Three years ago this week my first episode of Money for Nothing (MFN) aired on BBC One, how time flies!
I love being part of this show, which takes objects that might not seem to have much value, gives them a new lease of life, then sells them on for cash. One of my projects was a fairly unremarkable Ottoman.
The presenter in charge of the revamp was Jacqui Joseph, who I had the pleasure of working with for the first time. Want to see the transformation in progress? Let’s go!
Sizing it up
The very first thing that happens with a MFN project is I’ll get sent a picture of the piece by the production company, a ‘tip find’ and they’ll say to me; “We’ve found some trash – what do you think – could it be treasure?”
This particular piece that had been salvaged from the tip was a buttoned 1970’s Ottoman in very bad condition but with a fairly modern construction. I immediately knew this was for me. I could see potential for an amazing transformation and – even better – I already had my eye on fabric designer Becca Who and had spotted the perfect fabric for it.
From first glance, I knew we’d need to make a slight adjustment. It wouldn’t suit being buttoned as the fabric would be patterned but I could still make it work. These are the projects I live for – I know I can put my stamp on it and get a spectacular result.
What lies beneath
When I went to strip the Ottoman, I didn’t realise the whole thing was going to fall apart but every single panel – six in total – collapsed like a stack of dominoes. They had been held together with wood panel pins, which clearly hadn’t been sufficient. This isn’t an uncommon approach in modern upholstery but it’s my job to improve it – not just the appearance of the piece but its structure and longevity.
It left me with the raw materials of an Ottoman. As if you had all the pieces to make your own from scratch. In some ways it was a bonus that the whole thing had fallen apart as it would be easier to re-pad and re-line. This was much needed as the original padding was pretty poor and new filling gives a more expensive looking result.
Back to life
I padded each panel with foam and polyester, leaving enough space to drill the pieces back together. Screws would be better than panel pins, although I needed to be careful with their size and make sure that they didn’t damage the wood. I carefully drilled some pilot holes first and then screwed the pieces together. I needed an extra pair of hands to ensure it all fitted back together tightly.
Deciding on the detail
I re-lined the outside of the lid in thicker foam to create a nicely padded more generous lid. With an Ottoman, you’re dealing with lovely, crisp square edges and there isn’t too much technically to them, which allows you to focus on the all-important finish. Being accurate with your padding and getting the placement of fabric just right gets this spot-on.
I’d picked two fabrics; a plain pink velvet for the interior and the gorgeous Becca Who Garden Treasures design for the outside. The width of Becca’s print was the ideal size so that I could get a whole stretch of print down one side, which I was really pleased about. When the proportions are perfect it totally elevates your finished piece.
Centring a key detail from the design can make such a statement, so once I’d picked the placement of the pattern I wanted down each side, I made sure the pattern matching was consistent throughout. That’s something I’m unapologetically picky about!
All in the finish
I pinned the sides together and made sure it all lined up. For the top piece, I used Back Tack strip to get an impeccably crisp edge. I pulled the fabric down to get the tension just right – no pulling or sagging – and then stapled under the base of the Ottoman where it wouldn’t be seen.
Finished and aligned, all that was left to do was to slip stitch the sides shut. I love this part of the process and I’m proud to say that you won’t see a single join on this piece. There are no staples inside the lid, instead I slip stitched and hand sewed the pink panel of velvet inside the lid. This is where an upholsterer can put things back better than they were created or imagined in the first place.
The very last thing was the addition of brass plinth feet. The original Ottoman came with none but I felt that adding legs would give the piece a real bit of glamour and these ones drilled into the base beautifully.
When Jacqui arrived back for the final day of filming, we kept the whole transformation a surprise. The reaction you’ll see on TV for the big reveal of the finished article is genuinely the first time she’d seen the Ottoman since she had dropped it off to me. Jacqui’s brilliant – fun to be around, interested in the process and also happy to let me go wild with it.
This was a big thumbs up and just one reason why I love taking part in this show so much. Keep your eyes peeled for more transformations. And if you have a project in mind – whether it’s a piece of trash from the tip or a treasured heirloom that’s been handed down to you, drop me a line by filling in the online contact form. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07764 182 783.