before and afterDIY

Before & After: A Victorian Settee Gets A Modern Refresh

by Maxwell Tielman


You know how everybody pretty much universally looks to the 1980s as the decade where taste went to die? The decade where garishness, glitz and conspicuous consumption reigned above all? Well, the Victorian era was pretty much the 80s of the nineteenth century. A time that witnessed absurdly fast industrialization, a wildly expanded middle class, and the creation of contemporary consumer culture, the Victorian age was known for its over-the-top designs that combined lavish materials, lavish forms and lavish sizes. “Go big or go home” was most definitely the mantra du jour. This is not to say that Victorian designs are not beautiful in their own right. It’s just that, sometimes they need to be toned down a bit for their beauty to truly shine through. Take, for example, this lovely settee transformation that was taken on by Brooklyn-based interior designer, Luca Shapiro. Covered in a faded red velvet and a worn-out padding, this settee had certainly seen better days. Rather than let its condition worsen any more, Luca decided to give it a delightful sprucing-up, courtesy of a beautiful (and simple!) fabric. The end result is a notably subdued but nonetheless stunning piece, allowing its formal elements to shine through. It is at once modern and timeless. Check out all of the photos, plus Luca’s design notes after the jump! —Max



“I originally bought this settee for my first college apartment,” Luca says. “The upholstery was in good condition at the time, but after several years, it had become threadbare and sun bleached. The seat springs were loose and misaligned. Then it sat in storage for a few more years gathering dust. I felt terrible allowing such a beautiful piece to go unused, so I decided to give it a seams-to-springs makeover.”

ba_victorian_settee_2 ba_victorian_settee_3 ba_victorian_settee_form_2

“I bought off-white fabric with black embroidered tufts for $18/yard. It is actually an indoor/outdoor fabric from Sunbrella, so it is easy to maintain. I love that the tufts are a bit irregular and freeform because they counterbalance the formality of the settee’s design. A local upholsterer recovered the settee and repaired the springs for $300. I think it’s incredible that after over 100 years, the springs simply needed to be retied!”

ba_victorian_settee_form_3 ba_victorian_settee_4 ba_victorian_settee_5 ba_victorian_settee_6 ba_victorian_settee_form_4

Suggested For You


Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.