What’s the Difference Between Modern & Traditional Upholstery? and the Difference Between Upholstering & Recovering a chair?

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

I often get asked what’s the difference between Modern and Traditional upholstery, and how, why, and when I started learning the craft. So I thought I would write a blog in response to those questions.

My passion for recycling furniture began back in 2012.  Although I enjoyed (and still do) upcycling sideboards, etc, I was frequently frustrated I had zero upholstery skills for all the time-worn chairs that I saw!  So in 2016 I joined a upholstery class to learn the art of Traditional Upholstery (which I still attend today!)

"Cover Photo" What's the difference in Traditional and Modern Upholstery blog by Emma Mullender

Recovering or Reupholstery?

There is a huge difference between upholstering a chair and simply recovering it.  Recovering describes the procedure of removing the old fabric and replacing with new fabric but leaving the old filling in place.

Reupholstering furniture includes a complete stripping down of the chair, this includes removing all fabric, padding, tacks/staples and the support systems. It is a DIRTY time-consuming job and can take between 2-8 hours to strip!  Although stripping a chair isn’t much fun, it is an integral part of the process, as it allows you to see how the chair was originally upholstered.

The Reupholstery process ensures that once completed you have a brand-new chair, where the chair is as clean on the inside as it is on the outside, and a guarantee that your chair will last for many years to come.

Traditional or Modern Techniques?

Traditional Upholstery

Traditional Upholstery is labour intensive craft that requires the use of materials that have been used for centuries. Hessian, webbing, linen, springs, twine, tack, linen scrims, coconut fibres and horse (or other animal hair) are used alongside hand stitching techniques such as stitching springs to the webbing or edged rolls to help create shapes.

Although upholstering using traditional methods may be more time-consuming and costs more to upholster. Traditional materials create comfortable seating that stands the test of time, therefore to be enjoyed by future generations. The period style of the furniture usually determines the upholstery method. For antique or older pieces, I prefer to upholster chairs in the same way in which the piece of furniture was originally made.

"Traditional upholstery" calico ready by Emma Mullender
Traditional Upholstery


  • Long-lasting
  • Firm structure that keeps it’s shape.
  • An age old craft that has been developed over centuries
  • Made predominantly with natural materials which are biodegradable


  • A labour intensive process
  • Takes longer to craft
  • It costs more to produce

Modern Upholstery

Modern Upholstery is the most common for post second world war mass manufactured furniture. It combines more straightforward upholstery techniques and materials such as, moulded foam filling, plywood, synthetic fibres and staples are used. I work predominantly using traditional methods, but if your chair is a modern chair and constructed by using modern techniques, then these materials, in most cases will be replaced.

"Button back bedroom chair" stripped down to foam padding by Emma Mullender
Modern Upholstery


  • Lower cost
  • Quick turnaround
  • Smoother finish
  • Flexible


  • Disintegrates over time
  • Does not hold its shape as well
  • Cannot be fully recycled
  • Made from petrochemicals which are non- renewable
  • Has to be treated in Flame retardant chemicals first
  • Linked to possible health problems due to the FR chemicals used

What’s Best? Traditional or Modern?

I’d say Traditional is best for longevity and for those that want to create a nontoxic living environment or heirloom you want to pass down. And foam for a more cost effective, smoother (but in my opinion a more manufactured finish)

But at the end of the day, I think it comes down to making sure the chair is sympathetically upholstered, you are happy with finished project and that your chair is enjoyed for many years to come.

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about upholstery. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss a project.

Emma x

So what does an interior designer actually do?

An Empty Room is a Story waiting to Happen, and an Interior Designer is the Author.

Elements of Design

An interior designer’s role is to create indoor spaces that satisfy the client’s needs for aesthetics, safety and function. Elements such as artwork, lighting, window treatments and flooring must work together to contribute to an overall look that will satisfy the client’s needs. Without style, spaces would be bland and boring, but interior design is not only about making a room look good with colour, soft furnishings and furniture, it is crucial for it to work on a practical level too.


This depends largely on how the room will be used and the lifestyle and habits of the people using the space. Quite often a room will have more than one function, such as a kitchen that is also used as a dining room, or a guest-room that is also used as an office. With that in mind, you don’t want to create a space full of unimportant items just because they look good. Form should always follow function, so its is equally efficient as it is appealing.

"Dual function room" Interior design blog by Emma Mullender

Spatial Awareness

The key to understanding how to use a space in an effective way. Line, shape, proportion, scale and balance are paramount. Elements can be placed in all sorts of unconventional ways, yet still work. Clever placement of furniture divided into different zones can give definition to large spaces. Small spaces maybe more awkward to design but they usually bring more creative ideas, helping to maximise limited spaces.

"Spatial awareness interior blog" by Emma Mullender

Focal point

The focal point of a room is one of the most fundamental elements in interior design, it’s the first place your eyes land when you enter the room and from which you build the rest of your design. A window, fireplace or strong architectural detail like an exposed brick wall, can all serve as the focal point. Other times when there aren’t any built-in features it’s necessary to create one of your own. An accent wall with a bold paint colour or patterned wallpaper, A large mirror or a statement piece of furniture or art, can also serve as a focal point just as well.

