Re-constructing a wing-backed armchair from the frame upwards....
So, I said yes to a project that turned out to be rather bigger than I'd anticipated! I've previously re-upholstered a Parker-Knoll chair but the wadding, webbing and seat was in good condition, so it was 'just' the wood and top fabric which needed re-doing. This project I'm now part-way through is re-upholstering 2 wing-backed chairs and a wing-backed 2-seater sofa which you can see in the before picture. We can tactfully say they were 'of an era'.... Given the top fabric was rated and worn, I suppose I should have not been surprised that when I ripped down the fabric everything, and I mean everything, had perished and disintegrated. The foam was like powder, the rubber webbing had either already snapped, or just snapped in my hands. It's a toss-up as to whether the hardest part was not inhaling the 40-year old foam powder (!) or pulling out the stapes and tacks, which were by far the most robust of all the materials on the chair.... So I was literally left with the frame. The client and I decided we could probably wave goodbye to the orange varnish, so I sanded that all back to the wood and we started from scratch.
The brief for this project is an exciting one, and totally up my street in terms of the Granny's Attic Ethos. It's for an old church building in an urban area which is now defunct and is being used as an outreach centre for the local community, which comprises mainly families from Somali, Sudanese, Eritrean, and Ethiopian heritage. The church building itself houses a lot of the old church furniture which has definitely seen better days, but Keri and Kevin who are running the outreach project want to try to incorporate it into the current usage of the building if possible. So, how to bring 1970's worn out furniture up to date, but in a way that appeals both to a neutral aesthetic of the redecorated interior (soft blue/grey) and the vibrant palate of the African users?!!
After doing some research into colour significance to some of the cultures using the centre, I agreed with Keri to do a 'mix and match' of 3 colours which would be bright but complement each other, and would tone in with the colour of the walls. I took a trip to the fantastic www.the-millshop-online.co.uk in Northampton who had an incredibly good value selection of Fire retardant upholstery fabrics. I settled on the French Navy, Mustard Yellow and Raspberry Pink. As well as the new fabric, I have modernised the style of the chair by leaving the wood looking natural, leaving the arms of the chair exposed (not replacing the fabric up the sides of the chair) and - because the chairs may get a lot of use by small children clambering over them - changed the seat from a loose box cushion to a fully integrated fixed seat cushion. I have finished the first chair, picking up the yellow in some self-covered buttons used on the back. I will make the opposite colour way in the other single chair, and then see how much of each fabric I have left for how the 2-seater sofa comes together. Watch this space....
Lessons learnt from this project so far:
- you need more fabric than you think!
- Ripping down a chair is HARD WORK
- An electric sander is worth its weight in gold
- Gimp pins are good for fixing top fabric
- The end result is immensely satisfying.