Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A Short Guide to Buying Leather Furniture Online

Leather conjures up all kinds of images for each individual. Deciding to buy leather furniture may be a statement that you've "arrived" and desire a luxurious, sophisticated, even an aristocratic ambiance to your home. While the images of leather lean toward a more upscale buyer, finding affordable leather furniture is possible. Once the decision to purchase leather furniture has been made, it's time to answer these questions: what are the advantages of leather, what really is leather, what to look for, and what to buy? Follow the tips of a buying guide to leather and ease your way to long lasting comfort that ages with graceful elegance.

Leather Basics:
Leather is a by product of the beef industry and puts to excellent use hides that may otherwise go to waste. Through an ancient process called tanning, the hides are transformed into soft supple leather. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes the art of tanning best; "tan - to convert (hide) into leather by treatment with an infusion of tannin-rich bark or other agent of similar affect." Now that a simple explanation of the leather process has been explained let's move on to the different types of leather available.
In the world of leather, not all leathers are created equal. While some retain the natural markings and variations that speak to so many people, some leathers are rendered through various methods which remove the grain and any unique characteristics giving the overall appearance of sameness. Before stepping into a furniture gallery to locate the leather furniture that fits your décor, learn a bit about the various grades and types of leather.
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Full Grain
The most desirable leather, full grain, remains natural. The markings from bug bites, a scar from a barb wire fence, or the tiny wrinkles that occur on skin are evident. These marks of living give unique characteristics to the hide. A palpable texture to the grain offers another pleasant reason to prefer full grain leather for furniture.
Top Grain
If the label "top grain" is on a tag or mentioned by a sales person, the reference is to where the leather was cut rather than the grade. Do not confuse full grain, which speaks to the characteristics of the leather with top grain, which simply means it has not been split. While searching make sure cushions, backs and large areas were cut from the top grain and not from split or vinyl added fabrics.
Aniline dyed leather comes with various names depending on the manufacturer or the furniture company. You may come across names like premium aniline, naked aniline, aniline full grain, or true aniline, they're all the same. Aniline is leather that has been dyed all the way through. A soft, pliable texture caresses the hand as it runs over full grain aniline leather. The porous nature of aniline leather allows it to breathe which in turn makes it that much more durable. A rule of thumb to keep in mind when buying leather furniture: the softer the leather the higher grade it is and expect to pay a higher price.
While searching for the best leather furniture that suits unique needs and desires you may come across the word antiqued in relationship to leather. Antiqued leather has been dyed twice, first in a light color and then a darker one to give variation and an added dimension of age. This process is also called distressed leather.
By buffing the outer side of the hide, strong durable leather called NuBuck is created. Velvety to the touch, NuBuck differs from suede because the outside is processed rather than the inside.
Pigmented or Painted
Leather Furniture with a uniform appearance that lacks the individual characteristics of full grain leather, called pigmented or painted, tends to be the leather most often used in the furniture industry. Sealing with a finishing agent makes it less breathable which lessens the durability with an end result of less expense when buying leather furniture.
Homework or what to consider before leaving home: By answering a few questions, you'll have a good idea of what you're looking for before ever leaving home for the shopping adventure
1.Location, location, location. What room will the leather furniture set your buying go into? Is it for the living room, the den, a family room? Leather does have a tendency to fade in the sun so be aware of placement.
2.How many people live in your home? Do you have children? Pets?
3.How do you sit on a sofa or chair? Do you sit "in" it or "on" it? If you sit in it you prefer to nestle down into the cushions and back; if you set on it you sit more upright with feet touching the floor.
4.How much money are you planning to spend when buying leather furniture? It's a good idea to have a budget in mind.
5.What is the size of the room? This is the time to measure and plan the location of the leather furniture. The size relationship of the leather furniture to the room plays an important part in how well the room will look.
6.Spend some time online looking at leather furniture and the features various companies offer.

The Advantages of Buying Leather Furniture
Besides the aesthetic value of leather furniture's unique characteristics and rich sophistication, leather is a great value even though it's at the high end of the furniture buying spectrum. What makes it such a great value?
1.Durability. Leather furniture lasts about 4 times longer than cloth covered. It will stain if spills are left unattended, but spills on leather are easily wiped off.
2.The tough nature of leather allows for rough housing children and pets on the furniture.
3.As leather furniture ages it acquires a patina, a soft sheen to the leather from age and use that is desirable and attractive.
4.Warm in the winter and cool in the summer, leather is furniture for all seasons.
5.Caring for leather is a breeze. Wipe up spills with a soft cloth or use manufacturer's recommended products. Because liquid bubbles up and is wiped off makes leather a great addition to any room.
6.Non-allergenic with an added feature of stretching to mold to the shape of your body.
Kicking the Tires at the Store
Once you've answered the lifestyle questions, pondered the advantages of buying leather furniture, and have learned some of the industry jargon, it's time to take the plunge into the galleries to find the set you've been dreaming of.
1.Take a good look around the showroom. Be sure you are armed with notebook and pen and jotting down notes as you walk along.
2.Don't forget to check frames. What good is full grain leather on a weak frame? (See a "Buying Guide to Sofas" for more information on frames and what to look for)
3.Stand back 3 feet from the furniture. Do you like what you see? Are there pulls? Is the stitching even and taut?
4.Run your hands over the piece feeling the grain. Is it supple and buttery?
5.It's time to sit in or on the sofa, whichever is your preferred way of relaxing. How does it feel? Don't forget to lie down for several minutes.
6.Get the low down on the cushions and any options you may have. Remove the cushions and take a look at the deck of the sofa or chair. When pressed, the deck should be firm.

