Saturday, April 16, 2011

Florence, the Original Style Queen

I mentioned in the last post how this whole upholstery venture started over a conversation about Florence Broadhurst.

Image from

Last year while in Sydney for Mardi Gras, we visited Vampt Vintage Design and our eyes boggled out of our heads at their two levels of incredible mid-century furniture. We also noticed a sample folder of Florence Broadhurst fabrics and probably squealed and dribbled. Well, the lovely Dave at Vampt actually offered to give us a lift to Signature Prints, the custodians of Florence's designs, where they still print (by hand) from her original designs. We were given a tour of the warehouse and it was the absolute highlight of our Sydney trip.

Florence was born in 1899 and her life story is an incredible read - a cross-dressing, banjolele playing vaudeville stage star in Shanghai, a couturier in London, a self-proclaimed 'best Australian artist', a trucking company owner and an innovative designer of wallpaper. She started screen-printing wallpaper in the early sixties and was tragically murdered in 1977. Owners of Signature Prints, Helen and David Lennie revived and catalogued Florence's design legacy and have brought her flamboyant prints to international attention.

It seemed appropriate that the first chair I ever bought from the Tender Centre for $10 (and the only chair I owned for a while whilst going through a monastic phase and living in a 7 x 3m shed with an outside cold water tap) had to have a Florence makeover...

In the shed with Zebedee, RIP my big shadow. The poor old chair had a pillow to make the protruding springs bearable and a sari tied around it to improve on its appearance...slightly.

And finally, after eight years, the stripping process begins..

We use a paint stripper called 'Citrostrip' it's non-toxic and biodegradable.
And here's the finished Florence makeover in our lounge-room, needless to say she's for keeps.

We thought we'd enter an interior design competition recently run by InsideOut magazine. We didn't win but we did feature on their website with this chair as one of the 12 standout entries. We didn't want the paint prize anyway! You can see it here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Nod to the Old Bloke

First up, we'd like to say a big thank you to Design*Sponge for featuring us on their 'before and after' page. We thought the computer was having a malfunction when we saw the spike in visitors. Hence I think I've had a touch of stage fright.

We've had lots of emails asking us where we learnt our skills and I thought this an opportune time to introduce you the old bloke, Alan, just in case you thought we'd been studying online DIY tutorials or similar. Katie is Alan's gene recipient (family members are reluctant to use the 'f' word, it was the 70's, it was strict catholicism, it was a small country town, etc). Katie and I were chatting about the awesome Florence Broadhurst one day and the subject of upholstery came up, I said I'd love to learn, Katie said her f#*^er was an upholsterer although she hadn't laid eyes on him in 13 years. So she spoke to her cousin who spoke to her mum who spoke to her brother which was Alan and we received a call for the go ahead to visit him just as the two rivers met in the middle of the road outside Katie's house during the last Lismore flood. We took it as an auspicious sign.

Alan is now in his seventies and has been incredible with imparting his knowledge, sharing his workshop and tools and being on hand to answer all our questions and also do a lot of our sewing. Two years on and the rest is history as they say... in the tradition of gene holder to gene recipient.

Our very first chair, that Alan mostly did, we got it for $3 from the tip, it turned out to be a TH Brown chair, made in Adelaide and a very popular mid-century collectable.