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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Traditionally Upholstered French Dining Chairs: More Horsehair and Burlap!

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French painted and traditionally upholstered vintage dining chairs

I have discovered that I love making upholstered furniture. Not, by the way, with foam stuffing. Using traditional methods of upholstering furniture is like sculpting with stitches. You are not at the mercy of the materials, but the materials are at the mercy of your hands. Horsehair, cotton, and coiled springs–a great combination for truly stylish, refined furniture with longevity. Kind of like putting yourself out of business!

These began on a Craigslist whim, as most of my purchases do. I loved the curve between the front legs on these antique mahogany chairs. I knew the frames would look amazing in black, topped with some velvet. And pink. Pink was required. They were so sad and neutral. See:

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As found, these are the Craigslist chairs. Vintage carved mahogany, with loose joints, nicks and dents.

Since my new favorite thing to do now is upholstering, I knew that six of these babies would provide me with adequate practice to get it right, and they did. After ripping out the old guts, including the old zig-zag “springs”, sanding, and repairing every lose joint, I painted them black and put a satin topcoat on them. That was the easy part! To upholster, I did them in phases, perfecting my technique: webbing, springs, burlap, horsehair, muslin, cotton, velvet. And the seat backs: fabric, stuffing, support, stuffing, fabric. I’m really having a hard time preferring any other way to spend my time!

Some highlights of the process:

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Eight-way hand tied coil springs–takes a few hours, but so worth it in the end! Gives the chairs longevity and a very nice crown on the seat.
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Plenty of horsehair bridled in and fluffed–it compresses and becomes very comfy.
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Nice sculpted seat-the edge roll inside protects the fabric from the wood edge and keeps the horsehair contained on the frame. The muslin gets stretched and pulled to get the shape of the seat. The holes are where the regulator is stuck in and rotated to get rid of lumps and pull unruly horsehair into submission.
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In this photo, I haven’t cut the fabric around the seat and back yet…but you can see how nicely they are shaped! And they feel firm, yet resilient.

The pink floral seat backs got tightly woven burlap to keep their shape, and layers of cotton. This floral fabric has a very linear weave, so it was important to keep the weave straight, and tight as a drum.

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Two of the French girls. The set of six went to a buyer in Kentucky shortly after I listed them.

Yards and yards of double welting made from the velvet brought the whole look together. I was actually sad when they were done. But they made someone in Kentucky very happy!

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Everyone should keep some chairs on their table, don’t you think?!

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There are some nice furniture pieces in my Etsy shop, as well. Check them out here.

 

South Beach Inspired: The Blue and White Dresser

Okay, so I may not know when to say when. I probably held on way too long to the pink and orange color combination that I loved so much. No one else did. 😦 Actually, I should say that it was favored many times on Etsy, and got many nice comments on the original post and on facebook, but remained unpurchased. That is the telltale sign. I finally got it.

I thought this would be a great color combination. No one else did.
I thought this would be a great color combination. No one else did.

So, after a trip to Miami, I was inspired by the sun-bleached colors and the architecture of the South Beach area to repaint this pink piece blue and white. Now it’s a soothing, glossy, sea blue and white piece with the great original knobs.

How do you like me now?!
How do you like me now?!

South Beach Dresser3

South Beach Dresser2

This piece is available in my Etsy shop.
The painting is by me.
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Art, Furniture and Chocolate: A Vintage French Cabinet Becomes a Delicious Decorative Statement

I have a passion for applying paint. Any paint to anything. Canvases, furniture, accessories, walls, whatever. I would actually rather be applying paint to canvases all the time, but since there is no market for undiscovered wanna-be artists, I have to express my artistic soul on furniture. People buy furniture, it seems, much more frequently than original art, because we can’t hide our stuff in art, right?!

So when this dated French hutch presented itself, with its expanses of blank, I knew what I had to do.

French Cabinet As Found. BORING!
French Cabinet As Found. BORING!

Coat it in chocolate, because it’s French (couverture). And put some gilding on the trim because shiny gold is nice. And then put some abstract art on the new wood (bye-bye glass) panels because, well, I wanted to. Like those artisanal chocolates you see from expensive shops:

chocolates
Source

So now we have this! A beautiful, functional, delicious-looking piece of artistic furniture.

