Tag Archives: upholstery

Vintage Chair: More Than Meets the Eye

There are two narratives, both of them about metamorphosis, for this chair. One is how I reupholstered it – my first attempt at a big piece of furniture – and the other is about the MAGIC that this chair contains. As I sat down to write this, I was still struggling with which narrative I should lead with, but the fact that I typed MAGIC in all caps tells me that’s the central theme. So I’ll start there, with the innate awesomeness of the chair, and tell you about my part in giving it a new outfit later in the post. Please note, however, that this next series of pictures is all post-upholstery, and that the chair is already wearing its new clothes.

bed chair after

I found this chair in a big resale warehouse here in Eugene. It was flanked by about 15 other living room chairs, notable because it was neither overstuffed nor (p)leather. The shape called to me, and then a sign taped to its back intrigued me:

“Arms fold down.”

Arms fold down? But why? For what? I noticed the wooden pegs in the chair’s back and saw that when I pulled them out, the arms did – in fact – fold down.

Do you see the wooden pegs on the back?

Do you see the wooden pegs on the back?

A closer inspection on hands and knees revealed some mechanism within the body of the chair. Was it a recliner? But if so, why would the arms fold down? Puzzled, I started surreptitiously (surreptitious because I already knew I needed to possess this mystery, and I didn’t want to draw attention) poking and pulling at it, trying to figure it out. It was obvious the chair would have to be reupholstered – and I’d never reupholstered anything – but once I knew its secret, I couldn’t be dissuaded. I brought it home.

Any guesses on the metamorphic capability?

Any guesses on its other incarnation?

First thing to trigger metamorphosis is to remove the back cushion:

without back cushion

Then pull out the pegs and lower the arms:

pulling peg

arms down

When the arms are down, grasp the back and lift up and out:

lifting the back

And voila!

it's a bed too

It’s a bed!

With awesome interior fabric and a headrest!

head rest and fabric detail

And it’s adorable!

ready for guests 2

And pretty comfortable, as Tiny Tiger can attest:

Beneath the disdainful stare of a piece of Dean-lookalike thrift store art.

Seems like Dean would want in on this too, right? Especially with that (thrift store) portrait giving benediction from above:

bunny jumps up

Ah, there he is. Make yourself comfy Bunny, don’t be shy.

the walrus and the tiger

dean and carl 2

Isn’t it amazing? I have no idea of its provenance or age, but it’s definitely hand built.  There were scraps of older fabric inside that suggested it had been reupholstered at least once, and the springs and webbing under the cot part are tied by hand. If I had to hazard a guess at when it was made… maybe the 1940s? But again, I really have no idea.

A photo of the insides taken during reupholstery

A photo of the insides taken during reupholstery

As for the reupholstery, I started it before the advent of Red House West, when taking pictures of a pretty ugly ‘before’ didn’t really occur to me. Here’s a shot of it with the grey fabric draped over the original (and musty) floral print while I decided if I liked it. It sat like this for months.

I vow to paint those walls this summer!

I vow to paint those walls this summer!

I would not presume to give an upholstery tutorial here. I made plenty of mistakes and, though I love the result, it’s hardly professional quality.  This particular chair’s structure (the fact that it practically disassembled)  was the only thing that gave me the confidence to attempt it. If you’re looking for a proper chair upholstery tutorial, I often referred to this five part series Jenny Komenda did over on Little Green Notebook.

chair before reupholstery 2

My basic process was to pull out the 1,000,001 staples and nails holding the fabric on (seriously, I had claw hand for days) and then use the pieces of old fabric as a pattern to cut the new fabric.  Because the arms fold and the seat lifts, it was relatively easy to stretch and staple the fabric into all the nooks, crannies and seams.

bed chair during reupholstery

I found the heavy-duty gray fabric in the red tag section at JoAnn Fabric, and it ended up only costing about $8 a yard. I also replaced all the batting and foam and gave the internal workings a good cleaning.

