cushions.

When weighing up whether to reupholster or not, there are a lot of factors that come into play besides just the money.  But the biggest one is the cost v's replacement cost analogy. For me, most of the time it's worth reupholstering. Something completely unique in style and fabric choice is worth going the extra mile for.

Additional reading - older post on sofas here

costs will vary depending on whether you are in a rural or city location and the client base of the upholsterer (there is an Eastern Suburbs markup in most Australian cities)... this is intended to give a guide price to what you might expect to pay. Always get a quote before proceeding, most upholsterers will give a quote based on an emailed photo, or by paying you a visit in person to asses the item if there is some rectification works to be done. 
It's been a while. We've had school holidays (which always, despite my best intention has me disappearing off the grid for a while), then with the inevitable catch up of work/ laundry etc post school holidays, and then this week one (vaccinated) child home sick with Chicken Pox, so I've not been on blogs for a while. Oh, and then I became sucked into the Netflix void and started binge watching "Outlander". I'm clearly on some sort of Scottish kick this year, between Outlander and the James Trilogy plays I attended during the Adelaide Festival in March... and Outlander is very good by the way.

So, here are some snapshots from life for the past few months....

I've been to the Royal Flying Doctors Ball - Wings for Life, as I do each year. I know my real life friend and avid blog reader Richard has been dying to read a discussion about my dress (he really loves the dress chat posts I do), so Rich this is for you. This year's outfit was a dress I've had in my wardrobe unworn... purchased back when the dollar was at parity with the US (the Glory Days, shopping wise), and I was in a severe Fantasy Wardrobe phase purchasing cocktail dresses to escape from the actual reality of my life - a major building project while living in it with toddlers. So, I finally pulled the dress out (navy blue Martin Grant), bought new earrings to go with it (Oscar de la Renta) and donned the pink Shoes of Shame and their matching clutch bag.

I had an updo done by my hairdresser.

Unfortunately Mr AV is a reluctant photographer (he thinks social media is stupid, and he's probably right), so there are no fashion blogger style photos of me fake walking down the street. Just bad selfies using mirrors, poor lighting and an iPhone. Enjoy!

Reflecting on why I'd bought this dress in the first place, I realised I had in fact sort of outfit repeated, and already owned a remarkably similar dress in white

My Wedding dress. I do like a bit of architectural style folding over the bodice it seems, even if they were worn 16 years apart. I also did a remarkably similar hair style on reflection... I guess I like what I like and am consistent!

On the home front, a shuffle around was undertaken in the living room when a new artwork arrived for the casual living area. It still has to be properly hung, but I'm debating about frame choices. In the meantime I love the way this space has warmed up so well with the fabric choices on the armchair and cushions and colour from the painting. For a long time it was very neutral, and while I love neutrals, I love a bit of colour and warmth in our main living area. I have tonal cream elegance in my Sitting room/ library to satisfy me there.

The arrival of the painting dovetailed in neatly with a book I'm reading - "I sold Andy Warhol (too soon)" which I picked up on the bargain table at Dillon's on the Parade. It's a bit of an inside account of the modern art market, centred around New York,  which makes for depressing reading. Essentially a bunch of people just bid up things at auction, stockpile art that they never display, and manipulate prices for an artists work, in much the same way as people speculate on stocks. The artists work is not necessarily actually worth that much by technical prowess or maturity (and in many cases is totally overvalued when considering the quality of the art compared to prices fetched by paintings 100 years old by better quality artists... then again Art is subjective). Especially interesting reading given that a Basquiat broke records a couple of days ago by fetching $57.3M at Auction.

via Christies

old slipcovered sofa in my kid's playroom

In house news I've also just farewelled the 17 year old Jardan sofa to have it reupholstered. It's now the sofa for the kids playroom, having been our one and only sofa for 14 years before that, and I've had it slipcovered for about the past 8 years as the old beige coloured upholstery did not look good at all. I chose an indoor/outdoor fabric from Jim Thompson, and this will hopefully survive the kids and give a bit more longevity to the sofa, which is still in good nick and proves that quality lasts.

Aside from my client work, I've also been working on another house. It's four storey, and has needed a few structural repairs on the exterior railings. It's only partially furnished, and my deadline is this Saturday... it's my old Dollhouse, which we are giving E for her 8th birthday, pictured above. E will be able to finish furnishing it herself - I've previously told the story behind the dollhouse, but to recap, as my father put me on a payment plan akin to a mortgage (after I had saved half the price by doing weekend jobs for 2 years) when I so desperately wanted it as an 8 year old, I wasn't able to furnish it. By the time I paid it off I was a teenager, and wanted to spend my money on clothes, rather than furnishing a dollhouse, so the interiors are sparse. It's been living at my Dad's house on the back landing upstairs with our old rocking horse Rigby whom you can see in the photo. So this weekend marks a bit of a birthday celebration and a passing of the baton to E with my first ever house project. I'm going to have to let go of it and let her make her own decorating decisions, which is only right I guess. Even though E doesn't seem quite so passionate about houses as I have always been, I know she'll have a lot of fun playing with it, and I can't believe she is about to turn 8 - when I started this blog she was 4, and that seems like a blink of an eye ago.

Lastly, I thought I'd share a few Instagram accounts I've been enjoying... I mostly follow Designers, people that focus on their own house interiors, and fabric companies... then a couple of extras. These are two that never fail to make me laugh

Firstly Barbie Savior - it's a parody account on the young women in their 20s that earnestly go to Africa to "save" the local population, all while taking slum selfies, and talking up their noble efforts and sacrifice.

The second is Overheardla, which is an anonymous account people submit funny things they've overheard people saying in LA to, some of which are downright hilarious, and also those that capture the zeitgeist.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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