Based on the subject of this post, you may be picturing me swirling gory animal skins bicep-deep in a steaming vat while an angry chemical-induced rash blooms on my face. Not so, not so! This really is leather dyeing the EASY way!
First, a bit of background. A few weeks ago I scored a gorgeous Rykken and Co. of Norway chair and ottoman from the 1960s. It is leather with bentwood and a beguiling corded back. Best of all, it rocks, swivels, reclines, and is unbelievably comfortable. I got it, along with three teak nesting tables, for $60! I could hardly believe my luck, but I also knew right away that the leather on the chair wasn’t going to work for me. It’s in amazingly good condition, but something about it read naugahyde to me and it was the color of an overripe–nay, festering–persimmon. Even that sounds better than it was, and honestly it looks better in pictures than it was in real life. It had a sort of gruesome, congealed tinge, and I knew I wouldn’t use it until I either reupholstered it or figured out a way to change the color.
In general I’m not a huge leather person and ultimately I think I would like to reupholster this guy in fabric, but with my Grandma’s couch still in tatters (I’m weighing about a dozen fabric options and leaning toward a silver gray mohair that I found a bunch of for a great price) I wasn’t about to sign up for another big upholstery project.
I searched the web, and didn’t come up with many options, until I stumbled on a company called Rub ‘n Restore. Rub ‘n Restore is a mother-daughter owned company in California that makes water-based dyes to recolor and restore vinyl and leather. I watched a YouTube video of dyeing a dark green couch a lighter tan color, and I poured over the reviews I could find to see if it was too good to be true that you could go from a darker to a lighter color using Rub ‘n Restore. The reviews were resoundingly positive, so I decided what the hey and ordered an 8 oz. bottle of the camel color.
Application couldn’t be easier: you just put a little of the dye on a slightly damp sponge, and rub it all around. The dye isn’t stinky at all and is really forgiving. At first it looks uneven and streaky, but that only lasts for the first few coats. You have to let it dry completely between coats, but I followed the recommendation of the company and used a hairdryer to speed up the process. With a quick blast from the hair dryer, drying time took about 10 minutes, and application of each coat on the ottoman took probably 5 minutes.
After completely coloring the ottoman, I decided that camel wasn’t the color I wanted after all. I was hoping for something less taupe, more saddle, so I contacted the company about whether I could mix another color into the camel. They emailed me right back, and said that cognac would be a good color to mix in to create a warmer tone. So I bought a bottle, did a little mixology, and came up with a color that I’m really pleased with. It’s a warm fawn color closer to what I was picturing than the camel color, and much nicer than the original crust-around-the-ketchup-bottle-rim color.
Because it wasn’t such a dramatic change, going from the camel to the camel+cognac color took only a few coats on the ottoman, and probably eight total coats on the chair. Here is the dyed and redyed ottoman next to the chair before I started on it:
As you can see there are lots of tufts and folds on the chair, but it was really simple to dye. You just sort of pull and smooth the creases back and rub the sponge over all of it. It honestly couldn’t be easier. If not for job and kid duties this could have been done in a single day, but I did it over several mornings and evenings. In fact there were a few mornings when I got dressed for work, went down to the basement to put on a quick coat of dye, and then headed out the door for the day. It’s not a messy process at all!
I’m really happy with the results, and I’m so glad that I can have this chair in my house now without cringing at the color, especially since it’s so comfortable. Oh, and here’s that gorgeous corded back I was telling you about:
Winifred is already doing her best to help the chair achieve a more distressed look:
And then Wolsey showed up to do his part too:
Okay, and now for the best part: Rub ‘n Restore has graciously offered to give Red House West readers 10% off if you want to try this magical potion! Just use the code RnR<3RedHouseWest at checkout. They have tons of amazing colors, including some fun ones like turquoise and buttercup yellow. Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you have a great week!
p.s. In case you’re wondering, Red House West is not affiliated with Rub ‘n Restore and did not receive any compensation or remuneration for this post. It’s just me, lovin’ on a product that actually works!