16 March 2016

Mid-century chair makeover

Say hello to my new old friend. We've had a pair of these mid-century chairs for a while; they belonged to my grandmother and were used for a time at two of my sisters' homes before they came to live with us. I love that they've got a bit of our family story woven into them. They're just a classic style and built to last - apart from the fabric which was so worn in places that I had been hiding their poor condition under a throw. We always planned to reupholster them one day. That day came the weekend before last. This is how they used to look:
My husband and I have different tastes in home decor and DIY methodology, which complicates things. Put two fabric swatches in front of us that are different shades or patterns, and we pick the opposite to each other. When he decides that he wants to start a project, he just wants to get it finished as quickly as possible, which is great but it means making snap decisions at times and I hate being rushed. These chairs have waited several years to be recovered, what is another couple of weeks until we find the perfect fabric? Besides, there were a few steps that needed to be taken before sewing covers could even start. The chair back foam was glued well to the metal frame and needed to be cut away. The wooden parts of the frame needed some touching up and the shiny varnish sanded back so a matte Danish oil could be applied instead. A full day was needed for the oil to properly harden.
We had foam cut to our specifications for the seats (515x515x125mm). The old covers were in such poor shape that they could not be used as a template when we cut out our new fabric so making the new covers was the most time-consuming stage. What am I even saying?? I have no idea if this was the most time-consuming part, I didn't do anything in this project except take the photos and look at fabric.

Speaking of fabric, there is so much choice available now - it's actually really overwhelming. I went to several fabric stores in Wellington and looked online (I told you I like to take my time and cover all my bases) and I have to say that even though we bought elsewhere in the end, I was most impressed by the service and speed of delivery of the samples I ordered from Martha's Furnishing Fabrics in Auckland. The generous size of the samples they sent out really gave me a decent idea of whether or not the fabric would look good en masse and they even included five extra fabrics that they thought we might like. I also wanted to show you this amazing print I really loved that I found trawling through fabrics online. I obtained a sample (which was a different colour from the screenshot) from Fabrics Direct in town. It sat on the chair for a whole weekend and I started having second thoughts about it. At $65/m, I wasn't really prepared to take the plunge and then decide after it was too late that the colour didn't suit the rest of the house.
Charles Parsons Maze in turquoise
My husband was thinking more along the lines of a textured solid colour similar to the original chair fabric. We ended up settling on a textured neutral from The Fabric Store in Wellington. It probably was not on either of our radars before we started looking seriously at all the fabric options so I guess keeping an open mind is the lesson in all of this. It's not an upholstery fabric though, but at $38/m it was a price we felt we could afford, particularly because we also needed to replace the foam too. These chairs can really handle bold prints but when I thought more about it, opting for a neutral will mean these chairs will remain timeless and it's so much easier (and cheaper!) to add colour with cushions.
Can I also just add that a husband working at a sewing machine = so hot. Buoyed by the success of these chairs, he is going to tackle the last taboo of sewing - ROMAN BLINDS. Should I tell him that those things are best left to the professionals? This should be fun to watch. He's insane. Insanely cute, but still insane.


  1. Go Andreas - putting all other husbands to shame with your dancing and sewing!

  2. Fantastic chair makeover!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love the frame and I love the fabric!!!!!!! Love the chair!!!! xx

  3. Love those chairs. My in-laws had some of those at their old bach, but sold them with it unfortunately. My husband and I both loved sitting in them reading with a nice glass of wine and music playing.