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

edfc07e3-c935-4d43-af3f-79e695794aa5

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:

img_1664

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:

img_1996
Painted, webbed, with coil springs tied eight ways: should last another 50 years!
img_2004
Burlap + edge roll + lots of fluffy horsehair bridled in!
img_2031
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.

dsc_3218
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!

 

American Empire Conversion: Tumble-Down Dresser to Smart Buffet

As I have mentioned before, these old Empire dressers are ubiquitous. And, age does not mean value every time. Since this one was in such terrible condition inside, it wasn’t worth rebuilding and trying to restore. It was, however, worth sharpening my skills and creativity to make something new out of it. A buffet came to mind: keep the top drawers and make a new open space out of the bottom.

IMG_1687

The bottom drawer sides, the actual supports for the drawers on the runners, were so worn down that each drawer had to be lifted into the frame to close it, causing chipping to the face veneer. The drawer sides would all need to be replaced (dovetails and all), which was not going to happen. The drawer supports (I call them runners) had all been poorly replaced sometime in the past, as you can see from the back (which was also missing).

IMG_1686

There were no dividers between the drawers anymore, so the soft old wood dust was raining down on whatever was stored in the drawer below every time they were opened or closed. The drawer bottoms were falling out from shrinkage and expansion over the years.

So, I gutted the insides. A few whacks with the hammer and the drawer runners came right out. No regrets.

IMG_1688

The newly freed open space got a lining of new wood, filled and sanded.

IMG_1689

I remembered some hardware I bought at a picker’s paradise in Pennsylvania called Shupp’s Grove. They were very old, stamped metal shield pulls. These pulls, and the stiff, upright nature of the piece’s side columns, inspired a military/nautical style paint treatment, using navy, white and gold. Like so:

ATTENTION!
ATTENTION!
(Despite the photo angle, those stripes are actually perfectly centered)

Navy and White Empire Buffet 3

DSC_2315

DSC_2289

DSC_2309

So fun to do, and far more appealing than the old brown ubiquitous dresser. Check it out in my shop: city girl arts on Etsy.

Let me know what you think on the post on my facebook page, or in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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

DSC_2278

DSC_2279

DSC_2277

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.

Join me on facebook; comment there if you’d like. Does anyone read blogs anymore?