Saturday, August 15, 2009

Renovating an Antique, Part I: Reupholstering a Chair for the Library

Growing up, one of my vivid memories was of the furniture in my grandmother's upstairs sitting room, which had arms that looked like they ended in hands--something that creeped me out to no end; amidst the quiet clicking of the grandfather clock and the ticking floor register of the gas furnace, I imagined turning my back for just a moment and then finding the antique chair had come up to grab me from behind.

Mr. Parker poses on the chair, before our work beganSeveral years ago, my aunt Mae had taken the sitting room furniture off when my aunt Marian wanted to redo the room; Aunt Mae never got around to having the chair and couch reupholstered, though, and recently, she offered them to Beth and me. As the wood itself was in great shape (particularly given the furniture is at least 100 years old), we decided to do the upholstery ourselves. Above, you can see the "before" shot, with Mr. Parker, enjoying the ratty old fabric. Aunt Mae must have tossed the cushions at some point (probably just as well, given the state of the fabric underneath).

Didi is impressed by the new foundation for the chair's seat.After a lengthy, hot afternoon pulling out dozens of upholstery tacks, Beth and I finally got all the old fabric off, and the springs removed. To make things simpler, I used the table saw to cut a base platform to replace the springs; above, you can see that Didi quite approves of the chair which will soon be added to our library.

The chair's new cushion: 3 inches of standard foam plus 1 inch of memory foamA couple of years ago, I repaired one of our antique kitchen chairs after its seat broke; in the process, I removed the old cushioning and replaced it with memory foam, making it the envy of the dining room table. Taking similar inspiration for the antique claw-armed chair, Beth and I cut a block of 3" thick standard foam, topped with an inch of memory foam padding from an old bed pillow top we'd quit using; a bit of foam glue pieced the layers together nicely.

I covered the cushion with the same velvet I used on our repaired dining room chair (we'd bought the entire bolt of the stuff when the Vienna location of Hancock Fabrics went out of business a couple of years back). Now, we need to sew the back cushion and do a bit of trim work to finish things off; more on that when we're done.

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