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Decor * Events * Travel * Trends * Ideas

Issue #8


Guide to Decorative Living


Behind the Cover The design program for this formal living room in a Boston Townhouse that dated back to the late 1800’s was fairly straightforward: pay homage to the spirit of the architecture with formal fixtures and accessories AND make sure the furniture is comfortable and durable. At the time, my clients had an 18 month old baby and they didn’t want to have to worry about periodic milk spills on the furniture. Super comfortable pieces were selected and covered in durable chenilles and washable velvets. The mid-toned hues of the fabrics hide potential stains, yet the fabrics themselves were luxurious to the touch and comfy to lounge on. This photo shoot took place nearly two years after the furniture was delivered and though the clients do use the room, the furniture still looked brand new. When selecting fabrics for upholstery, don’t hesitate to put the fabric samples through their paces: run them under water, spill milk and test how easily it wipes off and scratch up the sample with your finger nails. If you’re not happy with the results, keep looking. While no fabric is completely impervious to damage, starting off with the best selection you can will save money in the long run.


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Resources 1. Carlisle Sofa from Baker 2. Heirloom Chenille fabric in Sand - Stroheim and Romann 3. Aiden chair from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams 4. Contentment washable velvet, colorway: Praline, Robert Allen 5. Martine chair - Restoration Hardware in a stock velvet fabric 6. Japanese Leaf Panels - courtesy of Studio 534 7. 1940’s gilded brass glass top table - courtesy of Trianon Antiques




COVER SHOT: photography by: MICHAEL J. LEE • Interior Design by: LINDA MERRILL 2

::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

September/October 2011 IN THIS ISSUE Behind the Cover

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An overview: Professional vs. DIY

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Townhouse Living Room project

Upholstery 101

Greetings! I don’t know about you, but I am certain it should still be July, maybe early August. Instead, we find the days are getting shorter, the nights a little cooler and our thoughts are turning back indoors. This month’s issue of ::Surroundings:: is all about upholstered furniture. It’s all around us, yet can be a bit of a mystery. Once the fabric is laid over the piece (and let’s face it, we often pay more attention to the fabric than the construction) the important elements underneath are hidden. Do you know what lies beneath? Read on for tips on how to judge the quality of an upholstery job. You’ll also find a round up of upholstered beds - so popular these days! - in all price ranges. And, understanding that details make a difference, I focus on nailhead trim, the plethora of styles available, plus some inspirational uses. It’s not just for Grandpa’s leather chair anymore!

Surroundings. Finds. Style. An upholstered bed for every budget

Details: Nailhead trim

Design Podcasts The Skirted Roundtable on furniture & design Page 9

Book Shelf Inspiring books and movies on design

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Credits and Contacts Who, What, Where & When

I hope you enjoy your Fall and the bounty of the season. Stay tuned for the next issue of ::Surroundings:: which is our 2nd Annual Holiday Style Guide!


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::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living





Upholstery 101

Custom headboard by Heller Furniture for a past client. Pillows by Linda Merrill.

Second-hand shop chair, professionally reupholstered.

DIY Recovered dining chair slip seat


Upholstered furniture is a staple of the home. From sofas to dining chair slip seats and everything in between, most of us are going to be purchasing upholstered items at one time or another. Unlike a table or bookcase where the structure and craftsmanship are easy to see and assess, the fabric we see on the outside of upholstered pieces hides all the important materials and workmanship, or lack thereof, on the inside. As with a wood dining chair, the quality of the sofa or lounge chair frame is all-important, yet we can’t see it. So, how do we know what we’re buying is worth the money? And if you have an older piece, how do we know when it makes sense to reupholster it vs. buying new. The staff at Heller Furniture in Norwell, Massachusetts, headed by master upholsterer Walter Heller, has over 75 years of combined experience in the upholstery business and they shared some of their tips on how to assess your particular upholstery situation. First, let’s talk DIY vs. professional experience. A professional will know how to estimate the correct amount of fabric needed for a project. They will take into account the pattern repeat (large flowers or other designs require more fabric so that the patterns are matched) as well as the specific tailoring required (skirt or exposed legs, gathers or pleats). Incorrect estimating can mean spending needlessly on too much fabric, or worse, not buying enough and finding the store has sold out and more can’t be purchased. As with many household projects, it is possible to tackle one’s own reupholstery job and some are quite easy. Simple things like recovering slip seats (the covered chair seats in dining room chairs) are relatively easy projects with some simple planning and basic tools. Recovering more complicated pieces such as a wing chair or sofa requires more skill and experience than the usual homeowner has. Understanding these basic concepts will also help when purchasing new furniture. The Heller team all agreed that the weight of a piece of furniture is important. A sofa should be made of kiln-dried hardwoods, which are heavier than many less expensive options.

::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

Heller Furniture’s Cathy Chiasson recommends running your hand over the piece to check for hard spots under the fabric. Says Chiasson “The entire piece should be wrapped with cotton and padding so that it’s soft on all sides, not just where you sit. Hard spots indicate areas where the fabric is just wrapped directly over the wood and will not have the substantial feel you want.” These hard spots will eventually cause undue wear on the fabric and the underlying wood will start popping out. The Heller team also suggests that you ascertain whether the springs are 8-way, or diamond, tied. “It’s important that the springs are tied together so they act as a single unit to provide uniform pressure across the surface of the seating area. You want to avoid individual springs from letting loose and poking at you from underneath”.

