Furniture restorer fixes up fine leather
Restorer’s best work done on faded leather furniture
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Christine Monaghen has a lot of foot traffic in the living room of her Elgin home.
And with six kids walking in and out the front door every day, it's easy to see why the back of the family's leather sofa was faded.
"It had its wear and tear," she said.
Monaghen always thought it might be nice to have the couch fixed one day, along with other furniture that had lost its original luster.
This month, she called a furniture restoration company, Fibrenew Chicago NW, and had four pieces of furniture restored. She says they now look like new.
"It's better than I thought it would be," Monaghen said. "I didn't know leather could be repaired like that."
That's the sentiment of many of the clients of Ivar Vankemenade, a Fibrenew franchisee who makes house visits all throughout the suburbs fixing rips and tears in furniture.
Vankemenade offers free consultations — either by email or in person — to evaluate damage to leather, plastic, vinyl, fabric and upholstery, then provides a price quote for fixing it.
"Sometimes I need to see the damage live — feel it and touch it. But I've seen so much furniture I can say, 'This is this,' and 'This is this,' " Vankemenade said. "By the time I get through with the job, (customers) have expectations set. When I'm finished, they see it is indeed possible to get it done."
Vankemenade, who got into the business six years ago after leaving his office job as a marketing department manager, has made repairs to everything from sofas and recliners to motorcycle and jet ski seats. He's repaired the plastic surround on a television frame and the vinyl siding on a bathtub surround.
Perhaps his biggest job was working on 10 leather seats for a private jet inside a Bloomington-Normal airplane hangar.
The process of repairing cracks, scratches, holes and rips starts by sanding off damaged areas, then filling in deeper cuts with a proprietary filler made by the Canada-based Fibrenew company. Customers certainly want furniture tears repaired, but many also ask for a restoration of the furniture's original color, which Vankemenade is able to recreate through his standard 15-color kit.
For example, he was able to restain Monaghen's couch back to dark brown after it began turning orange.
He finishes the job by applying a clear coat that gives the furniture a glossy sheen.
Most any job can be done by using all the tools in his mobile toolbox, he says.
But Vankemenade admits there are certain jobs he can't do: leather furniture that barely has a semblance of leather anymore.
"If a dog bites a hole in a sofa, I can make a repair to that. It's not problem. But if a dog bites several holes ... one chair was shredded to pieces, down to the wood all over and the material was not on there anymore — at that point you're not talking about making a repair to the leather anymore. The whole chair needs to be reupholstered."
If a customer isn't satisfied with a restoration job, Vankemenade says he'll try to fix it at no additional cost, and if it still doesn't work, he promises a full refund.
Some work costs as little as $60; to completely redo a sofa can cost $700 to $800, while the most expensive job Vankemenade says he's ever done was an entire living room furniture set for $1,700.
It cost Monaghen $380 for Vankemenade to restore four pieces of furniture — sofa, love seat, oversized chair and ottoman.
For more information, contact Vankemenade at (630) 855-5751 or visit fibrenew.com/chicago_nw.
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