The Sale is in the Details
Now is the time to pick the brain of the leather furniture dealer. Ask questions. Ask about the type of leather used. Where did it come from? Is it top grain? Impress with your knowledge. Is it 100% full grain with no splits or vinyl? Insist on a warranty and walk away if none is offered. Ask about colors and if you may take swatches home. Inquire about delivery and the cost of delivering the leather furniture you're buying. Question the sales associate in respect to return policies if something is amiss upon delivery. After the barrage of questions have been answered to your complete satisfaction, take all the information you've gathered home. Think about it, talk about it, sleep on it. If you just can't stop thinking about the beautiful full grain texture with unique characteristics and the soft fabulous feel of the luscious leather, you know you love it. It's time for buying leather furniture. One company that sells top quality leather furniture online is Emfurn.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Feng Shui

What is it?

Modern furniture design frequently uses clean and direct lines like the simple curve in this Arco Lamp. Bold contours are an effective way of directing and guiding the human eye. Interior designers take account of dominant lines in order to give the impression of harmony or direction within a room.

Customizing space to our optimum comfort is as old as furniture, but long before modern designs appeared there was a formalized method for this called Feng Shui.

Feng Shui originated in China as a philosophical method for harmonizing a person with his or her environment. It is richly intertwined with metaphysical and occult concepts, but in its most popular and westernized form, it is essentially a method for influencing the “vibes” we get from the spaces within which we live.

The vibes, so to speak, are to do with the state of what the Chinese call Qi. Think of Qi as the life-force or unseen energy we encounter in the world and you’ll have a rough understanding of the idea. A good flow of Qi is thought to provide a harmonious environment for people to live in. While this may seem a bit superstitious to some, the benefits of Feng Shui can be very practical. If we are able to move easily through a room or to enjoy a gracefully executed aesthetic it is not unlikely that the place we are visiting is the home or office of a Feng Shui practitioner.

There are "elements" in Feng Shui which correspond to compass points and colours. Knowing these associations and invoking them is the essence of practicing Feng Shui. A simple version is as follows:

The FIRE element is believed to invoke passion, high levels of energy and prosperity. The directions which most favour the element are the Southern, Southwestern and Northeastern parts of the home or office. Its colours are Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple and Pink.

The EARTH element has to do with stability, protection and nourishment. Its favoured directions are Northeast and Southwest and its associated colours are Sandy hues, Light Yellow and Beige.

The METAL element encourages clarity, precision, and efficiency. It is dominant in areas facing West and Northwest and possesses an affinity for Grey and White.

WATER is the element of ease, purity and freshness. It is powerful in the North and somewhat in the East and Southeast. Blue and Black are its colours.

Finally, WOOD is the element of health, healing and growth. It corresponds best to Eastern and Southeastern portions of the home or office and its colours are Brown and Green.

 The symbolic importance of both colour and direction means that Feng Shui has a lot to do with order and planning. We already understand this on an intuitive level. When was the last time someone told you that they find a chaotic mess to be soothing or harmonious?

With that in mind, we can understand clutter as a barrier to the proper flow of Qi. Modern furniture replicas are a great way to bring clear, directional lines to your home or office. They typically consist of angles and shapes which allow the eye –and Qi— to flow unimpeded.

Modern Living Room and Furniture
Note the flow of dominant lines and the ordering of colours.

 Which Feng Shui elements best fit your life at home or in the office? Looking over some modern replicas is a good place to start. This Knoll Armchair is available in the Red of the FIRE element or in Black, which corresponds to the purity of WATER.

If you are feeling more versatile, the Nelson Bench comes in the Sandy hue associated with EARTH.

Experiment and explore your options. Remember, good Feng Shui comes from planning.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Furniture for the Modern Life

Furniture Is About How We Use Space

A piece of furniture is an achievement. It lies at the intersection of ingenuity, talent, tradition, style and engineering to name but a few ingredients. Our furniture says something about how we use our space, what our habits are and the nature of our personal taste. Furniture is present in both palaces and prisons, on board ships, in bedrooms, boardrooms and in courtrooms. It is found on archaeological digs and showcased in seasonal catalogs. The things on which we sit and sleep – at which we eat and work – have played quiet witness to the smallest and largest moments in our shared history. 

Stone Bench  The ways in which we use furniture have been influenced over time by forces such as local climate and social custom. The organization of space has been a factor in how we live our daily lives and the types of furniture we require. Consider that something as simple as a hallway (or corridor) was not common in western domestic life until relatively recently. It seems odd to us that our ancestors may have resided in chambers joined directly to those of their neighbours rather than enjoying the privacy afforded by a common hallway. For most of us, such an exposition of our most intimate domestic routines would be an uncomfortable predicament. Our notion of a customized room is very different from people who lived in those spaces.

