Upholstering the 1890s via 2021

In 2019, David brought this settee to my attention. It seemed an 1890s piece and, as such, ideal for the Cross House. I purchased it. The settee, as shown here, is NOT in the Cross House. (I think of the settee as the Miracle Settee. And, if you get me drunk, I will explain this.)

 

I love the detailing. It is post-Eastlake, and pre-Mission. It is though specific to the 1890s. Ross happy! You can appreciate the terrible upholstery. Doggie not included.

 

The carved center medallion is…

 

…similar to the 1890s chair in the parlor. Note, too, the wood spheres on each piece.

 

The parlor chair. Note the tufted back. Note the wood spheres on the overmantel.

 

I am gonna guess that the back of the settee was also tufted originally. Arms, too? The plan is to do just that.

 

A jump to the left: In August, 2019, Kyle and her family came to visit the Cross House. Ahhh, those were the days! Visitors! Well, I posted about their visit, and you will need to click here to re-read the post in order to fully appreciate this post. The post is a fun read, too! Even better with wine!

 

In short, Kyle offered to reupholster the settee. It is now in the entry hall, in front of the staircase. I think I will keep it there.

For the last two years though, upholstering the settee has been a LPI (low priority item). But…of late…I moved this to EPIOTWWE (emergency priority item or the world will end). I cannot explain a rational WHY as to this but, all of a sudden, I really hated entering the house, and its wreck of an entry hall, and looking at the shabby…oh, the horror…settee. I thought: This would all be SO much better with an exquisitely upholstered settee! I mean, I could deal with a wrecked entry hall for years more IF there was an exquisitely upholstered settee in the hall, majestic and resplendent.

This makes perfect sense, right? (Please affirm this in your comments. Please.)

So, with EPIOTWWE screaming for attention, I began scouting upholstery shops in Wichita. However, my conversations with said shops quickly scared me as the shops seemed to not really understand how to upholster an 1890s settee.

Then I recalled the offer by Kyle. And her understanding of period upholstery.

So, I emailed Kyle. And…squee…her generous offer is sill valid!

All excited, I began looking for fabrics. Kyle said I would need four yards. And me being, well, me, of course I defaulted to unexpected choices. I have no desire to use anything expected for an 1890s settee. Rather, I default to: How to marry an 1890s settee with a contemporary fabric?

As I have stated many times, I have zero desire that the 1894 Cross House should be frozen to the early 1890s. For, 127-years have since elapsed and I relish in having this history revealed by my choices.  Discerning readers will note though that my choices do NOT include knocking down walls to create modern loft-style spaces, punching 3,927 can lights into the ceilings, and painting all the trim white. I have my limits!

Rather, I enjoy a more subtle and artful way of visually accommodating the passage of time.

Regarding the settee, I have, for some reason, become fixated on cut velvet upholstery. I also need to find a pattern that will visually work being tufted.

 

This is a peacock feather design. As the nearby powder room will be papered in the famous peacock wallpaper, I am attracted to this visual synergy. This fabric is (gasp) almost $300 a yard. NO WAY! But, as only four yards remain, it is discounted to $79. Squee! I would need to act quickly though. The color complements the adjacent parlor.

 

$40 a yard leopard print. This would also be OK being tufted. The color complements the adjacent parlor.

 

This is my $55 a yard favorite. Then I realized that it looked…

 

…familiar. And I love this!

 

So, what do y’all think?

 

NOTE:

I have zero desire for a period-correct fabric for the settee.

I have zero desire for what I think of as “grandma” fabric. Rather, I yearn for something bold and unexpected.

 

 

62 Comments

  1. Dan Goodall-Williams on January 24, 2021 at 2:38 am

    Well, if you want bold and not grandma’s pattern the obvious choice is the last one with the colored circles.
    However, I’m unsure as to how that will look tufted.

    Personally, I would go with the peacock since you want it tufted. And I doubt the small arms would be tufted.

    Either way, it’s a beautiful piece. If I lived nearby I would do the upholstery for you.

  2. Jordan on January 24, 2021 at 4:21 am

    I like the spots. Complements the wood work.

    The uniformity of the pattern might look odd being tufted?
    Perhaps a pattern with different size spots would make tufting easier?

    Some thing like this.

    • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 10:58 am

      I love that, Jordon!

  3. Annette on January 24, 2021 at 4:28 am

    Oh I lurv the peacock fabric. That would be my choice but it has to be what you love after all it’s yr home. I love your interior decorating flare. It always makes me smile. Anyway you should choose what makes you smile because you’ll be looking at it for a while. Have fun Ross 😁

  4. Leigh on January 24, 2021 at 5:50 am

    The fabrics all look nice. Excellent eye for detail with the wood spheres on the settee, parlor chair and overmantel.

