Monday, March 12, 2012

Elbow Grease and Paint Pants--Chair Update

I'm not much of a garage sale gal: I don't like to spend much time driving around, hoping to find a bargain.  I much prefer previewing a sale online, then I know not to waste my time if there's nothing I'm interested in.

One day, as I was leaving my neighbor's house, I glanced out the window and saw a garage sale.  I saw an interesting chair, so I hopped out to investigate. The chair was in great condition, perfect upholstery, and from a non-smoking house so no lingering odor.  I knew it would cost too much, but I asked anyway.  The residents were moving that weekend and needed to unload as much stuff as possible, so they were willing to sell the chair to me for $25.  I was prepared to hear $60 and walk away, but when the price was so low, how could I resist?

Here is what it looked like when I brought it home:
Like I said, perfect condition, but there really is no place in my home for a pink velvet chair.  It sat in the garage for a month while I determined its fate.  I had a hard time deciding on a fabric--I wanted some pattern, but not too much, not something trendy that I would be tired of soon.  And what pattern would work with the tufting in the back?  I turned to Pinterest for answers and found a few tufted chairs done in patterns or stripes, so I knew it would work.

I gave the chair and my fabric to Shirley and let them work their magic.  This is what I got in return:
Just enough stripe to be interesting but not enough to dictate the scheme of the room.
Look closely at the tufting, and you'll see the difference between the before and after: much deeper and updated on the new version.
 Since it is over forty years old, its scale is a bit smaller and shorter than a new chair would be, but it is in perfect scale with Grandma couch.  The room all fits together better now, and I know we'll have years of use out of it.
Lessons learned:
  • Ask around for upholstery references.  If you just want something done cheap and fast, then ask for a cheap shop.  If you want something done well, with aligned stripes, crisp edges, and restuffing/tufting, you're going to pay more.  Determine what is more important to you. You will be able to tell the difference, trust me.
  • Know your limitations.  I know how to sew and I've done a few minor upholstery jobs (cover window seat cushions, make parsons chair slipcovers), but I cannot do this.  I don't have the patience, especially to do a meticulous job like a pro does.
  • Get to know your upholsterer.  Shirley has given me all kinds of advice on what to look for in an upholstered piece to determine its quality--tight joints, no sagging springs, hard wood, fabric-covered seat under the cushion.  They want your business back, so they are willing to share with you what to look for. Shirley gets almost as excited as I do when I find a new piece for them to work on.
  • Reupholstery isn't cheap--it's cheapER than buying something similar that's new, but not cheap. $25 for the chair, four yards of fabric at $8 a yard, plus upholstery fees of $300.  Reupholstering older pieces has allowed me to have higher quality furniture than I normally would have purchased new.  New, a chair like that from Ballard Designs or Pottery Barn would start around $600 and from Ikea around $250.  You get what you pay for, friends.
  • The best part--they don't make things the way they used to.  Recovering and repurposing an older piece will bring in furniture that will almost certainly last longer than a new piece bought at an equivalent price.

Until next week
Going once, going twice . . .


  1. I love the stripes! Perfect.
    Awesome upholstry job.

    Makes me sad that I got rid of a blue velvet love seat!

  2. I have two 30 year old wing chairs being reupholstered in time for the wedding. I looked around and found that there was no way I could buy chairs of the quality that I already had, so after a trip to Calico Corners I was all set.
    I love the new look of your chair!

  3. ok i am soooo shopping with you! you find the greatest deals (you and my neighbor next door) you both have the gold touch...mine...more like rusty tin

  4. I lost my best upholsterer when my brother graduated from college. He worked his way through doing it on the side. It is a real talent. The chair looks great.

  5. It turned out gorgeous! I wouldn't even have known where to start... maybe one day my creative juices will kick in?

  6. Oh man! I so need your skills.

  7. That really is a great chair! Love the new look!

  8. That is incredible! I really need to learn to buy furniture from you, you find the best deals & coolest chairs! I think you have a special ESP for finding really cool chairs. The swivel chair is still my favorite though.

  9. What a great look. And some good tips, too!


  10. I love the fabric you chose. Really really good choice. We had a chair recovered a few years ago that we'd found in an antique store covered in green and yellow silk gingham. Hideous. We found a beautiful red fabric with a kind of chinoiserie print that was pricey, but oh my - what a difference! It's a showpiece in our living room now. Couldn't have afforded to buy it new. I'm loving all of your projects!

  11. Such an improvement. I'm trying to decide if our pieces need reupholstering or if new ones make more sense. It is a reallly hard decision.
    I find it really hard to visualize.