Similarly, the idea of a “fainting room” now sounds absurd to contemporary society. In the 19th century it was custom for a woman to wear a corset, which has led to some speculation that fainting couches were on hand should a lack of circulation or lung capacity cause a woman to feel woozy. Anyone who has read Victorian literature may be familiar with the theme of the hysterical woman who retires to a quiet chamber to restore her delicate constitution.

 Since the more recent century, our habits and our use of space have remained relatively consistent. Gone are the fainting couches, bedroom screens and dumbwaiters. Furniture from the 20th century fits our lives just fine. Now we are able to enjoy modern design with the added polish and sophistication that a little history contributes.

The significance of modern furniture lies not only in how and where it is used, but also in how it is manufactured. Technology has elevated designers toward new possibilities, but traditional hand-craftsmanship is by no means a thing of the past. Most producers are able to combine the hands-on tradition of furniture-making with modern methods and machinery. There is something comforting in noting that the period which gave us the idea of Progress (capital P) still has a role for simple, human artistry.


 How you use your space and what furniture you prefer is up to you, but the next time you need to entertain guests or quietly read a book in your private, hallway-accessed living room or office, do so knowing that there is a entire history of innovation beneath you. Look around your space and think about your daily routine. Does it suit your habits? Does the furniture? Odds are, you don't miss the fainting couch. 

Contemporary reproductions of 20th century pieces offer a superb bridge between quality manufacturing, contemporary lifestyles and individual choice.

Modern furniture and interior design for a living room.
The Modern Living Room

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Most English Sofa

The Chesterfield Sofa

Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
 4th Earl of Chesterfield

It is said the 4th Earl of Chesterfield was the first person to commission a leather settee of the type we now know as a Chesterfield sofa. He was a patron of Voltaire, an accomplished writer and a trend-setter in his own time. Despite his tendency for progressive thinking, it is unlikely that he ever guessed one of the most appreciated aspects of his legacy would be his sitting couch. The Earl desired a seat which would allow him to remain comfortably upright without risk of wrinkling his clothes. A wide and low-set armchair with rolling arms and leather upholstery secured by deep buttons was the design he chose.
At his death, those who inherited the seat were so impressed with it that they set about making replicas. Today, the historic style has proliferated to a large extent. In Canada and parts of northern California the word “Chesterfield” is still understood to mean "sofa."
Chesterfield Sofa
The original Chesterfield began as an aristocrat’s armchair but, with the coming of the modern era, enjoyment of the design has expanded tremendously. It is now found inside homes and businesses anywhere, from living rooms and libraries to law offices and billiard lounges.

This high-backed sitting couch still evokes images of groomed men in sport coats or of tactful ladies in long skirts and ornate hats. It has endured with timeless dignity and practicality, and is still considered that most typically English of sofas.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Designer Spotlight

Børge Mogensen

Børge Mogensen Portrait
Scandinavia is synonymous across the world with progressiveness and innovation. Modern furniture designs from the region have confirmed this impression with buyers and collectors everywhere for decades at a time. Whether through superb functionality or a distinct aesthetic, Scandinavian design continues to enjoy an exceptional reputation.

Børge Mogensen helped conceptualize the idea of “Danish design” during his career as a furniture manufacturer and architect. Born in Aalborg, Denmark, he began as a cabinet maker before training as an architect at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

Mogensen showed interest in modern lifestyles and looked to create designs which integrated with them seamlessly. He paid great attention to the functionality of his pieces and made them with that purpose foremost in his mind. So concerned was he with optimization, that it is said he used to measure common domestic objects in order to determine the proper dimensional averages for shelving and storage plans.  During the 1950’s and 60’s he took it upon himself to produce a series of storage units which could accommodate every conceivable storage need in the modern home.

Børge Mogensen Armchair Replica

In his later career Mogensen succeeded friend, Kaare Klint, as designer to the Danish Museum of Decorative Art. He began to make more traditional works, but still focused closely on functionality. He possessed a talent for including modern ideas within traditional forms and did so for the whole of his career. In 1972 he was made Honorary Royal Designer for Industry, London.

Mogensen’s furniture is in high demand still. Replicas of his work may be purchased by those who appreciate his design philosophy and the crisp, Scandinavian aesthetic which he helped to cultivate.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Seat of Spanish Royals

Barcelona Chair

Barcelona Chair Replica

This mid-century piece of furniture was Germany’s submission to the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain.

The Barcelona Chair was of modern design but was produced to be the time-honoured seat of the Spanish Royalty during the opening ceremonies of the World Fair. It is a unique symbol of the transition between the old world and the modern era expressed within a single piece of furniture.

Contemporary reproductions are available with a combination of hand-crafting and finely machined elements. The chair’s sleek lines have been retained and refined with the addition of a solid, stainless steel base in the place of bolted components. The upholstery is of quality bovine leather and available in several colours here.