Did you get the new Restoration Hardware catalogue? Mine came via an email – nice and green. Beautiful as ever, I stopped at this image. Notice anything odd about this pair of Os de Mouton settees?
Labeled their “Wingback Settee” the sofa based on an 18th century original is missing its fabric. And, no, that’s not an oversight, or a ploy to get you to peek inside their furniture. This is how it is sold. Sans fabric.
This settee and all the other pieces in Restoration Hardware’s newest line “Deconstructed Upholstery Collection” – are all bare of the top layer of decorative fabric. I mean – seriously, WHAT??? And no, you can’t order the frame WITH fabric. You read that right.
Early-18th-century French Louis XIV inspired wing dining chair
The new line of 15 upholstered pieces was designed by the Van Thiels, Rudy Sr.and his two sons. The trio are antiquarians who seven years ago closed up their European shop to move to China where they design and build authentic looking reproductions of the antique furniture they once sold.
The inspiration chair – what an antique REALLY looks like without its fabric
Fast forward a few years, and Rudy Jr. is preparing to reupholster his grandfather’s 19th century Ladies wing chair that he had recently inherited. After removing it’s worn velvet fabric, the chair stood in the corner – bare, with its horsehair stuffing and burlap lining now exposed. Rudy was instantly drawn to the beauty of the frame, the elegance of its lines and craftsman’s handiwork (and a new way to make a buck.)
“It suddenly opened us up to something that I don’t think people realize is there in an
old wing chair: all the work is inside,” recalls Rudy Sr.
The same chair – inspired by the original – with its “insides” all cleaned up and purty.
The chair is accented with nailheads. The fabric is burlap and “antiqued” cotton. “This is furniture for the ages” says the catalogue. Maybe it should say “furniture for the insane, or furniture for those with too much money to spend, or furniture for people who like to spend more money on an unfinished fake than a finished antique. I could go on and on.
There is no denying the beauty of the pieces. They have chosen some of the prettiest upholstered antique furniture there is. But…..I just can’t get around the fact that there is no fabric on these chairs. It’s so bogus! So silly.
The chair above seen here – 19th century English wing chair. How phony is this – look at the sides with the little tufts of torn fabric – as if there was once fabric on this chair and these are the remnants left when the fabric was removed. How deep is the illusion or the deception?
Still, it’s true – the chair is gorgeous. I could see buying it as is and having it covered. Yes, I do see the beauty in the frame and I do like that look – but when it’s original and real, not so phony as this!
The matching settee. Gorgeous! This settee is one of the few pieces in the line that happens to look good deconstructed.
Windsor Smith makes a copy of this same piece. Originals are hard to find and pricey.
Jane Moore, interior designer from Houston has the original settee and matching chair, now with a skirt that hides the legs and casters.
The Bad: The English rolled arm sofa is actually ugly in its undressed state. The back and side is very unattractive bare like this. Give me the covered piece any day.
So beautiful – an English Rolled Arm sofa covered in a washed linen. The naked frame just doesn’t look good on the English rolled arm sofa and chair. Still, what is amazing about the collection at RH is how beautiful the shapes are. The pieces they chose are really pretty and it’s a crime they can’t be ordered covered in fabric.
What started this trend anyway? Looking at the shapes – the antique upholstered furniture, we have Mitchell Gold to thank for that. Years ago, he copied these vintage upholstered frames when no one else was doing it. He sold his designs to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, and Restoration Hardware too. Gold changed the furniture business and opened our eyes to venerable companies like George Smith – where people who could afford the prices bought their rolled armed sofa from, not from Pottery Barn. Today, RH is following the path that Gold took, introducing the masses to antique upholstery shapes – and good design. But they ruined it with this silly faux naked frame look. How well the Deconstructed Furniture line sells is anyone’s guess. I predict they will phase out much of the line and keep a few pieces like the Napoleon chair. Or, if they were smart – they would offer the pieces covered.
Another clue to where this look all got started? The classic lines, the naked frame, the burlap - look at this 2000 Veranda story of Carol Glasser’s house. These chairs have always been intriguing. Obviously they were borrowed from a store for the photoshoot – and dressed up with checked fabric “trim” rather than upholstered just for the shoot. I had never seen anything like this and was torn between loving them and not. Can anyone remember seeing a naked frame chair in a magazine or book before this? I’m sure there was, but to me, this was the first time.
These are the chairs that Glasser owned. But, when your house is photographed more than once – it has to be changed to keep it fresh for the readers. Hence, the burlap covered chairs dressed up with checked trim.
Another influence: antique stores. In the past decade, antique stores started covering their merchandise in simple, pale linen or cotton – to create a uniform, clean look to the shop. Imagine if all these chairs and sofas were covered in their original old, faded, and mismatched fabrics? This look really took off and many customers took home the merchandise as is, and left it that way. The shop? The Gray Door.
