| Sheila Howell

Reupholstering Antique Furniture: What is Horsehair Batting?

horsehair battingAnimal hair and feathers is one of the oldest forms of batting, stuffing and padding. Goose feathers, duck down and horsehair are often found in antique furniture upholstery, and even today goose down is often found in bedding and insulated clothing.

Cushions were used to make furniture more comfortable. Upholstered furniture was very rare until the late 1600s, and only seen in wealthy homes. Initially, fabric was used to cover and decorate furniture, and in the 1700s Horsehair became a popular upholstery batting because it quickly returned to its original shape after use, unlike its predecessor marsh grass, which dried out, became brittle and lost its shape. Horsehair was the preferred batting in the 18th century and was cut from the horse main and curled for extra body. Victorian furniture was often upholstered in horsehair fabrics because it was durable and inexpensive. 

The presence of horsehair in upholstered pieces is one part of the authentication process for antiques. When an antique is reupholstered the horsehair is often kept if possible and mixed with modern padding so the piece retains its value and provenance. 

Sofas are a relatively new style of furniture: 

Sofas didn't exist before the 17th century. Seat furniture for more than one person was generally confined to benches, which would be pushed against the wall for back support and protection from cold. In the early 1600s, though, an upholstered settee was ordered for Knole, one of the great historic English houses, and became an important prototype for the sofa.
Apartment Therapy Design Glossary: The Knole Sofa


18th Century Louis XVI Settee

 18th Century Louis XVI Settee 

Our 18th century LouisXVI settee has horsehair batting: 

Contemporaries of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette may once have perched upon this lovely old settee dating from 1780. Surely an inviting place of repose for a busy socialite centuries ago, it gently shows its age today, yet maintains its natural grace and dignity. The artistic elements embody many of the classic features that define pre-Revolution French furniture, making this a notable period piece. Genuine horsehair batting; the removable cushion has been recently reupholstered. Very hard to find – absolutely adorable!

36" H 64" W 22.5" D

Seat Height 21.5

Leave a comment