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History of Upholstery


Here are some facts about the comfy stuff we sit on. Upholstered furniture comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and materials. This post looks into the world and history of upholstery.

The world of upholstery manufacturing is a thriving one.  The stuff is everywhere, from in your home, workplace and public spaces.  It can change the entire look and feel of any room.  Upholstery has of course evolved alongside us to suit our needs and ever changing styles.  Even as far back as ancient Egyptians that used horsehair stuffed cushions as well as the finest of fabrics draped over their thrones.

It seems that the first types of upholstery were for many years just fabric pieces stretched across seats. In the 1500’s Italy was the main place for textiles.  This knowledge was spread here to Britain b the 1560’s.  By this time weavers were making drapes for beds, wall hangings as well as cushions.  This was the only real sign of upholstery at this time.  Real upholstered seating (benches) weren’t around until the 17th century – and only then available to the wealthy.

By the time the war of the roses had come to an end and so much time wasn’t being spent fortifying homes, a new upholstery industry started to become alive. During the Elizabethan era beds became bigger and a lot more grand.  Some had 4 poster beds that held large drapes (to help stop draughts) – and this style became very luxurious.

Next up for upholstering came luxurious chairs.  The Farthingale Chair was a piece of furniture that was designed to have no arms in order to sit ladies with large skirts.  The back of the chair had a piece of leather stretched across it.  This was all fixed together in a permanent style and so was the first piece of ‘permanent’ upholstery.

During the times of 17th century, a lot of carpeting was being imported to Europe from Turkey.  Upholsterers would cut this up in order to use for upholstered seats.


  • Moorish Influence from Renaissance Spain – Leather work from here was at its best.
  • The Walnut period Europe – Magnificent tapestries came from the Mortlake tapestry factory in London.  The Gobelins Factory by Paris also made fabulous tapestries for upholstery use.
  • Mahogany period – This is also known as the age of the designer.  Comfort was vastly improved.  Upholstery was made in bright pastel colours.


The steam powered engine provided power for cheap looms to enable mass production of woven fabric. Along came the steel coil spring – changing comfort for money saving. 1935 saw the invention of nylon.  This became a cheaper alternative to silk.

Upholstered furniture was helped along by the use of bent steel, moulded fibreglass, plywood etc.  This enabled all kinds of upholstery to be manufactured and this is how we see upholstery today.

Here at Dirtbusters, we recommend that our customers use our fabric cleaning service once a year, maybe more if there are pets and messy kids in the home!

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