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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Empire Dresser: Meant to Be For Me (to paint)

The style is well-known. The chunky red mahogany curved massiveness of American Empire style. Always veneered, almost always chipped, sometimes irreparably. Many of them handmade, but so old and well used that they end up in the garage, thrift store or picker’s storage unit with broken or missing hardware, drawer runners or backs. Can’t even really sell the nicer ones because no one really wants that large-scale, mottled red book-matched veneer look anymore (I’ve tried). There are so many of them that they don’t really hold value unless they have an exceptional provenance or are in immaculate condition (as with most antiques).

The sad are the ones I find. I have three right now, so I know they are not rare. This dresser had so many issues that I watched the price go down, down, down over a number of weeks to the point where I picked it up. It was even sorrier in person. See?

photo 2

And this was after I had replaced missing and broken drawer runners so that the drawer boxes would even have something to sit on! After all the repairs were done, I used some dark grey milk paint mixed from black and light gray. I wanted some natural chippiness, so I didn’t use the bonding agent. The wood was so old and dry that paint would certainly bind nicely, but I also sanded most of the surfaces. And I got what I wanted from the milk paint. Perfect accompaniment to to the chipped and missing veneer: perfectly chippy paint.

Antique American Empire Dresser Seal Grey Milk Paint3

Some of the typical wood knobs were missing, so I replaced them all with some very old stamped steel bow tie shaped pulls that are about the same age as the dresser, late 1800’s. I had picked them up at a junker’s paradise called Shupp’s Grove in Pennsylvania during some travels last year. The pulls seemed to match the escutcheons the dresser already had, so they looked right at home. I cleaned them up and sprayed them with several different silver tones for interest.

Antique American Empire Dresser in Seal Grey Milk Paint

Antique American Empire Dresser in Seal Grey Milk Paint5

The drawer boxes were sanded and stained and made like new, really. They fit now, and glide well.

Antique American Empire Dresser Seal Grey Milk Paint4

Can’t you see this in a modern entry hall or bedroom? A little industrial, a lot antique? Massive and moody? Meant to be.

Feel free to leave a comment, visit my facebook, or find this beauty in my shop.

Quatrefoil Dresser: Pretty Fantastic in Pink

As a kid, I always loved Legos. My dad insisted on short hair and brown leather lace-up shoes for my sister and me. I never wore a single dress in high school. I don’t particularly like sappy movies or chick flicks–give me a good spy thriller any day. I didn’t have any daughters; I have three sons. So, why is my favorite color pink? I have pink sweaters, pink shoes (yay), pink shirts, and even a pink skirt that I actually wear.

Now, I have a pink dresser. But it’s not for me, ironically. It was kind of pink when I found it. That deep, glossy burgundy that sometimes looks brown:

quatrefoil before

Boring, scuffed, peeling. But hit it with my favorite color, pink, and it takes on a whole different persona.

Quatrefoil dresser

Add a quatrefoil, hand-painted white swirls shadowed with grey, a spot for a monogram, and it’s almost irresistible. What lady, young or old, wouldn’t want this delicious berry colored piece in her bedroom? Well, pink haters, I guess, but forget about them. This one is too cute.

Quatrefoil Dresser Top Detail

Quatrefoil Dresser Side

UPDATE July, 2013: This gorgeous pink piece went to a young lady in Texas, who asked that I paint her initial on the quatrefoil. I was happy to make this her own!

DSC_0588 (2)

This piece is featured on the popular Project Nursery blog!
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Killer Legs: Work Table to French Farm Swirl Table

It was the legs that got me. Leaning, without their tabletop, in a corner of a filthy, rundown garage apartment formerly inhabited by a very disorganized old person and what must have been a dozen cats. Or so it seemed, from the clouds of cat hair collected in every nook, every pile of neglected furnishings, everywhere I turned. But there they were. Killer curves, charming little wood wheels.

Image

After a short search, the rather disheveled table top turned up nearby, leaning against another wall along with old plywood and a nasty cabinet made of MDF, which was fraying from moisture exposure. I left that. But now I had this:

killerlegtable

The leaf was nowhere to be found, but the table would serve me well until I figured out another use for the legs. I needed someplace to lay brushes, rags, tools, and paint cans while I used them, and to prop smaller projects on to work. So, for several months, that’s what it did. But I kept seeing those legs. And, after awhile, I began thinking in earnest how nice that table would look all painted up. So that’s what I did. So now I have this:

FrenchFarmSwirlTableI wanted to make an expressive statement on the top and the gorgeous, killer legs had to be highlighted. But it still needed to remind me of its age. It is an antique, after all. So the top got painted with a freehanded swirl pattern and sanded to give it the time-worn look of so many elegant dinner parties like my parents used to have, and the legs got a very colorful, heavily distressed treatment.

FrenchFarmSwirlTableTop

FrenchFarmSwirlTableA
I think it will look amazing with any color or style of chairs. What do you think?