The only part that took some sewing was the back cushion, and Cameron’s mom – a sewing whiz and a veritable saint – pitched in to help me with it. I was really nervous about making presentable double welting, even after (maybe especially after) watching online tutorials. I ended up paying a local seamstress to make it–I took her the fabric and measurements and for $15 she did it all. Definitely worth it!

bed chair right side

bed chair after two

My laundry room revamp is underway and I’ll be sharing some details next week. In the meantime, check back on Friday for some Good Scores and don’t forget to submit your own! We’d love to feature something cool you’ve found and are even offering a reward! Details here.

Have any of you seen a vintage chair like this one? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Before and After: Upholstered Stool

I have a bad habit of bringing (the verb Cameron prefers to use is dragging) home furniture that needs some kind of rehabilitation, and then letting it pile up in an unwieldy heap in the storage area of our house. I wouldn’t say there’s a mountain of projects waiting out there, but it’s not a molehill either. One of my goals in starting this blog is to tackle those woebegone (but loaded with potential) pieces of furniture, and to document my attempts to resuscitate them.

This weekend, I decided to start small and with a low stake piece–something that wouldn’t devastate me if I screwed it up. I got this little upholstered table/footstool/bench at a thrift store for $5. It’s not a spectacular piece, but with its cute little bulbed feet it had the potential to be a lot better once I got rid of the dirty cream vinyl and chipped black paint.

stool before

I was hoping that the wood under the paint would be salvageable. Rather than using a chemical paint stripper – the last time I tried it ended with disastrous results – I decided to sand off the black paint. I put on a mask and safety glasses and went to work with an orbital sander.

the wood appeared to be in pretty good shape

the wood appeared to be in pretty good shape

The paint came off reluctantly, smearing a little and leaving charcoal-like streaks. It was evident (and I was grateful) that the table had only been painted once, so there weren’t many layers to remove. Because I was nervous about ruining the little bulbed detail at the bottom of the legs, I sanded that part by hand. About an hour and a half later, much of which was spent trying to get into the crevices where stubborn paint still clung, I had a pretty little red oak table. Rather than stain it, I put on a coat of neutral Restore-a-Finish followed by Howard Feed & Wax to condition the wood.

Looking better already!

Looking better already

I’ve been really inspired by the indigo textiles that are so popular right now, and I’ve wondered whether I could make something similar using fabric ink and a stamp. This seemed like a good time to try!

For the print, I used a pattern from Lena Corwin’s book ‘Printing by Hand.’ It’s a wonderful book and her instructions are very clear and easy to follow.

To make the stamp, I used Speedball carving tools and a soft rubber block I got at the craft store which is very easy to carve.

To make the stamp, I used Speedball carving tools and a soft carving block called Moo Carve I got at the craft store.

I had a few kinds of ink already from previous projects, and I experimented a little trying to mix up the indigo color. The basic recipe that worked for me is two Tablespoons of blue ink to one teaspoon of black ink. Once I had a color I liked, I did some test prints on a scrap of fabric.

The variation of pigment is from the amount of pressure I applied to the stamp.

The variation of pigment is from the amount of pressure I applied to the stamp.

For the cushion cover, I used a piece of natural colored cotton-linen left over from when I made our living room curtains. It had already been washed, so I ironed it flat and traced around the original vinyl cover that I had removed. Then, over a drop cloth laid on our dining room table, I started printing in a grid pattern. I drew an arrow on the back of the stamp with a Sharpie to help me orient it correctly as I stamped.

Orienting the stamp

This pattern is forgiving, and I didn’t worry about lining it up perfectly

When I was done, I let the fabric dry for a couple of hours then ironed it again to set the ink.

Rather than reusing the nails that held the original vinyl to the stool, I used a staple gun to attach the newly printed fabric—stretching it and smoothing it as I went.

stapling the material

I really like how it turned out! The color of blue is pretty close to what I wanted and the natural wood is a big improvement over the old black paint. Best of all, it’s usable and no longer sitting in a heap of other project pieces in the storage room.

stool after

stool top after

For now I have it in our living room, where it can be used as a footstool or an extra perch. Down the road, I might move it to our bedroom or the guest room.

Carl (aka Tiny Tiger) is pretty sure it's a cat bed

Carl (aka Tiny Tiger) is pretty sure it’s a cat bed

Thanks for reading this post! Do you have questions? Please feel free to ask them in the comments.