(n.) Cabindo: A condo on a lake, among tall old trees. Half cabin, half condo. My first home. This is a running journal of the renovations, projects, and general shoestring budget craziness.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Rebuilding and Updating an Arts & Crafts Chair

'Antsy' is a vast understatement of how I felt while under contract, but waiting to close on my place. It had such possibility, and so many projects I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into. But, as it also belonged to someone else, and I only break into structures for fun on the weekends when there's a fire (rare) or mischievous kid (more frequent) behind the door; I had to simmer down and work on something non-structure related.

I really like the work a lot of people are doing now to update old chairs with new fun upholstery. Chairloom is a particular favorite. Be prepared to drool at some of their before & after's.

so chic and understated

oooooh sweet nelly

I would LOVE to find something worthy of saving up the $$$$ to have them upholster one day, a beautiful Edwardian sofa or an intricate arm chair. Clearly worth it if you can afford it, but for now, I tried my hand at updating a piece I'd gotten for free off of Craigslist.

plaid makes him grumpy

I loved the simplicity of the piece; totally devoid of decoration save for the beauty of the hardwood. I thought that it would take easily to being modernized while still retaining a good dose of vintage charm. The wood was super dry with some broken areas, and the seat was lumpy and structurally unsound; so it was total reconstruction time.

Dis-assembly of the chair uncovered errant Cheerios, plastic straws, pet hair, and general schmutz.


I tried to take a picture of each step to remind myself how the chair was put together, in case I forgot by re-assembly time. Luckily for me, this thing was Ikea v1.0: everything had dowels with corresponding slots and wing nuts, so it came apart with the removal of 4 bolts and a couple of seal-bark accompanied tugs.

smellya later trim

evidence of repeated reupholstering

Long story short: I ripped out everything: fabric, millions of tiny copper nails and staples, all the horse/hog hair padding, old strapping, etc. Minus the nails, which are being saved for something in the future; this was fun and quick! 
I scrubbed, repaired, sanded, conditioned, stained, and poly'd the wood. This part was a bit tedious, as it took a while to get into each nook and crannie several times over with multiple coats of stain, poly, and waiting. It was totally worth though, as the wood is now beautiful and healthy enough to last a few more decades.


I wanted to un-grandpa the fabric (as much as I love grandpas), and do a non-girly floral pattern. Joann's often has good coupons you can find online, and frequent sales; so I went on a sale day (50% off) with an additional coupon in hand (40% off) to get strapping, foam blocks, sheet batting, fabric, and trim. Foam is EXPENSIVE, but with the sale and the coupon I managed to spend only about $30 for it, which otherwise would have been close to $100. 
Ain't nobody got time for that. 

I used the old fabric as a guide to cut the new fabric, leaving an additional two inches all around to account for non-stretchy fabric, my own inevitable mistakes, and trimming later. I re-strapped, padded, and upholstered the seat and back panel in the same way they were before.

pardon the washed out colors

This was a great first 'big' reupholstering project because I didn't need to sew or have any special upholsterer knowledge, just enthusiasm and the ability to use a staple gun. Said enthusiasm broke the first two staple guns, but the third one is still alive....for now.

I'm exceedingly pleased with the results and the chair has become a favorite place to sit, especially for my daddy-o, who likes the cup-friendly wide arm rests.

Before & After
even the cat changed pattern


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