Kay O’Toole was one of the first to cover all her merchandise in liner fabric. Her store is a sea of beautiful antique frames recovered in white.
Another influence was this chair and matching settee. The “Hannah” by OLY. The chair featured prominent nail heads, raffia and a cotton cushion. This is probably THE chair of the early 2000s. It was seen everywhere and I think it really influenced the white frames, the nailheads, and the burlap/raffia craze of today.
The settee was never as popular as the chair probably because of its size and price. Just not as practical as a chair. There is also a Hannah headboard in the OLY line.
Another influence was the Swedish look. This cover of a house in Dallas, decorated by Jane Moore, tipped the scales in favor of the light painted wood, nailheads, and naked frames. Color schemes changed overnight from reds and blues and yellows to whites and grays. For a while it seemed everyone wanted this look.
With the popularity of the Swedish look – came the naked frame. Here tiny nails usually hidden underneath gimp or used on the inside only are proudly shown. Swedish furniture with its wooden frames looks beautiful in its deconstructed state.
These two Swedish pieces look perfectly beautiful with burlap and lining fabric and tiny exposed nails.
These Swedish chairs from Brooke Giannetti look so pretty deconstructed. But these are antiques.
Brooke Giannetti’s beautiful Swedish chair – deconstructed. Hard to beat the real thing.
Restoration Hardware Swedish demi lune chair. This is all wrong, the proportions, the stain color. Hideous. Can’t imagine what they are thinking!
Better, much better. Tara Shaw makes this reproduction. The stain and proportions are better and the price is much better than an antique, though this is still not cheap.
And again, Brooke Giannetti’s deconstructed Swedish barrel chair – the real deal. So beautiful.
Gorgeous pair of naked frames. French 18th century. I would consider just putting a new white cushion on these chairs if they were in a place where no one sat on them a lot. But, this is the real thing, not some hokey fake from Restoration Hardware. The burlap is unusually clean and pretty as is, which is often not the case.
Now these 18th century French antiques need to be dressed in fabric. There’s a world of difference between this pair and the one above these. These insides are much to0 rough looking to keep the chairs like this.
Now, take a look at this chair – the 1870 French Napoleonic one from Restoration Hardware. Again, not a pretty naked frame, but a killer chair – dressed in fabric. $1295. With fabric and reupholstering – at least $2000. hmmm.
Nathan Turner, 1880 French chair – what an authentic Napoleonic chair looks like naked. Not great at all. Needs fabric.
First Dibs - PAIR of Napoleon III Arm Chairs, 1880s. These would go in any room, even contemporary.
First Dibs: Victorian Armchairs in Original Upholstery , ca. 1880 - 1900
$1,285. In various states of undress. Great bargain for a period antique chair.
Jane Moore – chair and ottoman. Not sure how you would keep this clean without a slipcover though. I love these chairs. They are great in any room, dressed up or not.
Restoration Hardware: $1495. Beautiful chair. But, again, it needs fabric!!
The original inspiration Queen Anne wing – notice the fleur de lis detail on the leg. ??? Queen Anne???
Pamela Pierce – authentic Queen Anne. She used a linen with tiny nails to give it an undressed look – yet all the stuffing is left inside. Beautiful lines.
Chateau Domingue: another wing chair – beautiful and simple in linen and decorative nailheads. And to the left, a chair in its lining look – with the tiny nails.
Deconstructed French chaise from RH for just $2295. snort. I think this one is horrible looking without its fabric. Just too much going on – it looks so busy instead of simple, as it should be.
A similar look – English, not French, but simple and elegant in its tailored slip. The Gray Door.
1st Dibs - French Napoleon III Chaise Longue, 1875. Period chaise. Upholstered in microvelvet. $2900. Compare this price for a period piece vs. a fake piece from RH.
Restoration Hardware sofa – $2995. The sides aren’t great – bulky looking. But, this deconstructed piece is better than others in the line.
The Gray Door – the real thing.
A beautiful, yet simply covered settee in linen and nailheads. Gorgeous.
And another, in simple cloth with tiny nails. Doesn’t get much prettier. Eleanor Cummings.
Ottoman, 1870 French Napoleonic. This comes in two sizes and really is a perfect piece if you want the look. Plus it’s really affordable, only $895 for the 6’ ottoman. This might be the biggest seller in the line.
The look of the ottoman – but in an antique.
So, what do YOU think about this line? Do you think it’s as ridiculous as I do? Or do you love it? I’m anxious to see what happens with all these pieces. If they would give buyers the option to cover the pieces with fabric, I think they would have a smash hit – because the shapes and lines are beautiful, to be sure. Otherwise, I think this line will tank quickly. But what do I know?
Note: if you are in Houston, plan to see these homes! One is designed by Pamela Pierce and another by Ginger Barber!!!! And one is a renovation by Kurt Aichler. Whoa. Those houses are worth the price of admission, plus I’ve heard the other houses are wonderful too.