Forsyth's Annie Genovese reimagines antique furniture
Her forte is transforming fine antiques into statement pieces for the home. By Sydney Loughran Wolf
February 16, 2017
As the creative force behind Forsyth, Annie Genovese keeps her eyes peeled for one-of-a-kind antiques and vintage pieces. Once she’s found something she really loves, such as a set of 18th-century English dining room chairs or a long-forgotten farmhouse bench with great potential, her next step is reimagining how the piece might look covered in an elegant, responsibly farmed animal hide from South Africa (zebra), Brazil (cow), or New Zealand (sheep). “Our customer understands that you’re not just purchasing a piece of furniture, but a work of art,” she says. Since launching in St. Louis in 2013, Forsyth has become the go-to brand for luxurious hide-covered furnishings, earning a devoted clientele the world over. Here, Genovese makes over a 1950 Charles and Ray Eames sofa.
Step 1: Look for Potential.
Genovese has selected a Midcentury Eames compact sofa acquired from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers that is in poor condition but has beautiful bones. “You wouldn’t give it a second glance in its current state,” she says, “but look closely and you see the amazing lines on its back cushion and its striking chrome legs. With a little love and the Forsyth vision, it will be a knockout.”
Step 2: Select a Hide.
Genovese considers various hides for the piece to determine which colors and textures will complement the seat’s size, shape, and chrome elements. She decides on a salt-and-pepper Brazilian cowhide that she describes as “a speckled, textured tonal gray that highlights the lines of the sofa and matches its modern minimalist feel.”
Step 3: Repair & Reupholster.
Next, it’s time to take vision to paper and present the design to her St. Louis–based upholstery team. The group determines that four hides will be needed to cover the seat’s front, back, and piping detail. For impact, Genovese selects a slightly lighter shade of cowhide for the seat. The center hairline of each hide is cut out so as not to detract from its “insanely cool lines,” she says. “The idea is to give new life to the piece but keep its character.” The cushion’s foam stuffing is replaced with new foam fill; the springs are repaired; but the original chrome legs are left untouched.
Step 4: Place It.
The beauty of a Forsyth piece is that it’s designed to be timeless and work within any style of room. However, Genovese pictures this sofa in a wide front hallway where it will both elevate the space and serve a function for the homeowner. “The idea of placing it in the hall is fresh and unexpected,” she says, “because the loveseat is low to the ground and has a thin profile. It catches your coat, your purse, and is the perfect place to sit and put on your shoes.”
Step 5: Care Free.
Forsyth’s high-quality tanning process results in hides that are soft and supple yet durable and nearly impervious to damage. “They should last forever and require minimal maintenance,” says Genovese. Warm soap and water will get rid of any stain, she says—even red wine.