Customize It! Custom upholstered ends are made for Anthropologies’ Campaign Bed. Design by Linda Merrill, fabricated by Heller Furniture.

If you’re thinking about reupholstering an old sofa or chair that you already own, or is a thrift store find, you may be wondering if it’s worth paying as much to recover the old piece as you might on something brand new. In general, older furniture was made with much better workmanship and materials than much of today’s furniture is, especially at a moderate price point. As Cathy Chiasson notes “Old furniture was made with higher quality woods and have better structures than new pieces.” You can fill a whole living room with cheap furniture for the same price as reupholstering a single quality older sofa, but in five years, the cheap furniture is already falling apart.” This is clearly bad for the environment and the pocket book. Additionally, when you are having a piece reupholstered, you can often completely update the look with a few design changes, such as swapping a skirted look for one with exposed legs, or having a single seat cushion versus three or four separate seat cushions. There are many opportunities to customize the look. Reupholstery is not about simply slapping a new fabric on an old piece of furniture. Depending on the need, the upholsterer will completely re-build the piece from frame up, making necessary repairs, adding new cushioning and springs as needed and reusing that which is still in good condition. When selecting an upholsterer, these are services you are looking for. Add to that experience and a well-outfitted workroom with the tools of the trade needed to tackle any job and you will have found a partner in design who will be an invaluable asset as you re-decorate your home.

This article was written by Linda Merrill for and is reprinted with permission.

::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living


Surroundings. Finds. Style. An upholstered bed for every budget

Beautiful and luxurious upholstered beds are available at all price points. Just check out these six beds that range in price from $249 to $10,000.


::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

$500 and under $2500 and under

Land’s End Country Luxe Headboard - Sears, $499.00 | Dolce Button Tufted Headboard - Target, $249.99

Colette Bed - Crate and Barrel, $1,699

Grenoble Wing Bed - Restoration Hardware, $2,425

$5000 and over


French Louis XVI Period Daybed - Trianon Antiques, $8,750 | Montclaire Campaign Bed - Jasper,

::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living


DETAILS: Nailhead Trim

White Diamond Silver Setting - Diamond Head

Copper Celtic Knot - DADS

Shield Tacks - Fabric Farms Interiors

Raj Ottoman - Barry Dixon for Tomlimson•Erwin-Lambeth

Jeweled Nailheads - D’Kei

Nickel basket weave - Heico Fasteners

Spruce Street Chair - Serena and Lily

Filigree Nailheads - MJ Trim


::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

Upholstery Tacks- Kennedy Hardware

Talking Furniture

Suzanne Kasler, interiors and furniture designer.

Design podcasts In 2009, I partnered up with Megan Arquette of the blog Beach Bungalow 8 and Joni Webb of Cote de Texas and created a “radio” podcast chat series that we called “The Skirted Roundtable” (with a little nod towards The Algonquin Roundtable). We fashioned ourselves after “The View” (only nicer) with conversation about design and blogging. Sometimes it’s just the three of us; at other times, we invite other interesting people to join us. Since we began, we’ve been lucky to have hosted some of the biggest names in the design field today. These episodes have become something akin to a “masterclass” in interior design.

Photo credit: Suzanne Kasler for Hickory Chair

Suzanne Rheinstein Interior designer


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Photo credit: Roger Davies/Elle Decor


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::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living


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::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

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Linda received her design education at the acclaimed Boston Architectural College after a long career in public television marketing and product branding. She has decorated homes throughout Greater Boston, the South Shore & Cape Cod and across the globe via her virtual design services. Her love of interiors is but one of her artistic pursuits, and her studies in music and the fine arts continues to influence her design aesthetic. In addition to her blog ::Surroundings::, she has written a regular newsletter to a mailing list of nearly 1,000 (and growing) loyal readers for nearly 8 years, and is a regular writer for She is the founder and moderator of radio/podcast series called “The Skirted Roundtable”, available on iTunes.

Michael received his design training at the Wentworth Institute of Technology and, prior to becoming a professional photographer, worked as a interior designer for award winning designers Richard FitzGerald and Celeste Cooper. His design training has given him a unique perspective as he approaches a photography assignment. He understands a space and knows how to make it shine. His work regularly appears in all the regions’ major publications.

INTERIOR DESIGN :: Portfolio :: Design Services :: Virtual Decorating :: Press :: Bio

SPEAKING :: Jr. League of Boston on Decorating “Secret Splurges” :: Boston Society of Architects RDC show on Social Networking


BLOGS :: Surroundings:: :: Silverscreen Surroundings:: :: Master of your Domain :: The Skirted Roundtable - podcast

PRESS :: ShelterPop :: The Boston Globe Style :: The Boston Globe Magazine :: Alluminaire :: The Decorating Diva

:: Perspective - digital magazine :: :: Divine Caroline :: Huffington Post :: Philadelphia Inquirer :: Chicago Tribune

CREDITS :: Written and edited by Linda Merrill :: Cover photography by Michael J. Lee

MEDIA KIT :: View Media Kit Here

PAST ISSUES Past Issues - Click Here

h t t p : / / surroundingsmagazi

CONTACT & ADVERTISING Linda Merrill Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings PO Box 1206 Duxbury, MA 02331 781-585-0275

::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living | ©Linda Merrill | 781-585-0275 |


::The End::

Š2011 Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings

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