Q&A with upholsterer and interior designer Micaela Sharp
Micaela Sharp is an upholsterer and interior designer passionate about sustainability and quality. She loves creating bespoke furniture which can be tailor-made over buying new. Her Grandad was a carpenter and from a young age taught Micaela the skills she needed alongside the importance of quality. Getting into upholstery was about following her passion and she encourages everyone to give it a go.
She appeared on the latest series of Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr on BBC Two. Her hands on maker approach and eye for pattern and texture saw her do well in the competition.
We really enjoyed speaking with Micaela to get her upholstery advice and find out more about her background and interior style.
How would you describe your signature style and where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
I approach design by thinking about what I can make first. I'm always looking at how I can buy second hand and upcycle to add a bespoke element. I try to make sure that anything in a design will be sustainable and last a long time - always avoiding plastic and accessories which don't have a purpose or story.
My style is very traditional, I like heritage patterns and inspired by key interior designers like Ben Pentreath and Rosanna Bossom who are known for mixing patterns and layering different patterns and textures not just colours.
On Interior Design Masters you are known for your combination of pattern and textures. What are your top tips for choosing the right pattern?
Don’t force things which don’t come naturally – go with what you like and over time you’ll find your style matures. Copying what others are doing or what you think is on trend might not work for you. When designing for your own home you want it to be personal and unique to you. Forcing patterns could end up with a scheme which is jarring and means you want to change it in a few years time.
Mix small and large pattern repeats together and choose designs from the same colour palette to compliment each other.
Are there any key considerations when choosing the right fabric for upholstery?
The main thing is to make sure you use a fabric specifically for upholstery, as you need it to be hard-wearing if it's something you are going to be using daily in your home.
I think the benefit of upholstery is the opportunity to create something bespoke and unique so would always recommend a patterned fabric over plain (if not multiple patterns!) and add a trim to make it personal. Often people choose the cheapest fabric rather than the one they love. If done correctly you should only have to re-upholster once, so choose the fabric you love, even if it’s a bit more expensive. It’ll be worth it every time you look at it in your room and when you still love it 20 years later!
Can you share a few of your go to fabric brands?
Some of my favourites are; Morris & Co for their timelessness and the authenticity of their work. Colefax and Fowler fabric is perfectly elegant and they have great colourways. Finally Liberty, who you've just started selling, is one of my all time favourites. Liberty always stands out from the crowd and their patterns are so recognisable.
What are your top tips for any beginners considering an upholstery project?
Start with something not too complicated to build your confidence. Squares or simple shapes are best and remember the more seams and joins the more complicated it will be. Mid-century pieces like a chair are often made from just 2 or 3 fabric sections and are good places to start.
My top tips would be:
- Carefully remove the old fabric to keep as a template for your new fabric. This is the best guide you will get!
- Take loads of pictures as you remove the old fabric so you can look back at how it went together and all the steps.
- Tension – you can never have the fabric too tight. Give it an extra pull so you don’t see the corner of the foam through the fabric and to create a smooth edge. People tend to be too cautious.
Are there any tools a beginner should invest in for working with upholstery?
The most important tool is a stable gun. They are fairly inexpensive or you can invest in an electric stable gun, which will be better, especially for larger projects. All other tools are fairly cheap and small hand held tools like staple removers, pliers and an upholstery hammer.
From talking with Micaela, it's clear that she is passionate about sustainability and longevity as well as creating spaces which are unique and personal, an ethos we echo. We encourage everyone to consider adding pattern, colour and quality handmade furnishings into their next interiors project.
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