Today, we interact with so much upholstered furniture, it’s difficult to imagine home life without it. Upholstered couches, armchairs, and beds help you relax at home after a long day at work. While textiles have been around for centuries, modern upholstery is a relatively new invention. It wasn’t until the 17th century that the Upholsterer’s Company in London was granted a charter.
The history of upholstery began with tentmaking, and started out with textiles being used for wall hangings and draperies, without much concern for comfort. Upholstery didn’t become associated with comfort until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when the first beginnings of modern furniture—and cushions-- began.
Cushions and Comfort
In the Elizabethan era of history, upholstery started to catch on and became popular in great English houses. Upholstered settees were ordered so that multiple people could sit together in comfort, and this became the prototype for the modern-day sofa.
After this period, innovations like a completely upholstered chair, the wingback chair, integrated seat cushions, and more came into the trade. Throughout the 18th century, upholstery grew in popularity, and designers like Thomas Chippendale and Robert Adams brought designs that are still recognized today into the world.
Throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the furniture industry flourished, and standards of workmanship improved. While prices were still extremely high and only available to nobility during the early history of upholstery, great craftsmen were honing their trade and creating entirely new pieces.
The Beginning of Modern Upholstery
The 19th century saw the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, with innovations like machine-woven fabrics, chemical dyes, printed cotton, and steel coil springs. These modernizations made higher-quality furniture possible for more people at a more affordable price.
The Industrial Revolution allowed for more complex furniture, more elaborate stuffing, and interesting machine-printed fabrics. The 20th century only improved on these concepts, with innovations like molded foam cores and bent steel. With style trends like midcentury modern and contemporary, upholstery is now a part of everyday life for people across the world.
If you need upholstery repair, consider getting in touch with Aaron’s Touch Up and Restoration. We know the best upholstery techniques used in furniture history, and can help fix your furniture, no matter it’s age.