A Reupholstery Tale.

Okay, it’s time for a story about how I saved a ratty old chair from obsolescence and a less cool home than my own.

I was cruising around the Goodwill one weekend (as I often do, especially when I have no money but still want to buy something), and when I spotted this little guy, it was love at first sight.

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Most of the time when I find a piece of used furniture I want to invest in, I take a picture and send it to my mom to see if she thinks its worth the money and effort. But I didn’t even need to follow the protocol this time around because I could see that this chair was a diamond in the rough: she was sturdy, functional and visually fascinating. All she needed was a little makeover. And she was only $10! I loved the shape of the chair, and even though the seat was grungy and covered in cat hair, I knew that I could transform it into something beautiful.

I knew I wanted the chair to look drastically different, even though the original fabric color and wood went together nicely; I just wanted something a little more modern. I picked out a really bold black and white patterned fabric from Ikea (who, despite their many shortcomings, have really durable and affordable upholstery fabric), and was ready to begin.

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Taking the chair apart and removing the old fabric was really interesting to me: seeing how all of these elements came together to form a single chair, how one component made way for another. My hands were bruised and swollen after pulling out all of the industrial-strength staples with needle-nose pliers. I had to yank really hard to get these staples out, and I kid you not, I accidentally pulled so hard that I punched myself in the face. Embarrassing, but true. I started getting really into the whole process, and ended up applying two coats of primer, two coats of black paint, and a coat of polyurethane all in a single weekend. I turned The O.C. on (don’t judge) as background noise the whole time I was painting, and I ended up watching an entire second season and four episodes from the third season over the course of 72 hours. So intense was my dedication to the beautification of this chair.

Once I had the frame painted, I moved on to the cushions. The original foam from the chair had remained remarkably intact, so I decided to just reuse it. Since the chair was tufted, I had to find some covered buttons that would maintain the tufting, and this is where I ran into a problem.

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The original covered buttons had a double prong attached to them, which allowed for them to be pushed through the hole in the foam and the prongs to open outward (like a brad on a manilla envelope) in order to hold the tufting. I wanted to find buttons like these, so I called the nearest upholstery store to see if they had any. They didn’t, and they said I’d have to order a 1,000 count of said buttons for them to even be able to order them from somewhere else. That option was clearly not going to work for me, so I looked inside myself for any ounce of ingenuity I could find and came up with this:

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I found regular covered buttons at Joann Fabric, with the buttonhole and everything, and then I bought some thicker jewelry wire as an alternative to the prongs. I cut the wire into pieces, fed it through the buttonholes, pinched the wire tight around the top and, voila, I had semi-pronged covered buttons. They worked just as well as the originals, and the wire only cost me $8, versus the $100+ I would have had to spend to special order 1,000 double-pronged buttons.

Once I got the buttons all covered, I tufted the cushions, staple-gunned them to the frame, attached the double welt cord edging, and my masterpiece was complete.

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There’s no room left in our itty bitty living room, so this beauty currently resides in my bedroom right next to my shelf full of fabric. I’m going to use it as a reading chair. It’s positioned so that it will more than likely be the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning, so I’m looking forward to reveling in my handiwork each day. I’m so pleased and proud about how it turned out… I feel like a new parent, like I gave birth to a baby that is sleek and mod and fabulous, perfect in every way.

And let it be known: I have officially crossed off my first to-do on my 23 Before 24 list! I’ve gotten a decent start, I think. What to-do should I tackle next?

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9 responses to “A Reupholstery Tale.

  1. Super. Cool.

  2. You are freakin’ amazing! You have an eye for art and beauty. I am so jealous of this chair…..

  3. Kendall, do you have any idea how amazing you are? WOW! I think you may need to rethink vocation choices! Honestly…….the combination of your mom’s eye for style, your aunt’s do it yourself gene and you ingenuity and ‘nothing I can’t tackle’ attitude make you one of the most talented people I know!

  4. SO EFFING RAD. good job!
    xo Moorea

  5. Love your site and your laid back vibe! As a newbie curb shopper and long time thrift store shopper (30+ years), it is always fun to see what others do for little or no money. Your button ingenuity was especially enjoyed. In the 6 months I’ve been curb shopping in a sleepy little town, population 8,000, we’ve found: 1 amazing chandelier featuring dragon heads–it was gold we spray painted chrome, 1 wood and black wrought iron chair & matching round dining table—very heavy duty, 3 wood kitchen chairs from a cheap newer set–we painted all but the seat black to match the “set”, 1 golden-green vinyl footstool w/ wooden legs–didn’t need anything but a good cleaning, 1 vanity seat–currently still needs reupholstered, 1 small 7 drawer cherry desk–refinshed and gorgeous, 2 6’x7′ pieces of spa flooring–made of oak and placed on saw horses to create craft/work tables.
    I so believe in advocating trying to find a way to alleviate excessive landfill. Reuse, recycle, reSTORE!
    Thanks for a great site!!!

  6. 利奈弁琉

    GOSH! That was great of you! I’m an interior design student and I’ll make myself updated in your blog. I know I’m gonna learn a lot!

  7. Thanks for posting this! I’ve just begun reupholstering VERY similar chairs from Goodwill ($4.99/ea, baby!) and my chairs have pronged buttons too! I’ve been scouring the internet for these pronged buttons and was becoming discouraged. Then! Then I came across your site and your brilliant solution.

  8. Pingback: 23 Before 24 Recap. |

  9. Thank you so much for the great idea for the buttons. I have this exact chair only in the rocking version. I was just having the button dilemma myself. If you don’t mind I think I’ll copy your great idea. Also I see that you decided to keep the double cording edge…..did you just recover the old or buy new cording? Did you also staple the cording as it was before or just glue it?

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