Mera’s House: A Mid-Century Chair Gets a Much Needed Make-Under

Anchorage Craigslist is not exactly awash with mid-century treasure (although we have a corner on the market of contemporary microfiber sofas) so when I saw this chair listed for $60 last summer, I knew I had to bring it home.

Red House West || Mid Century Chair Make-Under

I could tell this chair was a classy gent–maybe not the most handsome man you’ve ever laid eyes on, but he’s steady, solid, friendly, and timeless.  Alas, the brown floral corduroy was a serious mismatch.  It was like Ernest Borgnine accidentally got dressed in Little Richard’s clothes.

Incidentally I have met exactly two celebrities in my life: Ernest Borgnine and Little Richard.  I took Ernest Borgnine across Kachemak Bay during my skipper days, and a few years later Little Richard fondled my hair (which was waist-long at the time) in LAX while I was going through security.  Other than that I am celeb repellant.  I never see ANYONE.  Even Chester sees more famous people than I do.  A few years ago he saw Kristen Bell, and realized she must be famous “because she was wearing so many layers.” (He was right, other friends saw her too.)

Anyway, this guy obviously needed a new suit, and I’ve been trying to find the perfect upholstery for a long time.  You might remember my experiment with batik and shibori.  I nixed using the resulting fabric because it was like Ernest Borgnine dressed up in Erykha Badu’s clothes:

Red House West || Mid Century Chair Make-Under

Last week in a Pinterest-induced fever I organized my fabric stash, and found the perfect thing.  My mom, who can sew anything (the woman scoffs at smocking and laughs in the face of pleats), recently gifted me with most of her fabric stash.  She used to make her own clothes, and the stash includes lots of beautiful wool suiting fabric.  You know who looks great in a wool suit?  Ernest Borgnine.

Red House West || Mid Century Chair Make-Under

I originally intended to do a tutorial on how to sew basic box cushions.  But one seam into the process I remembered that I’m really not very good at sewing, and definitely not qualified to tell anyone else how to do it.  I will say this about sewing box cushions though: I have found that I get nice sharp corners when I sew the edge pieces together before sewing on the top and bottom pieces.

Red House West || Mid-Century Chair Make-Under

Here are the edge pieces sewn together, awaiting the top and bottom pieces.

The chair’s frame is solid and the wood finish is inoffensive, so I just rubbed it with Danish Oil.


Red House West|| Mid-Century Chair Make-Under

Although the old foam was in good shape, at four inches it seemed too bulky so I replaced it with three inch foam.  Even though my stitching is less than perfect (I am an insult to my mother’s legacy), the wardrobe change is a big improvement and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Red House West || Mid-Century Chair Make-Under

Red House West || Mid-Century Chair Make-Under

Have a great rest of the week everyone!

17 responses on “Mera’s House: A Mid-Century Chair Gets a Much Needed Make-Under

    1. meramatthews

      That’s nice of you to say, but I’m really such a novice. I figure that if I didn’t forgive myself for less than razor sharp corners and wavering seams I would never attempt anything. Thank you! 🙂

    1. meramatthews

      Indeed, the suit really does make the man, and in this case he’s looking pretty dapper if I do say so myself! Thanks Katy!

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    That chair is a fantastic find. I love it. I had a chair just like it in my bedroom growing up. I guess my parents donated it when I left home at 17 as I haven’t seen it since. Shame. The fabric you chose really freshens it up and makes it look classy. I’m loving your Ernest Borgnine obsession. Any time I’m asked who my celeb crush is I answer Borgnine because it really confuses people.

    1. meramatthews

      There is a lot to love about Ernest Borgnine, and it’s a better conversation starter than Ryan Gosling or George Clooney! Love it!

  2. y2knina

    As usual, all the sewing talk went right over my head (Something about seams? Sharp edges? Huh?) But all of the Borgnine imagery totally clicked. I grok Borgnine. Hilarious.

    The chair looks great. Love the fabric choice and the pillow to set it off. And, hey, I have that same plant stand. (I think everybody has that plant stand, come to think of it.)

    Nice job, Mera!

    1. meramatthews

      Grok–now there’s a great word. I’m going to have to bring that one back into rotation. The plant stand probably is ubiquitous, but some things are popular for good reason, right? Thanks!

  3. Diana Burch

    Love the chair. Love the post with references to mom and I can totally picture your dad sitting in this chair… Or Chester?

    1. meramatthews

      I think you’re right Diana, it is fit for a man of great dignity, just like my two all-time favorites. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Carol Crump Bryner

    The chair looks very dignified and together now. But I like thinking about Ernest Borgnine dressed in Erykha Badu’s clothes. You always make me laugh, Mera! Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *