Adventures with Michelle, A Chair Affair

Every DIY’er knows that there comes a time when one has to stand back and call in a professional. In my world that’s usually when there’s fabric involved. Yes, I can do smooth-finish drywall, but I have been known to pay someone to hem a pair of pants! That said, I haven’t always been afraid of fabric. There have been times that I’ve had to be ‘creative’ in a moment of desperation. Like when my sister had bestowed upon me the most comfortable and ugliest swivel chair ever! If you know her, you know her décor taste can run way off the sidelines into a style we call ‘pre-dumpster’. Did I mention that beast was heavy too. I mean, like get two grown men and a six-pack heavy! Ugly, like something tossed off the back lot from a Mad Men set – 1960’s turquoise polyester burlap. But it was a dream to sit in. Now that I think back, I’m sad it was lost along the way. That old thing taught me to not give up on a piece just on it’s looks. Now, if it smells – oh, no – those go to the curb. One day I had a revelation as I tried to cover it with a sheet, “Too bad this doesn’t stretch…” Later on I stumbled upon a piece of dark green thick stretchy knit at a fabric warehouse I used to haunt. Cheap, attractive, and it stretches ( no, it was NOT velveteen! ). Yes, you guess it. I completely recovered that chair with nail-head trim tacks, and my trusty staple gun! It was great for years!! You could sit in it and the knit would just bounce back. Ahhh, the old chair.

Now, mind you that really is the limit for me. OK, I did redo my dining room chairs, but those were just seats that I covered over with some awesome Pottery Barn fabric.

Dining Room Chair Upholster
Hmm, I may have to post that redo later. Now, about my affairs with chairs….

Much in the way I’m drawn to old cookie jars, I love a good chair. Seriously. I don’t care where I find it, if it calls to me, I come running. That said, on a stop at my local Salvation Army to drop off a donation (they get big stuff and Goodwill gets the clothes) a few weeks ago, I spotted a lonely chair calling me. The line that I was waiting in was long, and that old guy that just stepped in front of me, put it right in my line of sight. Awww, poor thing. Did that sign say ‘extra 25% off’…who knew the thrift shop had sales?! Wasn’t this stuff already super cheap? That chair was a whopping $25, and it even fit in the car. See, it loves me already. Of course, when I brought it home, my husband was all, “You went in with an old laptop and come back with a chair?!” (hee, hee)

OK, what to cover it with? In previous posts I mentioned redecorating the master bedroom in a Restoration Hardware style and those people have some serious chairs. Naturally, they come with serious price tags. The big trend there is belgian linen. Uh, yeah right – NOT. I thought of numerous ideas, from a lovely ikat with grey tones (that my uber-fashionable auntie gave a thumbs up to), to a crazy thought of either eggplant velvet, or a sexy grayish python print. Yes, I said python. I’m a trend setter – you’ll see! OK, so I chickened out on the wild stuff and went with my original thought. But I can’t afford linen. However, I can afford muslin, which is popular too and super cheap! Yes! Jo-Ann’s here I come with my coupon and measurements. Unfortunately, muslin isn’t exactly upholstery weight fabric, but this isn’t my first rodeo with unexpected material uses.

Before and After Chair upgrade
Before and After

My poor upholstery guys, I’m always bringing them trash and asking for miracles. But Sam and Zolton at Hernando Upholstery already know what they’re in for when I pull up. This time I’d done prep work. Check it out.

Step 1:

Step 1, Chair Affair
Get the old thing in the garage and find out what you’re working with. Before staining the wood, I need to remove the trim because it’s glued in. I’m not pulling off all of the fabric because I want my guys to make it exactly as it was…only pretty.

Step 2:

Step 2, Chair Affair DIY
Keep pulling – oops, it’s stapled too. Be careful.

Step 3:

Step 3, Chair Affair DIY
Well, not really a step, more of a step back. These are my weapons of choice for this adventure. A 5-way (or whatever they call them now) to pry with, some pliers, because I have weak girly hands, a carpenters knife, and blue tape. Also, a sanding block, chip brush, and my old friend Minwax Express Finish.

See how the piping trim is gone, now I can stain the wood and make sure I get all the nook and crannies. I’ve taped off the areas where the wood meets the fabric because I don’t want any of the stain soaking into the stuffing.

Step 4:

Step 4, Chair Affair DIY
See the difference in the wood color? It’s gone from 80’s medium oak to a fashionable 2013 espresso. Did I say wood? I found that the front legs were actually plastic! Yet another reason to use the Minwax product. Now, give it a coat of Polycrylic ( it was late to the photo shoot). Let it dry and off to the upholsterers we go.


Chair Affair DIY After

There it is. Fabulous. It’s not a bright white, it’s a creamy off white with flecks of brown and black. This is why you don’t DIY this one – look at all those buttons! And I love the nailhead trim around the legs…very Resto! I’ll give it a shot of 3M Scotchgard and won’t worry about the cat sleeping on it. I confess, this isn’t the most expensive job, so I do find a few flaws. But honestly, where do you get a chair like that for under $200? Yes, that’s the whole bill – chair, fabric, and recovering.

Maybe I’ll find some of that sexy python fabric and make one of those envelope pillows, that Kathy posted a ‘how to’ not long ago, to put on it. I’m a trendsetter – you’ll see. 😉

Michelle Beal

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