Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Elbow Grease and Paint Pants: Craigslist Assistance

This project is one I've put off for at least five months now.

About seven years ago, I bought four parsons chairs at a neighborhood garage sale for $20 each.  I knew that the gold fabric, although acceptable, would never survive in my then five-child family. My mom came down to AZ for a visit, and between the two of us, we spent 30+ hours figuring out how to slipcover parsons chairs.  They turned out beautifully, and they quickly found homes around our homework desk.

Fast forward seven years and two more children, and these four chairs have really been through the war.  Spotted with black from an errant Sharpie marker fight (don't ask), stained from sneakers and snacks, even missing a few buttons, I knew the covers had served to the end of their lives.  Unfortunately, the chairs underneath had also taken a pretty severe beating as well.  They were rickety from leaning back and thinking, rickety from being used as fort buttresses, rickety from tipping over in a fit of spelling rage.  They needed to be replaced.
One week at the auction, I spied a dining table and four parsons chairs.  Table was rustic, never been used as far as I could tell, not my style, and really not needed around here, but the table and chairs all came as a set.  I got all five pieces for $100--that was a score.

I listed the table on Craigslist, and it quickly sold--for $90.  Now the chairs only cost me ten bucks, but they too were not my taste.
Great lines, fantastic condition, not a single mark or scratch on any of the chairs.  I swear this dining set had just been ornamental in someone's house, that's how new they looked.  I stowed the chairs away in a closet for months, never thinking much about them until I found a great fabric for $2.99 that I knew would work.  Even after purchasing the fabric, I neglected the project because the 30+ hours of labor I knew it would take to slipcover them would come booming back into my mind, and who has 30+ hours just waiting to be filled?  Not me.

Then, a friend told me about her slipcover guy.  When I called him, he said he'd made probably 500 parsons chair slipcovers, and he'd only charge me $55 apiece.  He stopped by on Friday morning, grabbed one chair and the bolt of fabric and disappeared.

SIX HOURS LATER, he called me and said he was done, could he bring the covers by at 6 pm?
I was in complete shock.  Seriously?  Four chairs in less than six hours, and that includes time to drive to his shop!  I love them, really love them. And they look great--even better since I didn't have to make them!

I listed the four old chairs on Craigslist for ten bucks apiece, and they were gone in one day--the lady seemed to think she could clean the upholstery and fix the rickety-ness.  Go for it, I say.

All in all, I spent less than $50 a chair--and I saved 30 hours of my time to boot!

Lessons Learned:
  • Postponing a project sometimes provides a great solution.  Take time to think about what you really want to do and ask around for ideas.
  • When deciding on whether to do a project yourself or hire it out, don't forget to calculate how much your time is worth to you.  Thirty hours of my time compared to six hours of his?  That's a no-brainer.
  • If you see a set for sale and you only need part of it, keep in mind how much you could sell the unwanted items for and factor that into your bid.
  • Craig could be my boyfriend.  I love him, and he's never let me down.  He could be your boyfriend too.

Until next week,
Going once, going, twice,


  1. Jenny,
    You are the queen of steals and deals. These look great. Wish you were closer. I need to figure out which direction to go in. And I've just stopped.
    Enjoy those new chairs!

  2. You have such a knack for this...and you're so good at choosing fabric! I always feel overwhelmed in the fabric store.

  3. You are amazing. I love the fabric! I need to take some risks with fabric around here. I can't believe someone could make slipcovers that quickly! I need him here...I'm wrestling with how to make a slipcover cushion (8 years later) for our canoe!

  4. I just wish I had an ounce of that inspiration! With my luck I'd buy something that was fundamentally bad and try to fix it to the detriment of my time, money, and sanity!

  5. I wish I knew how to do things like that but I don't. You've really made some great purchases!

  6. Wow - you are on a roll, for sure!
    Craig isn't quite as good up here - lots of dross and not a parson's chair to be found.

  7. i need a room with green walls.

  8. AMAZING!! You are so good with fabrics, I need to hire you when we finally buy a house :)