French Chocolate Cabinet with Abstract Painted Panels

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French Chocolate Cabinet Inside

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Much yummier than before, don’t you think? And oh, so much more useful when you can hide your stuff in it!

Check this out in my Etsy shop.
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Tur-key to Tur-quoise: Antique Oak Dining Table

My husband comes up with most of these titles. He’s quite punny.

This table was part of a package deal. A buffet I spotted on Craigslist that had me salivating came with this non-matching beat-up table. I always think it’s odd when sellers refuse to separate pieces (and risk losing a sale), even though the buyer might have no intention of keeping them together. I tend to wonder if the seller intends to visit his pieces someday to make sure they are still keeping each other company.

I agreed to this arrangement because the table had lots of curvy legs that I thought might look good in a wild color. First thing I had to do was remove the 1/8 inch thick layer of gloppy ambered polyurethane that had accumulated over the years on the tabletop. Here’s the before, under the shroud of shame (paint stripper cover):

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Since I didn’t have the leaves, the sliders were useless, so I removed them. This made the table a little lighter and easier to manipulate. When I put the two halves back together, they dowel into each other and lock with a lever.

Milk paint was the perfect treatment for this piece. The legs were not oak, and had a finish on them that might resist, so they were rubbed with deglosser. The newly stripped top was very dry, so I smeared tung oil on some of the edges and spots that I hoped would then resist and chip. For once, milk paint did what I told it to do. The legs chipped a little and the paint resisted soaking into the oiled spots! This is, to me, the perfect level of natural looking wear.

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Before Hemp Oil Finish
Before Tung Oil
After Hemp Oil Finish
After Tung Oil

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The finishing touch was tung oil, which actually gives the top some water resistance. More than that, though, it mellows the color and deepens it, darkening the wear spots as well. Makes it look like it’s always been this color, and certainly not a turkey anymore.

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This gorgeous table is in my shop.
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Mirrored Bar Cart: A Reflection of Hospitality, Beauty, and Time

Picture yourself at a party. There’s the hostess, with a smiling bright face, leading you to a cart brimming with luscious cool drinks and adult beverages for you. Picture a big lucite ice bucket with silver tongs. Lemonade in a big pitcher. Then look down at the cart.

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Yuk. You suddenly lost your desire to partake of anything on that cart. But wait! You whip out your mitre saw and your paint and your glass cutter, and, in no time at all, you have this!

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Ha! I wish I could have waved a magic wand and mirrored all those panels in an instant. Cutting mirror, I discovered, is not as easy as it looks! It takes a lot of cutting to get just the right size panels. You think you’ve measured, but your hand moves, just a bit. Ooops. Start over.

And what’s with that fake-slate formica under those hinged top panels? Can’t keep that. Rip those off. Take more time. Need to build a new top–mitre the wood, with ledges and gallery rails. More time. Oh, and paint it aqua! Yes! Many coats for perfection. Done!

Longest running project ever, but it turned out so pretty. Put an ice bucket on it now! Better yet, a glass of wine will do nicely.

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mirrored bar cart 3

mirrored bar cart 2

mirrored bar cart1

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Vintage French Serving Cart: Ooh La La!

This is the piece that turned me around to appreciate French style furniture. I looked upon this vintage serving cart as more of a challenge, really, than something I wanted to paint. It was a decent price at a thrift store, and the old finish was really gummy and grimy. The bones, however, were solid, and the curves were speaking to me. This is how it started:

French Service Cart Before

I wanted something sharp and artistic, with appealing, contrasting colors. I actually picked out these two hues separately, for two other projects, and when I held the paint chips in my hand together, I pictured the French cart in my mind. So this is what I did:

French Service Cart

The two knobs on the “top drawer” had to go because it wasn’t really a drawer. I could see other people come along and try to yank on the knobs to open the non-existent drawer, just like I did. How annoying.

French Service Cart 4

The back and sides got a curvy, moroccan sort of pattern, with small gold dots for accent.

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French Service Cart 6

Since this cart was so fun to paint, I have collected a few more nice French style vintage furniture pieces that need makeovers!

Are you fond of French furniture? Bright colors? I’m happy to read your comments, and I generally respond by email. Thanks for reading!
You can find me with my fun stuff on facebook, and on Etsy!