Upholstered Furniture as Art

Designing and remaking upholstered furniture, and combining it well in a space, is an art.

Designer Heather Hilliard is brilliant at it, as evidenced by her living room design for this year’s Marin Designer’s Showcase.

Heather Hilliard Living Room for the Marin Designers Showcase

A classical room with grand proportions, Hilliard wanted it to feel “luxurious and refined but understated” and to function well for both formal entertaining and casual family gatherings.

She ‘dipped’ the walls and woodwork in white, and filled the room with diverse upholstered pieces wrapped in summery neutrals – like gourmet ice creams.

“We combined different styles of furniture but we unified the room by using neutrals,” said Hilliard. Blues and golds accented the space.

Heather Hilliard Designed Sofa and High Back Upholstered Chairs

High Back Linen Chairs

In the central seating grouping, Hilliard’s custom-designed sofa and two high-back upholstered chairs were enveloped in linens. Hilliard worked closely with her upholsterer, Richard Andronaco Fine Custom Upholstery. Other natural fabrics used in the room included mohair, wool, and cashmere.

Leather Reading Chair and Tiered Linen Ruffles Ottoman

A corner reading area included a chair re-upholstered in Royal Dutch Nubuck leather, and a Hilliard custom-designed ottoman dressed in tiers of ruffled linen. For flexible seating, she designed another pair of ottomans, with tailored skirts in blue, wool herringbone.

Heather Hilliard Tailored Ottomans in Wool Herringbone

Most intriguing to me was the curvaceous, modern, Vladimir Kagan sofa that Hilliard and her upholsterer transformed in a cotton strie.

“I saw the Vladimir Kagan sofa at a local consignment shop,” said Hilliard. “Although it was covered in a dreary green microsuede, I admired the classic design and proportions of the piece. I knew the curved shape would break up the room’s hard lines.

Vladimir Kagan Sofa in Consignment Shop

“I decided to strip the piece and have it re-upholstered with new detailing especially for the showcase. I wanted it to be unique and less recognizable. The waterfall skirt gave the piece more structure and a feminine line.”

Remade Kagan Sofa


What’s some of the most beautiful upholstery work you’ve seen? Have you—or your upholsterer—completely redesigned an upholstered piece, giving it a whole new look? Tell us about it….

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