    And yes, nothing like a luxuriously upholstered settee within the to-be-done entry hall. That will be the warm welcoming gesture by the Cross House. EPIOTWWE (Emergency Priority Item Or The World Will End). Looking forward to Kyle’s generous handiwork.

  5. Sharon on January 24, 2021 at 5:58 am

    Love them all but for me the peacock and the dots are joyous to behold! I really love those dots. So unexpected. I’m not sure if their appeal would be lessened with tufting, as some tufted dots will become tufted ovals, but that concern might only be because I’ve seen the original pattern as untufted. As long as the final result doesn’t lead to this, the spots …… I mean dots …… would gleefully express your principles of design.

    Oh, and grab that peacock fabric now! You’ll make delightful use of it eventually.

  6. Cody H on January 24, 2021 at 6:47 am

    Definitely the peacock. Theres no other choice here. That’s it. Stop looking.

  7. Mark Colburn on January 24, 2021 at 7:20 am

    I agree with your thinking as the parlor turned out fabulous but two thoughts.
    1) will the entry hall then be decorated to fit with the settee (and it remains there)
    2) shouldn’t the settee and the similar chair be together?

    • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:05 am

      Mark, my long-term plan is to recreate the original wallpaper, frieze, and ceiling pattern for the entry hall. But, that will be way down the road.

      In the interim, I’ve no idea of how I will decorate the hall!

      Also, there’s no place for the settee in the parlor.

  8. Pam on January 24, 2021 at 7:31 am

    I think the peacock pattern will allow the wood to stand out. I think it is lovely! Also, not all grandmas are stodgy and stuck on avocado green. Dear Ross.

    • Sara on January 24, 2021 at 8:41 am

      🙂 Grandmas kick ass in all shapes sizes and colors. 🙂

      • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:07 am

        You and Pam are quite right, Sara!

    • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:05 am

      Good point, Pam! Good point!

  9. Colin S Boss on January 24, 2021 at 7:38 am

    Hi Ross,

    I love the look of the sofa, and my vote is the Peacock pattern.

    The colour looks fantastic and will lead nicely into the wallpaper in the powder room. It also is contemporary enough to ‘lift’ the sofa into the present day without distracting from the carving and other features on the furniture.

    Looking forward to seeing how this turns out as with all your adventures in this gorgeous house.

    Colin

    • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:06 am

      Colin!!!!!!!!

  10. Rick on January 24, 2021 at 7:38 am

    I vote for the peacock!

  11. Miriam R Righter on January 24, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Peacock. The different colors will distract from the beautiful wood.

  12. Paul on January 24, 2021 at 8:00 am

    The peacock feather is my favorite. I can’t wait to see your choice and the finished piece – I’m sure it will be fabulous!

  13. Amy Zesbaugh on January 24, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Since there are only four yards of the peacock fabric, it is meant to be!

    • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:07 am

      I do love cosmic alignments, Amy!

  14. Dan V. in LB on January 24, 2021 at 9:19 am

    My vote is for Miss Peacock in the entry hall with the settee!

  15. Sharon on January 24, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Dots!

  16. Brian A on January 24, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Just not the #2 leopard print!

  17. Julia Chennault on January 24, 2021 at 9:40 am

    I love the peacock as well and the nearness to the powder room would make such a fun tie-in without being cloyingly matchy-matchy. I think your grand old dame will approve!

  18. Christine on January 24, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Peacock, hands down.

  19. Kim on January 24, 2021 at 9:51 am

    I also love both the feather fabric and the dot fabric so, I’m relieved it’s not my decision. Both fabrics are versatile enough to be in any location – versatility is important, even in a large house.

    The settee has so many DIFFERENT carved elements (I’m personally fixated on the spool arm supports) it’s certainly indicative of a transitional period. That pretty much states, “the sky is the limit” …soooo…feathers…Oh, decisions!!

    🍀 Good luck, Ross. 😁

  20. Rick S on January 24, 2021 at 10:20 am

    I vote for the peacock feathers. The settee will standout instead of the fabric. I think Mrs. Cross world approve.

  21. Alice on January 24, 2021 at 10:27 am

    I say Peacock (especially since it is a bargain) but I have a feeling you’re going to pick the multi-colored dots, which is also a beautiful fabric. Can’t wait to see the end result no matter what you choose!

  22. Terry Mooney on January 24, 2021 at 10:30 am

    I vote for the peacock feather, too. I love the subtle rhyme with the powder room and the parlor. You are an artist!

  23. William Rapp on January 24, 2021 at 10:51 am

    My vote is for the peacock. Though I love the polka dots, I think it would be less flexible long term if you ever want to move the settee to another room with a different color scheme. Plus I think the tufting may be visually lost with the polka dot fabric. In the end, though, your choices often surprise me but always make me smile.

