As Hilaire mentioned, Brittany and I recently traveled to the western part of the state to attend Lee Academy. Lee Industries, one of our favorite upholstery companies, invited us to visit their factories, to see how their furniture and fabrics are made, and to meet the people who touch and shape the furniture we love! It was a wonderful experience, and I’d love to share a bit about it with you!
I stand above with Norman Coley, the president of the company, his lovely wife Bondi who manages their marketing, and Brittany. Norman’s father, Bill Coley, started the company in 1969. It is truly a family-run company. Our sales rep is Norman’s sister! Norman and Bondi were so kind to invite us for dinner at their beautiful home on Lake Hickory. I went there as a child before my grandparents moved to Lake Norman, so I was excited to see familiar places.
Soaring windows in their great room open to a stunning view of the lake. Naturally, their home is filled with Lee furniture. Slipcovered sofas and leather chairs work wonderfully for a family with two boys and a dog! With such a great place to enjoy time outdoors, it made me wonder if that might have influenced their unique outdoor line.
Their Uncovered outdoor collection features fully upholstered furniture that can withstand the elements. I couldn’t help but feature it as part of Drool-Worthy Weekly when we were first introduced to it! You may be wondering what I’m doing in the picture above. To see how easy the outdoor furniture is to maintain, we got the opportunity to power wash Norman’s chair.
Before, the chair had mud, leaves, and dog hair in it. Norman says it’s their dog Tucker’s favorite place to sit, and they keep the chair beneath a tree in their backyard. Since it’s upholstered in Sunbrella fabric and made from the same type of qood used on boats, it’s very weather-resistant. Brittany finishes up the power washing, and you can see it looks as good as new! To test just what the furniture could withstand, they even dunked one in the lake for two weeks! You can see the video (which includes a guest appearance by Tucker) here on their Facebook page.
For durable indoor furniture, you could use Sunbrella fabrics – or you could consider leather. Lee has a wonderful leather factory with so many great hides to choose from.
Take a look at some of the pieces that we saw going through the factory. An ottoman with a unique nailhead design features a natural hide. A lounge chair (which is the same style that the Coley’s selected for their living room) is shown here in a bright orange leather. Leather can have so many different characteristics depending on how it is treated. It can be made to look more solid and stay the same over time, or it can show more character like the leather on the green sofa. It was exciting to see some of our pieces like this one (which is headed for a lounge/playroom for teenage girls). The purple zebra chaise Hilaire featured in her first post is headed to the same house (but for one of the girl’s bedrooms).
I was facinated by the process and the technology that is used today. Because leather hides feature scars or insect bites that may be undesirable, these areas are marked in white. A machine scans the hides and cuts out the pieces, avoiding the marked areas. These aren’t wasted though. Lee is committed to being an eco-friendly company and unusable portions of the hides are made into wallets, purses, and shoes.
I loved the chair on the left – it was so comfortable to sit in! Part of the leather factory is dedicated to using rugs for upholstery, which works great on benches, stools, and ottomans, like the one above. In the last picture, a talented upholsterer makes a tufted leather ottoman.
Inspired? I was! I’m looking forward to recieving my own leather chair from Lee in just a few weeks. I’ll be sure to post pictures when it arrives! As for the rest of the upholstery and fabric factories, you can look forward to Brittany’s post which will hit the blog soon!