Delaware Today magazine Home Special: Tufted upholstery tips from Jan Jessup of Calico Corners in Wilmington

That’s Tuft

Tufted upholstery has been around since the court of Louis XV, when 18th-century decorators were looking for a way to make furniture that had been carved, gilded and painted even more opulent.

The Victorians tufted horsehair sofas with silhouettes as curvaceous as a Gibson girl. In 1929, Mies van der Rohe gave tufting a streamlined, modern look with his iconic Barcelona chair.

Never out of fashion, tufting is the detail du jour, buttoning up new admirers at the High Point furniture show, as well as Maison & Objet, the Paris home show. Think tufted sofas, chairs, chaises, pillows and ottomans in silk blends, leather, microsuede, chenille and cotton blends.

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Jan Jessup of Calico Corners in Wilmington says stick to solids or small patterns because the process of pleating to create a tuft will distort a large print or plaid.

Tufted furniture is sensuous, as in the blue velvet headboard in Don and Betty Draper’s master bedroom in “Mad Men.” It’s feminine, dressing up a satin slipper chair in the boudoir. Add nail head trim and tufting is masculine, defining a Chesterfield leather sofa.

To see how a fabric will look on tufted piece furniture, drape the bolt over the piece and push in the material at the dimples created by the buttons.   —Eileen Smith Dallabrida



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