Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chair Reupholstery Project

Three years ago I was driving with my next door neighbor when he yelled at me to "Pull Over!!!"  He had spied a treasure in someone's trash...four almost-matching wood chairs.  We threw them in the back of my truck and felt super lucky to have come upon such cool chairs. 

In the photo below you can see they were stained a nice color.  Normally I am all about keeping the signs of wear and tear, but at the time I thought a coat of paint would help unify them and tidy them up a bit. I decided that I would prime and paint them.  However the weather turned after I primed them and once they were back in the basement they never came back out for more painting.

They then sat in my basement for three years.  I happened to have a couple photos of them because Bubo thought they made a wonderful jungle jim.  He is quite the acrobat and likes to impress us by climbing in precarious places.

If you have been following the blog you know that we just re-finished the basement for my studio.  I had decided to make the bigger room a workspace with a large table and I ordered the Theodora table and bench from World Market.  I figured I could finally dig out the old chairs and would use them around the table.  When the table arrived at our house it sat in the box for a couple months while we waited for our renovation to finish up.  So when I finally opened it I was surprised how yellow it was.  It did not match the floor at all!  Panic!!! I knew I either had to return it or change the color.

So one day my next door neighbor brought over some steel wool and alcohol and I rubbed the table and bench down.  I tried several different stains but ended up using some paint that I had bought for the back door mixed with water.  It worked wonderfully and I was so happy how it looked with the flooring.  Unfortunately, when I dug the chairs out and looked at them I had the sinking feeling that I wanted to strip the primer off.  I tried to ignore the feeling but sometimes you just can't ignore your gut. 

One day I hooked up the orbital sander and thought I would just try it on one chair to see how it went.  George took pity on me and ended up sanding the majority off.  I then took over the sanding where the sander wouldn't reach.  I even dug out my old dremel tool which worked incredibly well in the holes of the back. Above you can see the chairs after sanding the primer off and coating with poly-urethane.  It was a CRAZY amount of work, but they looked really good with the floor.

Luckily we had a short trip after all of the sanding and sealing so when I came home I was ready to move on to the next phase of the project...sewing.

Earlier this year I had taken a trip to Guatemala.  While I was there I visited an incredible store filled with everything under the sun.  But my favorite part of the store was a GIANT bin full of used huipiles.  A huipil is a traditional shirt that often has embroidery specific to the town where it was woven.  I spent a very long time rummaging through the bin and came home with three used huipiles

You can't tell from the photo above, but one of the huipiles I bought was enormous.  I figured I could cut it apart and have enough embroidery to form a patch in the center of each chair.  The sewing part took me WAY longer than I thought it would.  Below you can see that two of the chairs contain the portion of the shirt with the neck hole.  I ended up filling it in with the extra grey from the other panels.  I also ended up buying brown twill tape to seal up the edges.

I ended up having to sand off the old foam from the wood chair bases.  It was green and crumbly and would make a mess every time I touched them.  George helped me pull out lots of old staples and fabric too.

In the end I am so pleased with how the the table and chairs look together and with the flooring and the pop of color from the seats.

One of the final steps of all my projects is to do a final photo shoot.  The weather this week was beautiful so I decided to take the chairs outside.  If anyone had seen me they would have thought I was crazy.  I photographed the chairs all over the backyard.

Afterwards I brought the chairs inside and ended up playing around with photographing the cushions just by themselves. 

Although the project essentially took three years I was so happy to bring new life to these old chairs.  Several times we came close to getting rid of them because they were in the way and I often doubted whether I would ever do anything further with them.  I also have a bad habit of buying fabric and then never using it.  So I was doubly pleased to bring new life to the old huipil.  So I guess the moral of the story is to keep hoarding all the old stuff in your basement because you never know when you might need it!  OK, maybe that is not the best message.

A better message is to find the joy in giving new life to old things.  Yes, that is what I meant to say the first time.  There is something incredibly satisfying about the process.  I intimately know these chairs. I have touched and scrubbed and painted every nook and cranny of these old chairs.  By caring for them in this way I have learned to love them.  That is not to say that we should be materialistic.  Rather we can learn to honor our possessions by giving them a full life span instead of throwing things in the trash as soon as their "newness" wears off.  I can't help but end this velvet chair post with a quote from the Velveteen Rabbit:   

“Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn't matter.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


ElizSeg said...

So beautiful!

Amy said...

These are simply stunning Vanessa! I can't wait to see the new space and sit on one of these beauties. Well done with all the hard work!!