Two Orphan Chairs: Now a Perfect Pair

Posted on June 3rd, 2011 at 8:20 am


Two Orphan Chairs: Now a Perfect Pair

Found Item: Pair of side chairs with pretty rose detail—matching but not too

Where: One in the Old Irving Park neighborhood and one in central Evanston


The goal for these two damsels in distress: Make them over to go perfectly with everything they’re not—straight-sided, modern and minimalist.  A new coat of low VOC Aura paint in Chameleon does an excellent job of highlighting the chairs essential curves. The rebuilt seats are covered with the real thing, a vintage wool crewel.

The Makeover: First, I used an orbital sander to take off the old varnish finish. I hand sanded the curves and the carved detail, including the lower rung on the chair on the right.

On the recommendation of the pro painter who’s patching and painting the old walls next door (he gives some good tips here), I tried Aura by Benjamin Moore.  Really great paint. It goes on smoothly, great consistency.  In all, nice ‘n easy.  I brushed on two coats of the color Chameleon.


Then, to construct the seats, I first traced a template on newsprint, then jigsawed the pieces from a piece of 1/4″ plywood.  I goofed up on one of the seats, cut it with the grain going the weakest way.  This wouldn’t hold up for sitters heavier than a Chihuahua, so had to recut.

seat-detailTo build the cushion, I layered a 3/4″ piece of foam rubber with a thick layer of cotton batting on top.  In the diving tradition, the foam was scavenged (and very cleaned), and I recycled the batting from an old couch cushion.  To secure all, I stapled on a muslin cover.

The final cover is the real thing, a beautiful vintage wool crewel.  This came from a friend whose mother-in-law was an interior decorator back in the 50’s and 60’s.  I know that’s more myth than whenever you hear it, but it’s true.  Mary passed on a big box of samples from her attic–some great, like this crewel, and some I passed on to the thrift. When I pulled it out for these chairs, it shouted out loud: Yes!



I stapled the crewel over the muslin covered cushions, and voila, these two perfect strangers chairs are now good friends.


Have a wonderful, thrifty, scavengey, recyclable weekend, everyone!

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