We had a call today from a prospective client who restored their récamier or fainting couch six years ago, with someone else. The news was sad. She had taken the piece to a local refinisher to have it refinished. The refinisher had stripped the piece of its internals and tossed them. His wife did some reupholstery and reupholstered the récamier for a bargain. He dipped the lovely old finish and sprayed it out with a modern product. Our prospective client chose a rather expensive show cover fabric, and had been pleased with it when she brought it home. Now she said the seat was not sitting right, and the foam on the entire récamier was collapsing.
We are not going to focus on the refinishing of the wood. Another time. Let us instead discuss the innards, which is a good example of the phrase, “penny wise and pound foolish.”
When the refinisher threw out the innards he threw out the original design for the récamier. Whomever reupholstered it did not follow the blueprint for the original design, and the upholstery form was not period appropriate. Based on the images we saw of the piece before the refinisher stripped it, the innards would have been reusable, saving the client money in the long run, and adding to the overall value as the piece would have had its original internals. But more than all that, the récamier would have sat right and today she would still be happy with the comfort of the piece, and her show cover fabric would be in good condition.
She wanted to know what it would cost to make it right. This means buying what was thrown out, new show cover fabric, and rebuilding (labor) all the parts which were intact, and needed only to be cleaned, and possibly repaired (as in restitching an edgeroll.)
- the fiber and hair-filled pods ($2250)
- tufted back ($2500),
- sprung seat including horsehair, springs, etc ($5000)
- $3000 for 10 yards of NEW fabric
- some new cotton batting would have been needed, but often some of the original cotton batting can be vacuumed and reused,and this is negligible.
So let’s say, for the sake of argument, replacing the original innards historically and properly with good fabric would run $13,000-14,000. Had she done the project properly to begin with, we estimate it would have cost her roughly half that amount. She paid $4,000 for the first reupholstery; a few thousand more in the beginning would have saved her $14,000 now, + the wasted $4,000.
Putting cheap modern innards into a tufted back fainting couch means it will never perform right, and will fail and be uncomfortable. It is far better to use the original materials or like kind. Save up, do it right. The form will last you and your children a century, changing out only the show cover!
Note: The images below are not of the récamier we are speaking of, but a piece done properly 15 years ago.
©MPF Conservation. May be printed for your own use ONLY,
not for use on blogs without permission.