The restoration of a mid century design classic - The Preben Fabricius & Jorgen Kastholm Bird Chair
The 1964 Kill International 'bird chair' is one of the most complex of shapes found in furniture design to date. In my eyes it is infinitely more beautiful than the iconic Swan or Egg chairs by Fritz Hansen. Originally designed by Danish duo Preben Fabricius and Jorgen Kastholm for the Geman design studio, Kill International. They are often found on the second hand market, upholstered in a variety of leathers, the shells are sturdy and usually in near perfect condition but the cushions that hook over the head rest and arms tend to wear - not surprising as most are now coming up for 60 years old.
We optimistically bought an extremely tired pair about 5 years ago, the leather, already shredded, has quickly disintegrated.
Over the past few months upholstering the bird chair has been my side project, the process of restoration and upholstery has been slow going, with no pattern or instructions there has been a huge amount of experimentation - the leather is required to be stretched to the form of the chair. Using a variety of moulds and leather prototyping we've designed a system that works, although I imagine it might be quite different to Kill International's original manufacturing process.
The chair is stripped to its fibre glass base, a wooden frame, fitted inside the shell pulls the leather into its required form.
The leather is carefully cut to the exact shape and sewn to fit the shell. The formed leather is now put back through the sewing machine and a saddle stitch is added to make the seams sturdy and create the beautiful decorative stitch the chair is synonyms with.
The whole formed skin is then stuck to chair, making sure the stitching follows the edging precisely.
To construct the top cushion, we create the inverse form from the leather. A firm foam is added to the inside of the cushion, an alternative to the original highly flammable 1960s latex that has since been discontinued.
A slow and steady stitch on the industrial sewing machine is used to form the cushion, we create envelopes from the leather to hook over the headrest and arms - Stitching mistakes can't be rectified when sewing leather as the sewing machine punctures holes you can't remove - so its time for a steady hand and a full bobbin. The final look is created with a top stitch which will keep the cushion strong for another 60 years of use.
The result is a fully restored FK6725 Bird chair in soft leather. We have 2 of these high backed versions and 4 shorter backed FK6727 versions available.