Stabilising sprung upholstery: The conservation of an early 20thC armchair at the Geffrye Museum of the Home


The armchair has a fixed seat and sprung back; covered with a figured cloth of wool and cotton; embellished with a silk and cotton cord trimming.

Client brief/Role of object

Make safe for continued open display in a period room setting within the Museum.

Condition before treatment

The unstable springs were imposing pressure on the surrounding upholstery, causing further damage - a common problem in upholstery structures. The exposed areas of the top cover fabric had failed revealing many loose threads and several holes.


The majority of treatment was undertaken in situ to minimise damage to the original upholstery. Surface cleaning of top cover and thread re-alignment was followed by insertion of custom-dyed patches behind areas of loss as well as stitched support to secure loose threads. Overlay patches of colour-matched semi-transparent fabric provided additional protection where necessary.

Stabilisation of the chair’s sprung back required a combination of partial releasing and temporary removal of some upholstery layers to gain access to the springs. The springs were individually re-compressed insitu, using established conservation techniques. Each upholstery layer was supported where necessary during re-application to the frame.

Condition after treatment

The chair is sufficiently stable for continued open display in the Museum.

Further information

Further examples of insitu upholstery conservation treatments

Gill, K. 2010. The conservation of four 1760s chairs: revealing and reinstating original upholstery features during insitu treatment. In: F. Lennard and P. Ewer, (eds.). Textile conservation: advances in practice. Oxford: Elsevier, 171 - 180.

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Reproduced courtesy of the Geffrye Museum, London. Kate Gill Textile and Upholstery Conservation Services © 2011.

Work undertaken by Kate Gill, treatment completed September 2011.