How Vintage Leather Furniture Is Professionally Restored

  • The furniture clinic specializes in cleaning, repairing and restoring leather.
  • Senior Technician Steven Aiston walks us through the process of restoring this 40 year old Chesterfield leather armchair.
  • He will focus on repairing the cracks from normal wear and tear and bringing the color back to an antique red with a two-tone, glossy effect typical of a Chesterfield chair.
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The following is a transcript of the video.

Steven Aiston: Hi there. My name is Steven. Today we’re going over how to restore a leather Chesterfield. This Chesterfield chair we have has lots of grease stains on the arms, scratches on the seats and grease stains on the head areas. We’re just going to restore it to its original look. [scrubbing] To start the process, we always clean the sofa with the Ultra Clean, basically just a leather cleaner. This will remove dirt and grease, as well as any oils on the surface. This customer liked the old antique look so we would need to cover the cleats to prevent them from getting overspray so they wouldn’t get damaged in the repair.

The next stage is leather preparation. Before we can restore the color we need to remove the existing top coatings from the leather. The leather prep does this and allows us to remove all cracks and oils from the sofa. It can also remove any type of cracking in the paintwork. Some areas of cracks may be in the actual leather, but the leather prep can sometimes remove all of the cracks from the existing painted coatings. This can be seen here on the arm areas.

We’ll then apply the leather degreaser to the hand and head areas, as well as any areas that feel greasy. This is because they have all of the natural contact with the skin so all of the oils from the head and hands soak into the leather. This is an integral part of the process. If the oils are not removed from the heads and hand areas, the dye will not adhere when we get to this stage. So we put the degreaser paste on here and let it dry. It can take one to two hours to dry. As it dries, it dries to a white powder. If this powder dries a yellow or greasy color, another layer must be applied. Once it is dry and all white it means that all of the fat has been removed.

As soon as we are happy that all of the leather degreaser has worked, we will clean it again. This is important in order to remove any remaining grease and grime and any bits of leather degreaser that are still in the buttons or that may have gotten into the leather. We have to remove these again with the Ultra Clean. We then need to remove all of the dirt and grime from the inside of the buttons. We do it with compressed air. That way we can get right under the buttons and the hard-to-reach areas. So the alcohol cleaner is the next part of the process. This neutralizes the leather surface. It removes all silicones that may not be soluble in the leather prep. Therefore, it is important to use alcohol cleaners to ensure that the repair products adhere properly. Then we proceed with the repair.

Cracks only occur with general wear and tear and constant pressure on the leather, which damages the existing finish and color of the leather. We’re going to use the leather tie to mend some of these cracks. So the leather binder is just a thin liquid and is used to reinforce heavily worn or cracked leather. It just penetrates deep into the fibers and repairs minor scratches. As you can see we have a few minor scratches on these arms that the leather tie can fix. Sanding the job is also an important part of the process. This is to ensure that the leather feels comfortably smooth. We constantly have to run our hands over the leather sofa to feel that we have the right spots with our sanding pads. So if you are further down and an area has not been sanded we would have to use a heavier sanding pad which then may remove any existing paint that we have already sprayed on, which would then mean we would have to go back to that stage. So it is very important that we keep an eye on the grinding.

Probably the hardest part of this restoration will be the arms as they cracked a bit. And maybe the outside back. Has some pretty small cracks so we’ll need to use a flexi filler to fix these areas. It dries clear and is therefore easy to stain. Drying can only take a few minutes. We’re going to apply just enough pressure with a spatula so that the flexible filler covers the entire damaged area. The excess is then removed so that there is no ridge around it and the surface is nice and smooth. Once we’re satisfied, we’ll dry the area and move on to the next stage.

[spraying] So the base color is applied to the chair first. The basic color of this chair is called antique red. We have this color on our database as it is the most common color on an antique Chesterfield. And most of the Chesterfields have the antique red base and top coat. Therefore, the ancient red base color is applied with light layers using a gravity-fed spray gun. We’ll slowly build it up until we’re glad it has a full base color. We dry between each coat and sand repeatedly to give the leather a pleasantly smooth feel. Once we’re happy with the base color, let’s move on to the buttons.

As you can see, we need to darken the buttons. All Chesterfield keys are always dark. After we have sprayed on the antique red base color, we apply the antique top coat. We start with the buttons and then move on to the folds. When we darken the folds, a diamond effect is created, which we then color with a top coat so that the base color comes through the sofa. Gives it the antique two-tone effect. The leather finish is applied last. The leather finish we’re using here is shiny. It’s a signature of Chesterfield sofas and gives it an antique look. [soft music]

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