When you really need a proper upholsterer…

before and after, Decorating, recycling, upholstery

Picture the scene, I am at an auction and am supposed to be selling off unwanted furniture. If you have been to auctions, you know there is a lot of waiting around for your lots, and there are also a lot of chairs about that you sit in whilst waiting for the said lots.

So I realise that I am sitting in a really comfortable chair, and it is tired and sad, but it has a really pretty shape and is probably Edwardian.  So when it comes up as a lot, and no-one bids I stick up my hand.  I felt sorry for it.

And so I came home from the auction with a little tired chair for a very small price, not really what I went for.. I don’t think I really should go to auctions.

The chair sat in our house looking battered and tired for a long while.  But it was very popular, as it is just so comfy.  It’s like Goldilocks’ best baby chair in fact.  I scoured the internet for upholstery lessons to give it a revamp, but it all looked far too complicated.  And thus it lived draped in blankets for a long, long time.

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So very tired and grubby…

Cut to a year later, and I remembered that someone I know is an upholsterer.  With a quick call, the chair was delivered, and I was off on the hunt for fabric.  I really wanted some House of Hackney fabric, but it would have cost a fortune as the chair needed a few meters, so I had to be creative and scour the internet.

If you follow the blog, you will know that orange is creeping into my house a lot.  So I decided that the chair needed a massive jazz up and orange was my new black, so I found some raised velvet fabric of orange on a sort of hessian base.  It is like a psychedelic Indian curry house in the 70’s, but I sort of like it!  It also was a total bargain on eBay, and I got about 7 meters in total so I have some left over to play with.  I then found a lovely orange plain velvet to go in the inner part of the chair.

I then handed it all over to my clever upholsterer Caroline, and waited for the finished result.

Lo and behold, soon it was ready and this bonkers chair was ready for its new home:

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She looks so pretty!  And so ORANGE!  She has had her innards re-plumped as well, so is even more comfortable, and is my favourite companion as I watch far too many episodes of Stranger Things in one sitting.  As yuletide nears, I am loathe to share her when the relatives arrive.  Happy Christmas!

 

Chinese Chippendale Chair Makeover

before and after, Decorating, DIY, Interior Design, Makeover, recycling, Soft furnishings, Upcycling

A couple of weeks ago I was up really early doing an MOT on the car, and I had to wait a while for them to do it, so I went for a walk around my town.  There is a furniture junk shop, which occasionally has some OK bits in it, and I meandered in for a nosey.  At the back of the room, on its own was a chair.  Not just any chair, but a Chinese Chippendale one.

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This is the Jonathan Adler chair currently selling at £795

For those that follow the blog, you may remember my lustings for a set of Jonathan Adler Chippendale chairs.  I managed to find a set of similar style bamboo chairs when I revamped my dining room and gave them a makeover, you can read about it here.  Whilst they are lovely, they are quite large and not totally the real thing.  The real ones are wood carved to look like bamboo with grooves and notches.

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This is my earlier bamboo chair makeover

But this morning, this was the real thing.  It is made in solid carved maple with a very girly upholstered seat, and I think it is late 20th century.  Incredibly well made and sturdy, and the shape was totally the one it should be.

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The man in the shop told me it had come from a very smart house in a very smart village nearby.  And I could have it for £15.  I kept a straight face and asked him to set it aside.  He then mentioned there had been another 5 but they had already been sold individually…. GAH!  I could have wept, but never mind I still got one at least.  I then skipped off to collect my car, and didn’t even mind that it had failed the MOT and needed new tyres.  As I waited to get the car fixed I was already scheming on what to do with my new chair when I got it home.

So here it is on its arrival home.  It is very 80’s looking in colour and fabric.  So straight away I removed the seat and stripped it back.  Underneath is another fabric nasty, but I will leave it as a base for new upholstery.

Colours for upholstery

Previously I did my dining room chair versions painted white with groovy Thibault orange, orange and green irate fabric and cut velvet cushions.  But this new chair needs to be moved around the house, where colours are darker and more traditional.  It will probably start off in the sitting room.  I am having an armchair upholstered at the moment for the same room in a large scale raised velvet damask and velvet, so I have some spare fabric available.  The colours are spiced orange and neutral taupe.  Thus it makes sense to use some of it on the chair as it will live in the same room.

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Colours for the wood

Again, I don’t want it to look like the dining room chairs, although these chairs do look great in crisp white or a zingy bright colour.  I have a few pieces of painted dark charcoal furniture which I really like so I decided to do a modern take on an ebonised Chinese chair.

And so, out comes the trusty Annie Sloan chalk paint.  I have a pot of Graphite which is like the magic porridge pot in the fairytale.. It just keeps coming and never runs out.

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A good sand was done all over first, as although chalk paint doesn’t really need it, this chair will get used a lot, so key areas that will be handled such as the armrests need to be have the paint really well attached.

A wipe down, and coat number one was put on, diluted 20% with water to get a smooth finish.

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This paint dries very fast and looks very matt and chalky.  After a couple of hours it was bone dry so I applied another coat which was not so diluted.  Once that was dry, I applied Annie Sloan clear wax all over the painted areas with a brush so I could get it into all the nooks and crannies.

