October 22 2011
French-born Stephanie Leclère began her professional life in advertising but, privately, had always been an antique-furniture fiend, so when friends began to show an interest in the renovated pieces that filled her home, she decided to turn her hobby into a day job.
“I retrained at the London Metropolitan University and launched Kiki Voltaire in 2008,” she says. Her timing couldn’t have been better: 12 months later “upcycling”, as this kind of vintage restoration was quickly dubbed, was hot news and even now the trend shows no sign of abating.
Leclère has her own collection, but works to commission as well. She is keen to point out that she’s a designer rather than a furniture restorer, and while she often sources furniture herself – favouring the simple, elegant lines of the midcentury and using contacts in France to bring over pieces, such as 1940s Bridge chairs, which are difficult to find in Britain – she will also work on pieces brought to her by clients.
And she is almost as particular when it comes to the choice of fabrics. “My clients choose their own fabrics but I don’t like using vintage materials,” she explains, “because they are very fragile and often there isn’t enough – especially when the pattern is large. I prefer wools and linens, preferably manufactured in Britain.”
So commissioning Leclère is a deeply collaborative process, but if you share her pared-down yet glamorous aesthetic then you are assured an heirloom piece. And if you don’t want an upcycled chair, she also makes headboards and screens. In fact, folding screens are a particular passion.
“I recently upholstered a screen in some Gypsy Cotton fabric by Swiss designer Christian Fischbacher,” she says. “It was incredibly beautiful and made a real impact so I’m now hoping someone asks me to make another.”
First picture: 1940s Bridge chair upholstered in Sanderson Dandelion Blackcurrant fabric. Second picture: large Flower Power screen upholstered in Christian Fischbacher fabric.