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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

DIY: Chinoiserie Chair Makeover

I've noticed that in the last few years some of my favorite furniture and home accessories have actually found me, rather than my finding them! Sometimes when I least expect it, something fabulous presents itself, and even though I wasn't really looking for it in the first place, I can't resist snapping it up.

This is what happened to me a couple of months ago when I found my beloved chinoiserie chair on Craigslist. I was not looking for chairs, and I'm not sure how I stumbled upon the Craigslist post, but there it was, a chinoiserie chair with chippendale bamboo legs being advertised for $5. Yes, you read that right, $5 as in $5 footlong. Half of $10! Needless to say I scurried out to Bethesda on my lunch hour one day, handed over my $5, and became the proud owner of this lovely chair.

The top of the chair looked like this. Swoon!

The seat of the chair...well, that's another story. It looked like this:

But the legs- more swooning! All that chippendale bamboo detailing. However, that white stuff you see on the right picture isn't from the camera flash- it's dust! The whole chair was covered with it.

I knew this chair would take a little more effort than my furniture rehab projects usually require, but that in the end it would be more than worth it. First order was fixing that seat, which was hand-caned and must have been gorgeous when it was originally made. Just look at this detail.

 I like a challenge, but since re-caning a seat is a well beyond my area of expertise, I decided to add a standard upholstered seat. After removing the seat frame from the base of the chair (by just unscrewing the screws underneath the frame), I went to to town removing the caning. It certainly pained me to remove that gorgeous caning, and proved to be a bigger challenge than I thought. If you ever doubted the security of a hand-caned seat, let me assure you- that caning did not want to go anywhere. It took pliers, a screwdriver,  about two hours, and a lot of blisters to remove it. And all that effort didn't even remove every last bit! Here's how it looked before.

And here's how it looked after. After the caning was finally removed, I had the guys at Ace Hardware cut me a thin piece of plywood in a trapezoid shape to rest in the shallow groove along the inside of the frame. I screwed it in on the four corners (and you can see some of those pesky cane remnants in the right picture).

No DIY is worth my time if I don't get to whip out my trusty staple gun. I cut a few layers of quilt batting and wrapped it around the frame, then topped it off with a thin piece of white lining fabric to contain the batting before adding the upholstery fabric. In terms of comfort, adding foam rather than batting might have been a better move, but I was afraid that this would interfere with the seat resting comfortably on the chair frame, and thus wanted to minimize bulk.


Next I got busy on the chair itself- I cleaned. And I cleaned. And I cleaned some more. We're talking several wet paper towels, and a zillion q-tips to get inside all of those little dusty grooves. I will spare you the gory details of how dirty my cleaning supplies got, but let's just say it was NOT pretty! Where had this thing been sitting for the last 10 years?

I also did a few coats of black gloss enamel paint to shine it up a bit and cover the nicks and scratches. I love the pagoda top of the chair back, don't you?

I'm not naturally inclined to select subtle, solid fabrics. It's definitely a shortcoming of mine and something I am trying to be better about. I love patters, I love graphics, I love bright colors, and that's what I gravitate towards when I go to the fabric store! I did manage to select a lovely solid fabric for a sofa I recently had made, so I think I'm headed in the right direction. In this case, I knew I had to restrain myself so that the fabric didn't compete with all of the ornate detailing this chair has going on. So I chose a tonal beige leopard. OK, it's not that subtle.

And there you have it, my $5 Craigslist chair, now one of my favorite pieces of furniture! It will be a snap to change out the seat fabric down the line, and who knows, maybe one day I may even try a daring color for the chair frame- like red? But for now, CL Chair pulled from dusty oblivion and sitting pretty!

Before & After



Anonymous said...

WOW! That is the find of the century! Looks great!!

Southern Aspirations said...

what a FIND! Looks great and nice to see an alternative to getting the chair re-caned (I have several chairs that need re-doing and I'm not inclined to have them recaned).

Michelle (Three Men and a Lady) said...

Thumbs up! Great transformation!

Anonymous said...

Well done! Very inspirational. I'm logging onto Craig's List after this post!

central bark designs said...

Beautiful! Great find! Great transformation!

Alaina @ Live Creating Yourself said...

I've been working on a dining chair makeover myself! Unfortunately it involves spray paint which needs to be done in a space between 50-90 degrees. And with the snow storm sweeping over Chicago.. I don't see that happening any time soon. : (

Absolutely beautiful chair! And I love the fabric you chose.


goheels83 said...

WOW. That is a-mazing! Fantastic job on the chair! Someone would pay hundreds of dollars for that in a store somewhere...

Lindsey said...

It looks amazing! I would be so proud. I'm about to tackle my first ever chair maker, and to be honest I'm quite nervous. Could be a hilarious blog post though.

inthetweeds said...

This turned out so well! I love the fabric you chose. Super chic!

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