Per-‘suede’ Me…

When I bought my dining room table it didn’t have a top. Someone had damaged it so badly in the shop that they were only selling the base. So why did I buy it? I didn’t want a glass top, but I did want an interesting base, so it suited my needs quite well. Until recently I’ve had a piece of MDF covered in a table cloth masquerading as a finished table. I knew I’d eventually decide what to do with it… but that took a lot longer than I thought.

table top

Initially I decided I wanted a zinc covered table top. I really love the colour and texture of zinc, but I bought my son a metal desk and his hands are like ice every time he uses his laptop on it. So bang went that idea and compounded by the fact that I had metal chairs, it all seemed to be a bit ‘cold’ for leisurely dining. For an age I dithered about what I would cover the top with ( you can see a theme here, can’t you, very decisive for clients, not so much for myself…) and then I found this enormous leather hide at a trade fair and that was it, the eureka moment. I’d have a leather table top.

That piece of leather – the size of two bathtubs side by side – has sat in my cupboard for nearly two years. Last weekend it made its appearance and let me tell you, it’s not what I thought I’d do!

We tried the vast piece of leather over the table like a cloth and something was missing, I wasn’t quite as excited as I thought I’d be at the idea of a leather top. Quite by chance I flipped it over and the suede underside was so tactile, so soft and strokeable that it was hard to think about the practicalities…

And guess what, I decided not to be practical! Okay, okay, I’m always saying to weigh the pros and cons, but I’m a designer, dreaming up ideas is what I do!

So here’s how to create a leather (or suede) covered table top. First of all, the table top will need to have a thickness, by adding a strip of wood – 2×1 is what we used – to edge the underside you give the appearance of a really chunky top.

table top

Wood glue and screwfix in place. Sand it lightly and wipe away all the dust. Lay the covering over the table and move it around until you like the position – leather and suede have natural flaws, so if there are any patches you’re not particularly fond of, try and have them in a spot where they’re not so obvious. Then with a really sharp Stanley knife, trim the excess skin away. Leave an overhang of about 2cm all the way around. Roll the trimmed covering onto a cardboard tube (from a roll of fabric). This will help you get it even when you start to smooth it onto the glue.

positioning the skin

Using a contact adhesive, either spread or spray the glue over the table top, starting at one end and working in strips along the length of the table. As soon as the glue is ready, line up the first edge of the skin and gently stretch it to cover and smooth out the surface. This stage is really a two man job. One of you needs to work in sweeping motions to avoid creating air pockets and the other needs to unroll the skin from the tube with an even tension so that the skin doesn’t attach itself to the glue accidentally. Lay the skin on top of the already adhered section and continue to apply the glue in strips over the rest of the table.

selecting the adhesive

When the surface is covered, use a hard roller – a rolling pin will do – and with an even pressure, work the surface to create a smooth, even bond. This is why it’s important to stretch the skin as you apply it, if its uneven, it will bunch up under the rolling pin. Not good.

a laminate roller

Now for the up stand. Apply the glue evenly along the end of the up stand and gently stretch and smooth the skin to cover the glue. We worked in a clockwise motion and moved around the table from end to side to end and side. The important thing to remember is that any excess skin needs to find its way to the corners as they will be glued together and then cut off when the glue has become firm.

trimming the edge of the skin

When the up stand is dry trim the lower edge. We decided to add upholstery tacks to the lower edge for a decorative finish, but the glue is firm enough not to need it – if you don’t have people who will sit at the table and fiddle with the edges (which I do.)

And there you have it, a table that looks so much more glamorous than the one I started out with.

suede table top

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Here it Is

As you know from my post back in September I struggled to choose the paint colours for the outside of my house. Right up until the very last minute I was still dithering about whether I would go dark or pale in my choice. And then of course the bigger concern was the installation of the new front windows, so you could say I was a little distracted…

the old rotten frames come out

the old rotten frames come out

Watching the old windows come out was a strange experience. Seeing the inside of my house supported with pit props and watching the frames being cut out was un-nerving – and I’m on building sites all the time. My front room looked like the open servery of a mobile cafe and because the builders were outside to do the work it really felt like I was about to sell someone a cup of tea.

pit props

The frame itself was extremely heavy and after calling for an extra pair of hands to help with the lifting, the job moved quite quickly. The frame was secured into the framework of the house that had been exposed by the removal of the old windows and then the fixed window panes were installed. All the glazed panels are double glazed and I have to say I’m so pleased with the results. The whole of the downstairs is much warmer, because what was original was single glazed – and very drafty. That’s completely a thing of the past! I really hadn’t thought I’d notice such a difference, but as its been so mild, the heating hasn’t been on very much in the evenings and I haven’t felt the need to boost the temperature – something I usually have to do at this time of the year (before it’s cold enough for the heating to be on for most of the evening.)

the new frame

the new frame

So to date, the front exterior paintwork is done and the back will wait until the spring. All that now remains is to scrape the paint off the glass, which I don’t appear to be very good at (apparently I’m not putting enough force into it…) And here it is!

the new exterior

new paintwork

the front door

Resplendent in Fig Grey (Zoffany) masonry, with Strong White (Farrow and Ball) wood work and Ammonite (Farrow and Ball) front door. The masonry is matt, the woodwork is high gloss and the front door is eggshell, so with a sheen but not slick. I’m so happy with how my house looks!