I am really excited to share this project with you, both because it has been on my to-do list for a while and because I had a lot of fun doing it. I found this Paul McCobb dining chair over a year ago, and it is responsible for setting my thrift store expectations way too high–I consider it my gateway drug for compulsive thrifting. I found it in a corner of the thrift store, not with the other furniture, but with the washers and dryers. I didn’t know who Paul McCobb was at the time, but I knew I loved the angles of this chair. And even though it was in disrepair, I brought it home. For $1.99.
Since finding this chair, I’ve become a big fan of Paul McCobb and spend more time than I should on Ebay looking at furniture he designed that is way out of my price range. This style of chair is called the bowtie, and I love its depiction in this mid-century ad (as the owner of this chair you too can lounge, in a suit, beneath your wall display of wind instruments):
I need to point out, right up front here, that the following series of pictures are taken outdoors because I’m not, in fact, currently residing in my red house west. This summer – for work – Cameron and I are living mostly up in Washington State (in Walla Walla specifically – if you know the area and have recommendations, please tell me in the comments!), and we have friends living in our house. This is mostly a good thing – I’ve always loved moving and living in new places – and spending a few months in a place is a great way to get to know it without worrying whether you’ll still like it in a year, or five or ten. I am missing our house, though, and my fevered house project brain can’t rest, so I’ll be sharing a few smaller projects then heading down next month for some frenzied (blissful!) painting and home repair.
Back to the chair (which I loaded into the car on top of all the other things we moved here with while Cameron looked on askance). Structurally, it is in good shape. No wiggles or cracks in the wood. However, it looked like somebody used it as a notching post to record the passing years of their life in exile–there are cuts and gouges all over the finish.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to make this chair look like new, but I did know I could make it a lot better. I washed it down with wood soap, gave it a light sanding, then pulled out my favorite one-two punch of Restor-A-Finish and Howard Feed & Wax.
The cushion on the chair was torn and beyond repair and, as with the upholstered stool I shared here before, I knew I wanted to try printing my own fabric.
To make the stamps, I used a soft rubber carving block I got at the craft store and Speedball carving tools. I doodled some possible designs and then used a pencil to draw them freehand right on to the carving block.
I tested them, first on paper and then on fabric, carving away any raised areas that were marring the printed image. I ended up cutting out the fern stamps (rather than leaving them in a square shape), so I would have an easier time orienting them on the fabric as I stamped.
I set up a printing station on the floor (doing this type of project in a rental house posed some challenges — I didn’t have a dropcloth or any newspapers, so I tore sheets out of a catalog to protect the floor). I used the ruler on my transparent cutting mat to help keep the lines straight.
The triangle print took a while. For expedience, I wish I’d carved a block with four columns of triangles instead of just a single one. Overall though, it was an easy process. I put on a podcast and happily printed away. The ferns went much faster and though I started with a measured grid carefully marked in pencil, I quickly abandoned that and just eyeballed the spacing.
Now here’s where I need your help! I can’t decide which print I like better on the chair, the botanical one or the triangles. Please take a look and cast your vote! Whichever one I don’t use, I will make into a pillow or find another use for it.
Keep in mind that when the decision is made about which fabric to use, I’ll staple it on and the fit will be much better than in these pictures. So which do you prefer? The triangles…
Or the ferns…
Cast your vote and I’ll finish ‘er up and take some photos when I’m back in my red house next month.
Thanks for reading this post and for weighing in on the design decision! You’ve still got two days to be entered to win the Good Score giveaway–we’ll announce the winner on Friday!
Thank you for sharing such detailed explanations! That chair is beautiful with the extra effort you put into the woodwork. I voted for the ferns because of the extra white space shown. Continue on, it’s always fun to read your stories.
The wood really cleaned up well–I’m just sorry I waited so long to do it!
Thanks for recommending the Howard wood restoration products! I don’t know where to start – there’s a myriad of well used table tops to consider in my home. I love the way the McCobb chair wood comes to life and perhaps I favor the ferns because they are so right in that lovely yard setting. And, I know your home and its many plant and fern incarnations. Like the comment from “netsyd” I too like the spacing.
Restor-A-Finish has been a terrific enabler for me bringing home all kinds of decrepit things! I really do love it, it is so easy to use and immediately improves worn furniture without the pain of stripping the finish.
Thoroughly enjoy this post, and wish you were in Portland to check out the Paul McCobb dresser I saw at Hawthorne Vintage last month, complete with those round metal ring pulls. Very pricey. I bet you will find stuff to tote back to Eugene in Spokane. Meanwhile I vote for the geometric design and wish I could go into the poll and do it again. It feels right on that chair, honors the designer’s sensibilities. The fern will be a lovely pillow neighbor somewhere else in the room.
Ha! I would never take that bet Donna 🙂 I’ve already been to every thrift store in a 10 mile radius at least once. Thanks for your comment–the triangles do seem to echo the lines of the chair and – perhaps because of that – are emerging the strong favorite in the poll.
I love the way you find these interesting pieces and then research their origins before you bring them back to life. I voted for the triangles because the geometry seems to go better with the lines of the chair, but I like the fern print better as a piece of fabric. It has such graceful lines. I look forward every week to your funny and informative posts. You and Mera have created a truly wonderful blog.
Thanks Carol for the lovely comment! I love that process of finding something I love and then learning more of its story.
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Hi! I am Paul McCobb’s daughter and came across your post searching images of his textile designs. I definitely think the triangles are the right choice – much better fit to the era and his design sensibility.
I wonder if you did much research into his textile designs and have any images or links you’d be willing to share?
Good job with the chair!!
Thanks Melissa! I’m afraid I don’t have anything to pass on regarding your dad’s textile designs, but if I come across something noteworthy I’ll send it your way!