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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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.

Vintage Henredon Gothic Alvarado Mediterranean Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser2

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

eggplant gothic Henredon dresser

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:

chocolates
Source

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

French Chocolate Cabinet with Abstract Painted Panels

French Chocolate Cabinet3

DSC_1796

French Chocolate Cabinet Inside

French Chocolate Cabinet4

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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Milk Paint Charmer: Sunny Success!

This is the story of a very old, sad, dresser that has, I think, a very happy ending. This poor thing had endured abuse during its 170 or so years of life. Once upon a time, a very talented woodworker took some wide pine boards and constructed, with his own hands, a very useful dresser. He dovetailed the drawers by hand, hand-beveled the drawer bottoms, doweled in the knobs, affixed bun feet (probably), and put a wash of off-white milk paint on it.

Then, at some point during the very long life of this workhorse dresser with the three handkerchief drawers on top, someone subbed out its original feet (perhaps some had broken off at the dowel) with machine-turned ones from maple, replaced the apparently sawed-off knobs with large, out-of-proportion British-style knobs, and sanded all the milk paint off, except for what was visible in the cracked side boards. Then, the offender committed the ultimate sin: slapped on thick, drippy polyurethane, which aged and ambered and turned it into the orange eyesore I found:

Old Pine Dresser before
So sad. It endured even more abuse in the ensuing years, in the form of dents, dings, and many scratches in that horrible poly finish. At some point, inappropriate molding was nailed around the bottom and then broken off. The poor thing definitely needed cheering up. So, I chose a bright yellow milk paint for the body and juxtaposed a modern, not-too shiny charcoal chalk paint for the top. New, better proportioned knobs got the charcoal treatment for contrast, as well. So now it looks like this:

sunflower dresser
sunflower dresser 4
hanky drawers

My dear mother-in-law, who only really understands mid-century modern design, unwittingly gave me the ultimate compliment: “It looks like it came out of a barn.” Ah, yes. Success!

This great piece went to live in California. Like City Girl Arts on facebook!
Original painting by me, called “City Girl”.

Antique Black and White Striped Bookcase: Bun-Footed Bounty

I have this thing for bun feet. Just like curvy table legs, they tend to attract my attention. Sometimes almost single-mindedly so. I recently bought a disaster of a dresser just because it had great feet. I assumed the rest would be just as great, but I didn’t really notice the rotten construction until I got it home. I’m going to have to save the drawers and hardware and junk the body. But that’s another post. Back to the feet that drew me to this piece:bun footed bookcase before

Look at them! Adorable and round; they have such presence, and promise. My dubious husband looked at them and noted, “They’re cracked!” And I said, “Yeah, isn’t that cool?” Really, you can’t ask for a cooler antique feature than cracks in the feet. Of the furniture, of course. But, further, the other elements of the antique piece worked so well with the feet: the drawer, hardware, scrolling, and wood–worn, dinged, scratched, and perfect for paint!

bun feet

Now look at them! Polished, distressed, and really, really, cute. Along with the rest of the bookcase. By the way, the shelves are cracked, too. Bonus!

bun footed bookcase front

bun footed bookcase stripes

bookcase pull

Can you imagine this warm, witty piece in your study or den?

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