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!

 

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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.

 

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

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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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Vintage Eggplant Henredon Dressers: Spanish Revival Revived

A lot of mediterranean design went on in the 1970’s. Chunky, clunky, and massive seemed to be the look of the day, with a reference to Spanish style motifs and patterns. Many companies made these Spanish revival pieces, but not all of them withstood the test of time. Now, 40+ years later, the good ones, like Henredon, are ready for their makeovers.

This Henredon Alvarado set, found at a thrift store, was really well treated over the years and functioned just like new. The finish, however, would never see the inside of a modern room. Scuffed, scraped, scratched, speckled, yellow-brown, and sporting super ugly, chunky hardware, it needed to be revived. The before, as usual, looks a whole lot better in photos:

Vintage Henredon Gothic Mediterranean Alvarado Spanish Dresser Before

Vintage Henredon Alvarado Highboy Gothic Mediterranean Spanish Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser Before

Now for the fun part. What to do? Eggplant seemed to be the best color–dramatic, modern, edgy. The wood tri-foil motifs would stay, but the hardware needed to go. I designed some laser-cut wood quatrefoils to echo the tri-foil design, and searched for weeks for the kind of hardware that would be eye-catching but not conflicting to go on top of them. The quatrefoils painted metallic pewter, like the pewter hand twisted ring pulls (each one is different), brought the zing I was looking for. To tie it in, the bases of the pieces, under the bottom molding, are painted metallic pewter, as well.

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Vintage Henredon Alvarado Highboy Gothic Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser

Vintage Henredon Mediterranean Gothic Eggplant Violet Dresser Front

Vintage Henredon Gothic Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser Top

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In the evenings, the purple looks almost black. In the sunny daytime, it brightens up. It’s really a dramatic difference, this makeover, and makes me want to keep them. They are for sale, however, in my Etsy shop. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I appreciate your comments!

Abstract bird painting by me. Pear painting by Domi Willliams.
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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:

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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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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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This piece is in my Etsy shop.
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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.

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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!
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