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!

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Peacock Green Milkpainted Antique Dresser with Agate and Brass Pulls

Just for fun, while I dragged my heels finishing up some tedious touches on one project, I did a (supposedly) quick project. I had previously stumbled upon, and brought home, the perfect dresser for some milk paint, which I have been yearning to use for some time. This one was in great structural condition, so all it needed were cosmetic improvements. Here it is:

Dull, brown dresser with potential.
Dull, brown antique dresser with potential.

I always sand and prep every piece carefully. I didn’t want any chipping with this one, so I also added the bonding agent. I’m convinced that this material is just watered down polyurethane, but I’m not a chemist and they don’t list the ingredients on the bottle.

I used Peacock, from The Real Milk Paint Company. I enjoy the lights, darks, and striated colors of milk paint mixed from pigments and powders. When I have an actual antique (not just vintage) piece, it’s my paint of preference.

It took many coats because I mistakenly sanded through the finish down to raw wood around the original pulls, which had cut large circular patterns in the wood that I knew would show when I used different pulls. When you don’t sand evenly with milk paint, it soaks in differently and becomes very obvious. Drat. At one point, I had to cover the whole thing with flat polyurethane to get an acceptable even finish with several more coats.

When the piece looked done, I coated the whole thing with tung oil. This brings out more color in the paint, and enriches it. The drawers were sanded and sealed inside, and the great steel casters were rubbed with a little gold wax. Then I put on the jewelry: green and yellow agate pulls from Anthropologie. Those are what this piece is about, anyway.

Anthropologie Agate Pulls
Anthropologie Agate Pulls
Peacock Green Milkpainted Antique Dresser
Peacock Green Milkpainted Antique Dresser

See the striations? That’s what I like about Milk Paint.

Looking like a chameleon--changing in different lighting!
Looking like a chameleon–changing in different lighting!

A few spots did chip, so I ended up sanding those back a bit and reapplying the paint and the oil. It’s a very relaxed, very livable look with a pop of glam in the fascinating brass mounted agate pulls.

Available in my Etsy shop.

Mediterranean Sea Suite: Banish the Brown

At any one of my favorite thrift shops, I can usually find something great to paint. This particular day, I picked up two items that I had previously passed by on several occasions. I just didn’t have a vision for them. They were very well made, and, other than surface scratches, didn’t have too much wrong with them. Except that they were from another era, an era when furniture was mostly heavy and brown. 1970 was a pretty good year, but not for color. I guess even other thrifters passed them by, too, because there they sat.

Mediterranean Side Table Before

Mediterranean Coffee Table Before

Drexel made them and named them Esperanto, elements of a suite. They really don’t look like they belong together, but I thought I would use turquoise and teal, like the sea, shine up the brasses, and see what happens. I like what happened. I think color and polish does wonders for furniture, don’t you? Of course you do; that’s why you’re here! Take a look:

Mediterranean Side Table

Mediterranean Coffee Table

Now, the coffee table, whose back looks identical to its front, has a thoroughly modern take in bluegreen and turquoise paint with glass in the doors. It can serve as a media console/tv stand, or even as a bench in front of a window. The side table has a whimsical view now, in deep Mediterranean Sea colors, and the hardware on both are solid brass and polished up gorgeously. A pretty nice find, all in all.

Mediterranean Side Table2

Mediterranean Coffee Table2

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