Tag Archives: mid century chair

The Chamber of Secrets is Revealed!

Well dear readers, here we are.  In the time it takes a baboon to gestate its young, we have turned the most unloved room in our house – a room whose door we kept firmly closed for most of the last two years (the better to contain its horrors) – into my favorite place in the house.

If you’re new here and looking to get caught up, you can read more about the inspiration and process of the whole remodel here.

This is where we started:


desk-and-windowsAnd now?

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealRed House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealRed House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealLast week, prompted by a desire to fill this room only with things I love, I did a ruthless culling of my books.  I cut my collection almost in half (which I thought would feel like amputating a limb, but instead just felt liberating and joyful).  It’s interesting to run my eye over the remaining books and think about why they made the cut and the answer, for almost all of them, is nostalgia.  But those are musings for another time.

Having fewer books meant there was extra space on the shelves, and I had fun going through the house and picking some of my favorite items to display.  The little portrait of Jane Eyre came from Etsy seller Isabella Di Sclafani. I love her quirky portraits and this one, though it is beautiful quality, is just a $1.00 postcard.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets Reveal

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealI sorted the books in a way that’s logical to me: loosely by genre, author and color.  The only casualty of my system is an arrangement of hardbacks – grouped because of their vintage cloth covers rather than their content – that includes both the 1941 children’s horse story ‘My Friend Flicka’ and a collection of erotica by Anais Nin.  It cracks me up every time I see it and it’s kind of awkwardly perfect.  Perfectly awkward.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets Reveal

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealAs we mentioned in Monday’s post, neither Mera nor I are strangers to the bit of quirk lent by animal decor. As I placed yet another bird on the shelves I could hear Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen manically advising me to put a bird on it.  Which I obligingly did, again and again.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealThe window seat has become my absolute favorite spot in our house.  I am inordinately proud of the striped cushion – representing my first box cushion, my first piping (I don’t know what I was so scared of – it’s easy!), my first hidden zipper, a fair amount of cursing, and many, many ripped seams.  Seriously, the construction of this room has already become kind of a blur, but the day I spent on that cushion is etched in sharp relief.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealYou may remember that I originally planned to do a roman shade for the windows, but even after months of searching I couldn’t seem to find a fabric or design that I loved enough to have filling that big space.  Everything seemed too heavy, and I worried it would look like a great, grumpy brow scowling down from atop the windows.  Just as I was losing hope we put together our portiere post, and I found myself really inspired by the relaxed, bohemian vibe of the cafe-clipped curtains in many of the photos.  I found this beautiful French cotton print at L’Etoffe, a fabric store that recently opened up in our area.  I don’t think I realized quite how dire it was to have JoAnn fabric as my only shopping option until this alternative universe of fine cloths and inspiring prints arrived – and now I’m in heaven.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealThe daybed has a trundle underneath which rolls out, pops up, and forms a very comfortable king size bed.  It’s a close second to the window seat as my favorite place to lounge (the same two places that are, perhaps not coincidentally, also Fat Bunny’s favorite places to lounge).

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealThe murmuration of starlings print is from this Etsy seller, and the lucite table is my most exciting recent thrift store score.  The white coverlet and macrame pillow both came from a garage sale (and both cleaned up perfectly with a little bleach), and the other pillows – except the green one, which I made with more pretty fabric from L’Etoffe – are from Ikea.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets Reveal

My mom traded me the desk (I painted the legs black) for one of our tables, the brass lamp and Herman Miller chair are from Craigslist, the pillow was a gift from Mera, and the oil painting bulletin board is DIY.

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealThe Paul McCobb chair got a quick update with a piece of gingham fabric from the thrift store (I left the hand-printed cover on underneath the new fabric).

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealI’m always interested in how much renovations cost, so I thought I would share a rough budget breakdown.  We didn’t keep a careful record, so these are estimates, but I think it’s pretty close.  I always think doing things ourselves means it’s going to be cheap and, though it’s certainly cheaper than hiring someone else to do it, man do the materials still add up.

Budget Breakdown:

Hickory wood floors from Lumber Liquidators: $500 (though we have some left over to get the hallway started)

Building materials (wood for the built-ins, trim, drywall): $400

Benjamin Moore paint: about $150

Light fixture: $40 at Ikea

Fabric for the curtains and fabric and foam for the window seat: about $120

Decor (Ikea pillows and Etsy art): around $100, though I had gift cards to both places.