  24. Scott Allen on January 24, 2021 at 10:59 am

    The peacock feathers are so luxurious and you can almost see the difference in quality of the fabric as well. I love the colored dot fabric too but I think it might distract your eye from the beauty of the wooden parts.
    I really don’t care for the leopard print.

  25. Nancy from New Yawk on January 24, 2021 at 10:59 am

    So here’s a question that’s been burning a hole in my brain: why, if you are flexible on many things, does the kitchen sink have to go in front of the window?? I can’t tell you how much I don’t like that idea. Natural light is a precious commodity, why block it up with a sink???

    And I vote for colorful circles even if I’m out voted by peacock. Those circles are so jolly and would lift my spirits even in a wrecked entry hall!

    • Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:17 am

      Hi, Nancy!

      I don’t have to put the kitchen in front of the south window. Rather, I want to.

      Also, that appears to be the sink location in 1894, and that is certainly a factor.

      If I put in a modern sink, it would be at the exact height of the window sill, so no daylight would be lost. But I yearn for a period-correct stone sink with a high back. How cool would that be?

      I, too, adore sunlight. But, the south window is HUGE. During the summer I will have to keep it shaded somehow to keep the room cool. Anyway, losing a small part of the window should not prove an issue.

      The other option is to do a sink in a huge island, as I’d planned originally. But I’ve mostly decided to abandon that idea, and go with a smaller island.

      NOTE: There’s no wall space in the kitchen for a sink.

      • Mark Colburn on February 20, 2021 at 9:52 am

        If sink was originally in front of window is there any way to know what style and did it cover part of window? And would it matter since it was the back(?) Of the house.

        • Ross on February 20, 2021 at 10:42 am

          Hi, Mark! While it appears that the 1894 sink was in front of the south windows, there’s no information as to its appearance.

          It’s high backsplash likely covered a portion of the window.

  26. M on January 24, 2021 at 11:20 am

    I love the peacock fabric!! No matter what you choose it is always a surprise and delight.

  27. Ross on January 24, 2021 at 11:27 am

    BREATHLESS UPDATE!

    I purchased the peacock!

    • ArtistSusan on January 24, 2021 at 1:12 pm

      I’m so happy to hear that!!!

    • Nancy from New Yawk on January 24, 2021 at 3:02 pm

      Oh I knew the peacock would win! Can we have throw pillows from the circle fabric!? Pleeeeaasse? Lol

    • Pam on January 25, 2021 at 6:48 am

      YAAAAAAYYYYY!

  28. Sandra Diane Lee on January 24, 2021 at 11:49 am

    Bravo Ross!

    I find the Peacock fabric delicious! Very inviting in the entry!

    The other fabrics are charming & the fun dots also—could these fabrics be used in the library??

  29. ArtistSusan on January 24, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    I vote for the peacock fabric. The color and texture are just right. What a find! It’s simply meant to be! There’s no other choice. Order it immediately.

  30. Marcia on January 24, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    I’m in the peacock camp too.

  31. MJ on January 24, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Beautiful settee! I love the unusual combination of details. I have a small Greek Revival sofa with nearly the same dowdy beige fabric that I’ve wanted to reupholster in black horsehair for the longest time, so I understand your urgency. All three fabrics are fun and unexpected, but I have to go with the less popular blue leopard print fabric. While still contemporary, it also has a calmness that I think will best allow the carved details of the piece shine through more than the movement of the peacock or the bold color and geometry of the dots.

  32. San on January 24, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Ummm, keep looking. Of course, I like light neutrals. But if you keep looking, the right one will instantly click. Famous last words of a quilter!

  33. Carrie on January 24, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    I love the peacock feathers and worry that the circles would just over power the ornamentation on the settee. I also think that the effect of tufting on the circle pattern would be very distracting. I would be careful to let the upholsterer see what you are thinking about to make sure that the need to pattern match or follow a grain cutting pattern (because velvet has a nap) does not increase the need for 4 yards of fabric.

  34. Cindy Belanger on January 24, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Of course, that makes perfect sense. The finished settee will dress up the entire wrecked entry hall.
    I know you made your choice already, I voted for the peacock feather also. And I just have to say this no, no, no to the circles. The settee is going to look updated, but elegant. Can’t wait to see the finished piece.

