Upholstery and its existence came from the 1400s.  The fabrics, style, trends and work has changed much over the centuries.

The work of an upholsterer in the traditional sense in the beginning made use of fabrics and textiles in the complete furnishing of a house or building.

Of these separate areas: 

  • Seating
  • Bedding
  • Drapery
  • Floor coverings

Today the word ‘upholstery’ has become synonymous with chairs and seating, and the soft furnisher deals with all other fixed fabric furnishings, in particular drapery and detachable coverings for windows and beds.

When the upholsterers and carpenters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries began the craft of covering chairs, fixing drapes and making cushions and mattresses with a few simple hand tools, they enjoyed a certain freedom of inventiveness and experimentation as they discovered new ways to adorn the living areas of their houses.

Their work then, as it is today, was a combination of manipulating, trimming and fixing a variety of fabrics.  They must have learned quickly how to deal with the finest silks and stretch the heavy leathers that were available at that time.  Records show clearly that upholstery construction was very simple and, in many cases, crude, but the covering materials, which were mostly handmade, were of excellent quality.

Early upholstery consisted of fabrics and leathers nailed directly to wood frames with very little or no stuffing.  The seat of a chair or day bed was made reasonable comfortable with a stuffed cushion filled with wood, feathers or rags.  These were usually supported by strips of nailed hide or rope.  From the end of the sixteenth century well-upholstered chairs and sofas were produced for many of the great houses.


Source – Upholstery ~ A Complete Course ~ Revised Edition by David James