French Plus Bohemian: A Chair Story in the Traditional Upholstery Manner

There once was a very sad Louis style chair. Very beige, very neutral, very brown wood. It was French in style, and vintage, so it had something going for it, but all else was a complete bore, so it’s not even worth showing. It needed color on the outside! On the inside, it was even worse: crusty, crumbling old foam over webbing, which would never do, professionally speaking. So, off came all of its materials, all the way down to the bones, to be built back up the traditional, European, way, with springs and natural materials (no foam).

French Chair Stripped and Milk-Painted   HTS

I painted it with natural milk paint in a cornflower blue hue–meant to be imperfect looking. Sealed with tung oil and lightly distressed for a casual look, the transformation had begun. Next came webbing and hand-tied springs, anchored with tacks. Although I usually tie my springs eight ways, most of these are tied six ways, because eight ways seemed like overkill on such a small seat. I daresay they’re tight and will last just as many years.

wood wool or excelsior

This is excelsior, or wood wool. Using traditional upholstery methods, it gets laid into bridles to be covered with burlap and hand-stitched into a first stuffing. The stitching compacts the wood wool in a roll around the top to support the second stuffing of hair.

excelsior first stuffing hand stitched edge roll
On top of this, lots of fluffy horsehair gets bridled in to form the second stuffing. I then cover that with muslin and a layer or two of cotton before I put on the fabric. In this case, the fabric is a wonderful designer velvet that is printed with a large variety of patterns in amazing colors. Just the effect I was looking for.

Bohemian Style Vintage Upholstered Louis French Chair

City Girl Arts upholstered boho french chair

With an oversized black and white houndstooth chenille in the picture frame back, and double welting made of plum purple velvet, the completed look far surpasses the original in excitement. The inside, done with traditional methods and materials, far surpasses the original in comfort, quality, and durability. This beauty is going to make a fabulous statement wherever it ends up. Check out my Etsy shop, or Chairish, to find it.

I design and make chairs to sell, or for clients based on their own desires. I have an inventory of vintage seating pieces longing for their big breaks–contact me directly to design and make a chair for you that has something to say!

Widdicomb Dining Chairs: Traditionally Upholstered Bohemian Delights

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Here’s a very satisfying “before and after.” These chairs arrived in my workroom in a well-loved condition. The consignment shop where I found them had slit the webbing to remove the nasty, crumbling, petrified foam that was sprinkling out everywhere. Since they were such a fine quality, there were no repairs to be made, but they needed to be sanded and painted because of 70 years of (surprisingly little) wear: dings, nicks, scratches. The before:

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Although these had foam over the webbing, I replaced it with coil springs and horsehair because such nice chairs deserved the finer traditional upholstery treatment. Here’s the progression:

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Painted, webbed, with coil springs tied eight ways: should last another 50 years!
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Burlap + edge roll + lots of fluffy horsehair bridled in!
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Scrim applied over horsehair: compressed and comfy.

I chose a fine velvet from GPJ Baker called Barcelona in the Indigo colorway. It has a large repeat, which allowed me to use a different part of the fabric on each of the chairs. The fabric is vivid and bohemian in nature, with parts of it quite irridescent. I always find the finer fabrics to be lovely to work with, and this one was no exception. It went on beautifully over the scrim, or calico, (as they say in the U.K.) layer.

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Done! The four of these, with their bohemian fabric, make a lovely statement.

These turned out so well, and happened to sell right away, so I’m going to be looking out for more to transform!

 

Bohemian White Antique Buffet with Large Brass Acanthus Leaf Pulls

This dated mahogany behemoth came to me from a CL seller in Ybor City. It had promise. However, the guy had taken the back off (and threw it out) and drilled cord holes in the drawers for media equipment. Not an unusual use, but he seemed to think that “feature” added value. Um, no, just work. The huge hole in the top was also a minus.

The Mahogany Behemoth
The Mahogany Behemoth

Once I simplified it, removing all the little 1920’s wood spool-like decorations, and that cow skull shaped veneer shield on the door fronts, I knew I had the perfect hardware to glamorize it: cut-glass round knobs from Anthropologie, with the most amazing large acanthus leaf brass pulls I bought (eight of them!) at a vintage market some months ago.

This buffet is so big that white seemed to be the most fitting color, especially with the glass and brass thing going on. White allows the simplicity of the piece to show. The lovely details–turned legs ending in stylized feet, the subtle routings, and the backsplash pediment–all stand out better. See for yourself.

White Antique Buffet with Acanthus Pulls and Anthropologie knobs
White Antique Buffet with Acanthus Pulls and Anthropologie Knobs

White Antique Buffet with Acanthus Pulls 2

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The insides of the cubbies are painted dark grey. A water-based satin finish thoroughly protects the new paint, and gives this buffet the subtle sheen that complements the bohemian look. Check it out in my Etsy shop.

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Diamond Dresser Redo Part II: Striking Strikes Again

Remember this guy? Remember he has a brother?

Midnight Diamond Tall Dresser Front

Well, a customer fell in love with him and requested that I paint his brother to match so she could take them both home! I was delighted to oblige because I was having trouble thinking about how to paint the low one. This gorgeous mineral color just really seemed to suit the solid cast brass hardware, but I couldn’t decide–just like any other mother of twins–should I dress my babies alike, or differently? I put off the decision until this special order came in, and I’m so glad because he is just as much of a jewel now as his tall brother. Take a look:

Midnight Diamond Low Dresser

Midnight Diamond Low Dresser Tambour

Midnight Diamond Low Dresser drawers

And now the twins can live happily ever after, dressed identically, together! Striking, isn’t he?

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