This sharp shooter in the funny hat is Leland Duck, owner and operator of Revive Upholstery & Design. We work together. Any Phloem piece you’ve seen or sat in that has upholstery was upholstered by Revive. Our shop spaces are just across the wall from each other in the Beam & Anchor building, so collaboration is easy. It helps that Leland is a nice guy as well. There will soon be quite a few new pieces on the Phloem website that Leland has been involved in. We’ve got those pieces dialed.
A while back in 2012, we made a pair of sofas… one for me and one for my sis. This was a “side project”, in the midst of a very busy year. Leland has upholstered plenty for Phloem, but I was itching to design a sofa. My sis needed a new one, I needed a new one, so it seemed like an easy way to experiment. Sometimes things take longer than you think…
I started with a drawing, then we talked at length on how we would execute. I then made a simple plywood frame. Leland has torn apart countless vintage sofas and chairs to redo them, but working from the ground up with a new design was a little fresh. We stuck to what we thought we knew and found out plenty along the way.
Large arms were essential to me. You can casually sit on this arm or set a tumbler glass on it without fear of it falling over.
We adjusted the spring tension in the seat twice to get the right touch. And in the process, Leland found that he would never, ever buy the individual noodle roll type again. It’s no fun untangling the mess, cutting them, then pulling each one tight by hand. And if you should slip and let go, make sure to jump out of the way. They’re fast. And painful.
THAT is the face of an unsatisfied sofa mock up participant. There is no magic “back angle” that I know of. I’ve done plenty of different chairs with different angles. And a sofa was no exception. I adjusted the angle three times. We planted all sorts of bodies in that frame with various different foam densities, springs at different tensions, and plywood behind existing cushions. It was essential to get it right.
After plenty of trial and error, we DID get it right. Eventually we opted for a back angle that was further back than either of us anticipated, while still supportive. We replaced the springs in the back with plywood behind the foam for firmness. This felt really comfortable.
When it was finally comfortable, it was time for fabric.
This finished sofa has buttons along the back for a nice detail. There is stitching at every angle, which adds a very nice subtle touch. The legs are walnut — turned on the lathe, tapering to the inside, and parallel with the vertical sides of the arm on the outside corners.
Would we do things differently next time? For sure. Were we happy with the final product? For sure. It’s absolutely fine to make mistakes. As long as you learn from them. You don’t just push a button and out comes the perfect sofa. Or the nicest chair. Or whatever. Designing, building, and creating always should involve refining. Processes evolve. People change. Your relationship to your craft matures. We’ve got a sofa commission coming up soon and I can’t wait to do it better next time. And learn from that experience as well.
We continue to geek out on frame construction on everything Leland pulls apart… there are always fresh surprises. But with building from the ground up, we learned a whole lot about what not to do AND how to improve upon it the next time. We discovered back angles that worked, we discussed the merits of webbing a seat over using springs, we rationalized a plywood back, we found no need to have the arms bolt on after the upholstering, I’ve since designed a base that looks more unique and refined. It is always ever onward and learning from those experiences.