  35. Stewart McLean on January 24, 2021 at 7:43 pm

    I really like the fact that the fabric doesn’t scream, PEACOCK!!!!!!, it just is peacock. I am fanatical about the way upholsterers do their job. It is my belief that the edge of the seat upholstery should have a what I think as a tuxedo look, where the lines of the front and sides of the seat are straight, vertical, and do not extend over the line of the front seat rail and side rails. To me the piece, like most available pieces from this era that I see, currently reminds me of a person in a tailored outfit with their belly sagging over their belt.
    Another personal taste thing point that I would like to make is that I like diamond tufting. The peacock fabric with its vertical linear feather design with a definite repeat make having the tufts’s buttons on the lines at the centers and edges of the feathers a must in my view. I just hate it when tufting ignores the pattern repeats in fabric. I think that is why it is so much more common to have solid fabrics with texture but not prints in tufted upholstery. It is HARD to
    do tufting that doesn’t swear with either the fabric or the lines of a piece of furniture.

  36. aBell on January 24, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    I loved the peacock fabric until I saw the spots. And just before this Omi (a granny of sorts) sat down in the hall to rest upon the spotted settee, I remembered I wanted a book from the library… where the egg shaped chair is hanging from the ceiling. Right?

  37. Deborah on January 25, 2021 at 12:18 am

    I vote for thee leopard. Every house needs some animal print somewhere.🐆

  38. Jim on January 25, 2021 at 12:52 am

    While I like the peacock pattern as much as other people do, why not upholster the settee in the same fabric as the parlor chair to provide a tie from the entry hall into the parlor?

    • Ross on January 25, 2021 at 1:03 am

      Hi, Jim!

      The parlor chair was already reupholstered when I purchased it.

      I’ve no idea of where the fabric came from. And nor would I wish to have more of it!

      I plan to re-reupholster the parlor chair at some point.

  39. Linda A. on January 25, 2021 at 8:09 am

    I HATE the dots…unless it was going in my 8 year old grand daughter’s room. Either of the first 2 prints although not sure how well the first peacock print will tuft.

  40. Debby on January 25, 2021 at 9:32 am

    I’m in the peacock feather camp. The colors are beautiful.

  41. Sharon @ Laurelhurstcraftsman on January 25, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Peacock Fabric! Quick, before it’s gone.

  42. Linda S. on January 25, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Synergy. I loved that word used to describe the theme flow for peacock pattern from hall settee to powder room wallpaper. Energetic, happy, collective, cohesive movement toward a common goal. And a 2021 theme, to be sure, Isn’t your grand Cross house a peacock herself, after all, with 42 stained glass windows? Not to mention the serendipity of exactly 4 yards. Think of the chi flow coming in the front door! So, another vote for the Peacock fabric :). And of course it makes sense to have an island of calm perfection to focus on when you enter!

  43. A. H. on January 25, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Another vote for the Peacock! that cyan matches the curtains and frieze, and the deep purple somehow brings out the wood color in the room (at least from what I can tell)

  44. Arkay on January 26, 2021 at 11:06 am

    I know you love the dots, Ross. But why lessen their impact by using them in the hallway? I also vote for the peacock, because it’s beautiful, will give the hallway an elegant introduction to the house visitors, will complement the nearby water closet, and will not take away from the impact of your choices in the parlor. After all, you do like to surprise, right? So leave the dots in the parlor to surprise folks there.

  45. Suzy Crawford on January 26, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Well, I missed a couple of days reading this blog, and look at what I missed! I almost never comment on anybody’s blog posts, but had to on this one. I am so relieved to read that you did purchase the peacock fabric!! First, of all your fabric choices, it will look the best tufted, in my opinion anyway. And most importantly, that $300.00 a yard peacock fabric for $79.00!!!! What’s to think about?! That was a can’t pass up, must buy now, bargain!!! Something that fills a need, is beautiful, and a bargain is a combination that cannot be topped! Must be pounced upon when found! So happy you found something you loved at a price that left some funds for other beautiful projects in the Cross house. Thank you, Ross, for the many hours of enjoyment that I have received from reading and rereading your posts about the restoration of this beautiful house. And congratulations on completing the restoration work on all of the gorgeous stained glass windows! Quite an accomplishment, and what a gift to every person who passes by your home and lays eyes on all that gorgeous glass. Hopefully, someday I can travel up to Kansas and let my eyes feast on the sight of all those glorious windows!

  46. Kelly on January 27, 2021 at 7:53 am

    I’ve been an avid follower for years but never commented until now. Why? Good question! For some reason I now feel compelled. I hear the universe yelling “Ross! The peacock fabric!”

    Complements a nearby element? Check. Need 4 yards? Check. We have exactly the amount you need! Too expensive? Check. Well would you look at that? It’s conveniently marked down. Just. For. You.

  47. Jennifer on January 30, 2021 at 11:30 am

    Peacock feather!

  48. Debbie Stevens on February 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    I love the teal colored fabric. NO grandma fabric!!

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