Miscellanea (paint rollers, some electrical supplies, hardware, and other things I’m forgetting):  about $100

The furniture and lamps in this room are all vintage and mostly from thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist (and a lot of it I owned before we started planning this room).  The big ticket item was the trundle bed, which was $100 on Craigslist and then we splurged on two new, good quality mattresses so that our guests (and Fat Bunny) would be comfortable – which added another $250.  All told, we probably came in just around $1600 for the whole renovation.  An amount which, when I compare the baboon butt of the ‘before’ with the adorable baby baboon of the ‘after,’ seems worth every penny.


from-door-2To, “Won’t you please come in?”

Red House West || Before & After - Chamber of Secrets RevealThank you so much for following along on this looooooong process!  It has been really fun to share the inspiration, tribulations and – ultimately – triumph with you here on the blog.  If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments!

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!

A Hyperbolic Ode to A(nother) New Chair

Well folks, here we are again.  In a move that won’t surprise our regular readers one bit, I have fallen irrevocably in love with yet another vintage chair.  That moratorium on chair adoption I mentioned a while ago?  Disregard it.  I certainly did.

Last week I was on an evening mission to the craft store to get a few supplies for the coaster project.  Out of habit, I popped into the adjacent Goodwill.  I have a well-established loop for this Goodwill: I scan the furniture, check the textiles, loop over to the aisle of frames and art and exit by way of the ceramics.  I was on my way out when something – some strong cosmic force – made me veer from my well-trodden path and return to the furniture section.  This time when I walked by (screeching to a halt like a cartoon character at the edge of a cliff), I was able to see through the veil of 1980s Golden Girl fabric to what lay beneath: the most beautiful, solid, comfortable, mid-century recliner in the history of the world.  Truly.  The whole history of the world.

Red House West//thrifted mid-century modern recliner

I smelled it, poked it, peered underneath it, took photos of it, reclined in it and, finally, recognized we could never be apart and paid for it ($30).  I went back the next day with the truck to bring my baby home.

Red House West//thrifted mid-century modern recliner

Looking like the homecoming princess in a parade float

I love the tall back and that little peaked detail on the arms.

Red House West//thrifted mid-century modern recliner

It really is insanely comfortable.  I’ve barely gotten out of it since I brought it home.  This photo shows it with the footrest up, but it also kicks completely back so you’re practically lying down.

Red House West//thrifted mid-century modern recliner

I don’t think the little wood panel on the front is original.  It has a pretty grain, but is definitely a different kind of wood from the rest of the chair.  I’m thinking I’ll probably remove it, but would love to hear your thoughts.

Red House West//thrifted mid-century modern recliner

There aren’t any designer markings on the chair, but by googling ‘mid century recliner’ I was able to find another one.  It’s listed on Chairloom (the upholstery company of my dreams) as a “Milo Baughman style recliner” and they’re asking $1200 for it as is.

Chairloom recliner

I think that’s probably a price that’s been inflated by an MCM-hungry market, but I sure hope someone buys it so they’ll put it in their Before & After gallery – a place I sometimes go to daydream.

And speaking of daydreaming, I’m mulling over upholstery options that will take this little lady from Bea Arthur to Bea-utiful.  Here’s a very similar recliner upholstered in grey linen.  I like the clean simplicity of the fabric, though I’d probably go with a darker shade – closer to a charcoal grey.

Or perhaps a grey velvet like this one?  It would be so plush!

Or is that too safe?  How about a maritime blue?

Or… an electric raspberry velvet like this one?

When Mera last visited we found this incredible navy blue cotton velvet upholstery fabric for a smoking deal.  Mera – in her infinite wisdom – convinced me I needed to buy it even if I didn’t have a particular project in mind.  I’m not sure there’s enough yardage, but oh my.  The way the warm wood looks against the blue is unbearably pretty – it’s the Helen of Troy of chairs; the chair that launched a thousand ships.

Red House West//thrifted mid-century modern recliner

I’m considering trying to upholster it myself – after all,  the months (yep, months) it took to upholster the bed chair are but a hazy memory; the staple removal-induced claw hand only recalled when there’s a storm-a-comin’.  I’m eager to start right away, but in the short term I guess I’ll have to pull on my best caftan and embrace this Golden Girl just as she is.

What are your thoughts?  Linen?  Velvet? Something else entirely?  Keep the front wood panel or nix it?  I’d love to hear!