"Focal Point" Interior Design blog by Emma Mullender


Interior lighting is an important aspect of any living space. A successfully designed room needs a mix of three basic types of lighting – ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting gives aesthetic appeal and creates the mood and ambiance of a living space. Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks, such as reading, preparing, and cooking food, for working or hobbies. Accent lighting serves mainly for highlighting specific parts of a room directed toward an item of furniture or a particular wall hanging through the creation of contrasts in light and shadow.

"Lighting Interior blog" picture by Emma Mullender


Having sufficient storage is crucial to organised living. Clutter closes down space, reduces the perceived size of a room and blocks circulation. Homeowners seek and need a certain level of organization and order, so using spaces efficiently should have top priority. Storage can come in all shapes and sizes and creative storage solutions can

"Storage Interior design Blog" by Emma Mullender

Colour, Texture & Personality

My 3 favourite elements of Interior Design. I have so much to say, I will probably write a blog on each subject at some point, so, for now, I’ll keep it short and sweet!

Colour is one of my favourite things in the world. Colour can create specific moods and looks and can completely transform a room. There is so much you can achieve with colour, the list is endless!

Texture can come through in a wide range of ways. Building up layers and combining contrasting textures will add visual weight and depth to a room.

Personality Staying in touch with the latest fashion trends is key for interior designers, but it’s just as important for the designer to create a unique space that is as one-of-a-kind as the client. Good communication between both interior designer and client is key to creating a home that is full of personality.

"Colour Texture Personality Picture for Interior blog" by Emma Mullender

If you’d like a helping hand in combining colour, light, and texture in your room, why not book a consultation with me.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite ever quotes…

Create your own visual style, let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable to others

Orson Welles

Emma ❤️

8 reasons why we should be recycling furniture & 3 reasons when we shouldn’t.

Waste Not Want Not

Recycling furniture goes by many different names. Up-cycling, reclaiming, reusing, repurposing, restyling, etc. Call it what you want, recycling furniture is more than just throwing things together and hoping they will look stylish. It takes imagination and creative skill for a successful finish. Although reupholstering a chair or restyling furniture is not necessarily a cheaper option than buying new, there are a number of reasons why we should all be considering it.

"Recycle Furniture" junk store Blog by Emma Mullender

Benefits of recycling furniture.

There are many. Probably the most appealing thing for me is creating a unique piece of furniture that nobody else has. Why have the same as everyone else, when you can tailor it to perfectly match your tastes? I found writing a list of benefits rewarding and a great reminder of the impact buying new furniture has on the environment. But let’s not forget the impact a recycling project can have on ourselves and our homes too, as we get to fall in love with our ‘old brand new furniture’ all over again.

"Traditional upholstery" busy at work by Emma Mullender

So what are the 8 reasons we should recycle furniture?

  1. Recycling is an essential part of diverting waste from landfill.
  2. It is hugely beneficial for the environment – it saves energy, reducing the effects of global warming, helping save forests and some of the planet’s most endangered animal species.
  3. Prolonging the life of existing pieces of furniture makes logical sense if there’s structurally nothing wrong with it.
  4. Restyling furniture can be a convenient option if you already have a quality piece of furniture that fits perfectly within your home, saving you time searching for something new that will fit.
  5. Recycling something you already have or buying a second-hand piece for an upcycling project, gives you the chance to put your own unique stamp on it, allowing you to choose the right fabrics, colours, and patterns other than just making do with what the shops have to offer.
  6. It is likely that the furniture that was made years ago is of better quality than the mass-produced one you can currently get from a modern-day retailer.
  7. Reusing what you already have or choosing to buy second hand reduces the amount of packaging and shipping, therefore cutting the carbon footprint new products produce.
  8. Bringing life back into ‘Grandma’s old chair’ will help keep heirlooms in the family for future generations.

3 reasons when we shouldn’t spend our time and money on recycling

In my opinion, recycling should only be executed on the ‘right piece’. Below I have compiled a (shorter) list of reasons of when you should ‘Just leave it alone’!

  1. When your piece of furniture looks beautiful just as it is. It is a terrible shame when you see a beautiful antique ruined by (from my point of view) the dreaded “Chalk paint”. Just because you can – doesn’t mean you should!
  2. Time and money should only be spent on restyling sturdy solid-wood furniture. Some furniture is just not worthy to be upcycled. I have in the past worked on a sideboard to discover that it was made out of chipboard! When you’ve just spent £50 a roll on a designer wallpaper for the project, its a pretty disappointing thing to discover! The same rules apply with upholstery, there’s no point spending a small fortune on fabric when the chair is either full of woodworm or of cheap manufactured quality, as its likely the fabric will outlive its frame.
  3. If you have an antique chair in need of restoration, I believe you should only proceed if you can commit to a high quality finish. A 100 year old antique chair upholstered with foam and staples, then covered in a £10 a metre fabric, is not a sympathetic restoration!

Some things are just better new..

Now before you start to think that I love all things recycled, I don’t. I have my limits. In my view, vintage fabrics, wall-papers, bed linens, don’t quite cut the mustard. I’m not saying there aren’t any nice ones out there, but often its vintage condition falls short of being chic! There are so many beautiful wallpapers and fabrics on the market that I believe in balancing an eclectic mix of old and new.

Anyway, that’s it from me. I hope you’ll come away a little more passionate about recycling your old furniture.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss a recycling project.

Emma ❤️