Restoring Kedleston's silk seats

restored silk sofa

Kedleston is lucky enough to still have most of its original furniture collection, including a selection of precious gilt chairs and settees which have been in the State Apartment since it was first created. Possibly made by William Bradshaw a celebrated furniture maker of the mid 1700s they almost certainly came from the previous house.

Before restoration
a black and white photograph of the state apartment

Sadly over the years the chairs and settees had fallen into disrepair, with considerable deterioration to their delicate carving and gilding, many of the items also had extensive woodworm damage. As part of Kedleston’s State Apartment restoration project they have been returned to their former glory.

In many cases the chairs had to be taken apart in order to rescue as much of the original material as possible and to allow for extensive repairs this was undertaken by Tankerdale a specialist historic furniture conservators.

The restoration process

Back to basics - The first step was to completely strip back all of the 1970s fabric, rusty nails and old fixings. It was at this stage the conservation team were able to assess the full extent of the damage.

Fixing the frames - Many of the frames were severely damaged by woodworm making them structurally unsound. Where possible weak joints were repaired but in some instances these had to be completely replaced. Once the joints were stable the woodworm damage could be addressed.

Many chairs were severely damaged
a broken chair rail before restoration

Broken carving  - These pieces of furniture weren’t always just for show, they were an integral part of Kedleston’s prime entertaining space so they were used by guests to the house. Over time, like any furniture, they were subject to wear and tear, including losses to the intricate carving.  All of the missing pieces were painstakingly recreated and carefully attached.

Replicating the original works
Working on carving of the state bed

Gilding repairs – Much of the historic gilding was still on the chairs and settees but it had lost its original golden shine. Where possible Tankerdale cleaned the original gilding, only re-gilding in localised areas where the gilding could not be cleaned or had been lost altogether. 

before restoration
the guilding before restortaion

Upholstery survival – Amazingly much of the original horsehair upholstery had survived later reupholstering work  and other repairs.  Rather than reupholstering the chairs from scratch we simply added new padding conserving as much of the original fabric as possible.

Bespoke silk – as with the bed and the walls of the state apartment, the chairs and settees had been recovered with a 1970s fabric which was not historically accurate and had begun to fade. In order to restore the chairs fully we recovered them in the new replica silk which has been put back on the walls and on the bed.

The beautiful new State Apartment silk
a close up of the beautiful state apartment silk

Returned to their rightful place

All of the chairs and sofas have now been returned to the Hall, you will be able to see them on display in the restored State Apartment. In large restoration projects it’s easy to overlook the time and skill that goes into individual pieces. We feel lucky that we were able to rescue these wonderful items for future visitors to enjoy.

Explore Kedleston's restored State Apartment
Kedleston's state apartment is now finished