Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Chair Makeover part 1

Welcome to part one of a few part series on the make-over of this mid-century modern chair. The subject is a wicker chair upholstered in orange upholstery. As you can see it's seen many a better day...err...decade. The plan is to transform this chair into something fun by giving it new paint and upholstery.

 I got this chair, for free, some time in say 2007 or 2008 when the instructors for my college Interior Design program were decluttering. No one else wanted it so I brought it home and it's been in storage since that time. It wasn't in good shape when I got it but it has potential. You just have to see beyond the grime, dust and torn stained upholstery.

There is one flaw that may need more help and that is the fact the the seat is dipped in the center. Only when I remove the upholstery will I find out the cause of this. Other than cosmetic issues, of upholstery and the seat, this chair is in rather good structural condition.
The overall sturdiness is where you really need to focus if you are going to work on vintage furniture. If you are planning to redo the upholstery then it doesn't matter it is is torn and stained. It doesn't matter if the cushions are flat or brittle. All that can be replaced. It harder to fix broken structural parts.

 So there is the chair. For day one my goal is to get as much of the upholstery off as possible and hopefully get it prepped for painting.

 I started with what I thought would be simple; removing the pillow head rest. I figure that the buttons would just pop off after all they should have been just put on with thread. I was wrong. Turned out the buttons were actually a two part system similar to how jeans buttons go together. I found some wire snips in the garage and it took some trying but I eventually snapped through the metal prongs. The next step was to begin the process of removing the upholstery.

The black dust cloth is usually fragile on old furniture so it's easily pulled off. Once I did that I found out why the seat had a dip in it. I had honestly been expecting to see broken jute webbing here but instead this webbing may have at one time been elastic or rubber. Time was not it's friend, it had become dry, brittle and permanently deformed.

 The removing the upholstery is the biggest task and the most tedious. In fact this is where most people give up. This is where you have to remove all the staples and upholstery tacks holding the fabric in place. My project is relatively small but it still took several hours. There are upholstery tack removers that you can buy for less than $5 at places like Jo-Ann fabrics. I didn't have one and really didn't want to go up there on a Sunday afternoon so I made due with a screw driver, a hammer, and some pliers. This is a messy job and one that can lead to minor injuries if you are not watching. I carefully and methodically removed all the tacks and staples. A few broke off and in those cases I knocked them down into the wood frame. I started to think the original upholsterer, of this chair, got paid by the tack or staple. If 3 would work he must have used 8 or more. The yellow dust was thankfully not from the frame but from brittle foam padding.

After I got it all removed and dusted off I discovered that this chair was extremely well made. Notice the blocks in the corners. These have been carefully fitted at each of the corners and they are actually screwed into place.

My last step of the day was to give the wood frame a quick once over with some sand paper and a wash with Trisodium phosphate (TSP). I choose TSP because it's a good general cleaner to use before painting. It cuts through the grease and oils that hands leave behind on furniture.

Now, I just need to select a fabric for my upholstery, a paint color of the frame, and replace all the webbing, foam and batting. I'm thinking of leaving off the head rest pillow. The holes in the wicker for the buttons are pretty small and I don't think the pillow is all that useful.

click here to see part 1.5 : paint and fabric selections

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