Eco-Conscious Upholstery. Can reupholstery be eco friendly?

Eco-Conscious Upholstery: A Story of Sustainability and Quality

Is there such a thing as eco-conscious upholstery? It’s a complex question, but we can definitely make conscious choices that minimize our environmental impact. This is the story of a remarkable hand-built sofa I worked on last year, focusing on natural materials and lasting quality.

The clients wanted a unique, durable piece with the most natural upholstery possible. Their vision? Top-quality materials with minimal chemical content.

They commissioned a carpenter to build a six-seater “camel back” sofa frame that complemented their historic Grade II Listed surroundings. The frame itself was a marvel – reclaimed Jarrah wood, likely from over 100-year-old railway sleepers! This was a piece built to stand the test of time.

Upholstering a new, unfamiliar frame can be challenging. To ensure success, I partnered with Paul Cunliffe, an upholstery consultant with over 40 years of experience. His expertise made the process seem effortless.

Minimizing Toxicity: Our primary goal was to minimize the toxic content of the upholstery materials. The biggest culprit? Foam. Derived from petroleum, it’s loaded with harmful fire retardants and has a short lifespan. Disposing of it creates a landfill nightmare, essentially burying low-degradable compounds for centuries.

What is the eco alternative to upholstery foam?

For this project, we opted for natural alternatives: coir and wool. Coir, made from coconut husks and natural latex, creates a highly durable and springy padding. However, it needs a softer top layer. Here, we used recycled needled wool. I love using wool – sometimes you catch a glimpse of a past life, a story woven into the fibres.

Building the Layers: We started with the highest quality jute webbing, creating a supportive lattice on the frame. This was followed by natural hessian, the base cloth for the coir and wool. We then layered the coir, wool, and an inherently fire-retardant wool barrier cloth. Finally, we applied the beautiful William Morris “Strawberry Thief” fabric, a luxurious 100% cotton velvet that naturally meets fire safety standards when used with the barrier cloth.

Cushions for Comfort: Cushions are often the bulkiest part of a sofa, and foam wasn’t an option here either. To ensure maximum comfort and luxury, the clients chose 100% natural latex for the cushion fillings. I can vouch for them being extremely comfortable!

Is latex foam better than upholstery foam?

In terms of the environment, I would say yes. A big advantage of latex is its source – the sap of rubber trees. This makes it a sustainable, biodegradable, and recyclable material.

The use of natural latex in products is a great alternative to petrochemical options found in standard foam but is also under threat from climate change and farming crisis.

natural latex generally breathes better than regular memory foam because of its structure. Latex also truly shines in edge support. Its resilient structure resists compression, meaning you won’t feel like you’re rolling off the sides. The pressure you apply is isolated to the area you’re sitting on, keeping the rest of the surface level.

This project wasn’t just about creating a beautiful sofa; it was about creating a piece that respected both the environment and the client’s desire for quality. By using natural materials and traditional techniques, we achieved a stunning and sustainable.

If you would like to talk about your upholstery project, please get in touch here.

Bye for now,