This piece began its life as a good looking, stylish, espresso colored “pleather” covered armchair. What drew me to it was the French style and the carved details on the seat back and the base. The wood was stained a generic dark color that we see so often on mass produced furniture. It was accented with a double welt cord trim and decorative nail heads. It was ripe with possibilities! It was also ripe with tears in the “pleather”, and some major structural problems with the seat. It had the dreaded “Toilet Seat Syndrome”….which
basically means the seat center was severely caved in because it was a mass produced chair made in China with webbing under the seat cushion that looked like a wide self-stick Ace bandage.
In quality furniture you will see webbing that is made of incredibly strong bands of a burlap type of material that are woven across the base of the seat cushion to provide structure and support. This chair had the cheap, flimsy webbing that only acts as a basic support, and after repeated sittings serves to just keep your butt and the cushion from completely collapsing to the floor.
What made me love it completely was that it was in the 50% off section at one of my favorite thrift stores! I bought it with the intention of reupholstering it for my husband, so that he had a chair to sit on in the bedroom (which is “code” for a place to throw clothes and other junk). Around this same time, I was meandering through Hobby Lobby and happened upon their fabric clearance section. I love many of their home decor fabrics and waiting for me there was a remnant of one of my favorites. It was 1 1/2 yards and cost less than $20. I snapped it up simply because I liked it (and it was cheap) without really having any idea what I was going to do with it. This method of shopping usually worksout well for me.
With a little Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Coco that was left over from a custom job I was working on, I attacked the beautifully carved details on the wood frame of this chair. With a coat of Coco on, I distressed it slightly and then clear waxed it. After that I added dimension to the paint job and highlighted the amazing details with dark wax. It warmed up the paint color and gave the chair the look of being from an old French farmhouse. It was a huge improvement over the bland dark stain of the original finish. The finish got lots of attention and compliments from the other students in my upholstery class.
After painting it, I realized that my fabric remnant score from Hobby Lobby would look fabulous with the paint finish, and there was enough of it! Well, it was fated to become the fabric for my husband’s chair. I love when a project comes together like this!!!
I got to work on the back cushion first. The structure of it was still in good shape so all I did was add a bit of Dacron, cover that with muslin, and then with the fabric. Once I saw the fabric next to the paint finish I knew that this chair was going to be spectacular! It now was getting lots of “ooohhhs” and “aahhhhhs” from the other students in my class.
The next thing I had to tackle was rebuilding the seat with the proper materials, so that it no longer suffered from “Toilet Seat Syndrome”. Once I attached the webbing on the underside of the seat, I began to build the cushion that I wanted. It sounds simple, but it requires trying out many different densities of foam, along with deciding whether to combine two different densities, or whether to add cotton for a more rounded center on the cushion. Since my husband is a rather big guy I decided to go for a firmer foam for the seat, with a little extra padding in the center.
Now for the fun part….cutting the huge sheet of foam to the desired shape. It’s like cutting marshmallow with a jigsaw!
After the foam was attached to the seat base with spray adhesive, I began covering that with cotton, adding a bit more in the center for a little extra “cush for the tush”. Once I had the desired “cush” I then covered that with Dacron and stapled it on. These are just the first two layers of a quality upholstery job. After the Dacron is attached and trimmed then it is time for muslin. Muslin really is the most important layer of this entire cushion. I have learned that spending time stretching and tacking, and re-stretching and re-tacking the muslin, although time consuming and tedious, is vital to having a quality finished product. If you spend the time doing this right then the outcome on the finish fabric will be much better. The tighter the muslin the firmer the seat and the better the fabric will look over the long term. Truthfully, I really hate this part! It is agonizingly tedious to tack all the muslin down, then pull tacks out and re-pull and re-tack, over and over until the muslin is tight enough. Although it is very gratifying after all that pulling and tacking to be able to bounce a quarter off my cushion because it is so tight!
Tacking the finish fabric is pretty anticlimactic after all the effort that goes into the muslin. You repeat the tacking and pulling routine until the fabric has the desired tightness. Fortunately, it went a lot more quickly because I expended the effort to create the proper underlying structure so the finishing is much easier. There is nothing more gratifying than stapling down the finished fabric and turning the cushion over to see the beautiful finished product.
Once the cushion was complete all that was left to do was applying the trim to the back cushion. Originally, I had intended to use the same trim around the base of the cushion to bridge the gap between the seat cushion and the base of the chair, but the gap was too large. Instead, I had to go searching through all the scraps of upholstery fabric laying around my class to find one that I could create a welt chord with. Fortunately, there was a brown velvet that blended perfectly with the fabric and the paint finish. I used a larger welt chord so that I could insure that the gap would be covered completely. It worked!
The finished product is stunning! One of my classmates told me that it was way too beautiful (girly) for my husband….and another told me I should sell it because my husband wouldn’t appreciate all the work that went into it. Well…he does appreciate the beauty and he tells me that when he took it for a test drive that it was very comfortable. Since it has been moved to our bedroom…it has been sat in once and spent most of its time holding our clean laundry and a bag of new clothes that I need to take the tags off. Such is life!