Once that it done it is buffing time.  This is where you can chose how much lustre you want with the finish.  I use a simple J-Cloth and polish away.  You can almost feel the wax harden as you go.  Once polished, leave it to harden more overnight.

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Reupholstering a drop-in seat

This is where staple guns are the most amazing invention.  I simply cut a square of fabric about 3″ larger than the seat pad, and made sure the design was centred on the fabric that will become the cover.  Then you place that face down on your working surface, put the seat upside down on top and start pulling the fabric over and stapling it.  I always start on each corner first with a holding staple and work diagonally so the fabric is pulled tight.  Do the sides first and leave the folding corners until last

When you get to do the folded corners, its a bit like doing a hospital bed sheet.  My seat had a shaped corner to the front so it was a little tricky, but you can always undo the staples if you are not happy until you get the neat edge you want.  Pull it really tight as you staple.  You need to get the seat to drop back into the chair frame so it cannot be too bulky.

The finished chair

Here she is… the whole project took a weekend, and out of that only about 6 hours was working on it.  Much of the other time was waiting for the paint and wax to dry, interspersed with some Netflix box set bingeing….  I love it, and when I get bored with it , it will be really easy to repaint and re-upholster.  Long live junk shops!

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Buying at Auctions

Auctions, Makeover

I went to an antique furniture and effects auction this weekend, where the auctioneers were selling off a mixture of great, semi-great, awful and sometimes bizarre items.  I find auctions fascinating, and spent a fair bit of time milling about looking at items coming up for sale on the preview day.  Where else can you find a stuffed zebra head sitting next to a box of 1960’s Action Men figures, pre-eagle eyes and gripping hands to boot?

In my head I had gone to try and find an good shaped cupboard, chair or armoire to renovate.  However, there was a plethora of quite badly already painted shabby chic items – shabby and not chic to be frank.  It seems that people just attack anything now with chalk paint and muted F&B colours, and I don’t think they always sit well on a 1930’s dresser for example.

Some of the pieces at the auction which had the right shape were beautiful and made from excellent mahogany or maple, and would be ruined by paint, so by the end of the preview I had a huge list of items I liked and wanted to buy and none of which should be painted!  I also seem to pick items which have the highest guide prices, which could be a sign of immaculate taste or just bad luck depending on how you look at it.

I ended up picking 2 items to bid on that were useful and could be upcycled without sacrilege; a pretty little Edwardian wing chair with tapestry/needlepoint upholstery and an old wall cabinet from a railway control box:

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This is going to be turned into either a thread, bathroom or curio cabinet, depending on if I can swipe it from my husband.

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This is a sweet and well-upholstered chair in very good condition.

To make sure I did not end up getting out of control on the auction day, I electronically sent in bids for the two with my maximum price to the saleroom.  I didn’t register to bid live which is possible with a PC, (like bidding on ebay but with way more adrenaline).  This is a really good way to stop splurge buying as I call it.  I tracked the auction on-line on the day, (you can listen live on a laptop), but only as a viewer so I could not start bumping up my bids past my decided top price.  Pat on the back and well controlled, I salute myself!

In the past I made the mistake of going to bid at the auctions on the day which can end in disaster and erratic purchases.  The worst time was when I was selling a lot of furniture at an auction as we were moving from a large house and I had to lose some large pieces of furniture and taxidermy.   At the auction I got totally out of control and came home with more antiques: a table, firescreen, cabinet and more.  I only meant to go and watch my own things sell, but when you see a Georgian table going for a song I find it hard not to stick up my hand.  Therefore this time I was a good girl, and won my items for their estimated guide price.

DO’s:

  • Visit on preview day
  • Take a tape measure and a camera
  • If the item you are looking for is for a specific place in your home, know the space measurements before you visit the auction house so you can work out if it will fit
  • Realistically set a top price, remember that buyers premium is added on plus tax.
  • If possible, bid online to stop impulsive price rising and buys.

DON’TS

  • Do not let yourself get carried past your set price by a fellow bidder.  Adrenaline can get the better of you, it is not a competition!
  • Do not buy anything without seeing it first in the flesh.  Auction photos are usually one picture and can be deceptive.
  • Not all Auction Houses will deliver without prior arrangement, and usually items have to be collected within 4 days of the Auction.  Make sure you have sorted out delivery, especially on large items, before bidding.
  • Finally, never nip out to the pub if it is a long auction and come back to bid after a couple of glasses of wine.  I made this mistake once and still have two enormous stone urns in my garden that a) I am not quite sure if I like, and b) which broke my car suspension when getting them back home which cost a lot more money to boot.

I picked my chair and cabinet up today, and was amazingly gratified to find the original sale price for the chair on the bottom  saying £400- Edwardian Chair.  I bid and paid just £50 for it.  Bargain and such a good feeling!  I am going to attempt to modify it by reupholstering the back in a complimentary fabric to give it a bit of zest.  I saw the below chair with contrasting upholstery in Traditional Homes and I love the result:

8IMZXSince I have never upholstered anything, this will be a interesting challege!