baby's first upholstery project!

By: Melodienelson May 05, 2007

The most important things I learned at university were largely concerned with intellect, philosophy, and reasoning. I love academics and the blood-boiling excitement of all its theories and abstractions, but their intangible nature can often be incredibly unsatisfying. I discovered that I need to work with my hands sometimes, to give me something physical that I can point to and say, "I created that".

With that in mind, I enrolled in an upholstery class through the local community college in January. Despite the fact that there was at least a <strike>300 thousand</strike>20 year age gap between me and the next youngest person in the class and all my classmates looked on my sense of style as completely misguided (the "craziest" thing anyone else did was recover a classic wingback chair in a contrasting black and cream print), it was really enjoyable! The 9:00am Saturday class time combined with my 4:00pm Friday - 1:00am Saturday work schedule had me missing enough classes that I only just finished my first project on the last day of class, but I'm really pleased with it!

Upholstery project #1: Stacking 1960s office chair
 

 


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You can't tell from this picture, but the original fabric on this chair (which I scored for only $3!) was dirty, worn through, faded, crusty, and more than a little smelly. All that old fabric had to be removed and the chair stripped to its frame.


I saved the fabric as best I could, so I could make a pattern later. As you can see, the foam inside had rotted and was stuck to the wooden frame. Gross! It took forever to pull and scrape it all off, but eventually the frame was bare!


The stripping only took one class, but rebuilding stretched over several months!


Next, I cut new foam (check out the sweet electric knife!) and applied it to the seat and back with an upholstery adhesive spray...

 


... then covered the foam with a poly dacron batting. All of this was time-consuming but not terribly difficult. The hard part came next, and I was too busy tearing my hair out and screaming obscenities during this phase to get  pictures. A pattern was made out of the chair's original fabric. I used this to make a new cover for both sections. This was made difficult by the fact that the original fabric was really freaking stretched out, the curvature of the back, and my complete lack of sewing experience. This part of the process took weeeeeeks.



After tweaking the new covers as much as possible, I fitted them and secured them using my slightly unreliable yet incredibly hardcore Staplegun of Doom, reattached the legs, and wound up with this totally sweet chair!

 

 

Close-up of the fabric, which is more green than most of these pictures let on:

 

 

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Comments

 I had to register to comment on this chair and that's the single reason I did register. It is that brilliant!  Amazing work. I tried a love seat once it's in the attic room, my husband wouldn't agree to throwing it due to all the crying , hair pulling and time it took me. I appreciate just having seen that it can be done, and done beautifully.
Wow!  You did great.  I have owned my own upholstery design studio for the past fourteen years and you really took on an intermediate project.  There are tons of tricks of the trade and I will share some good ones on Curbly.  I am photographing the metamorphosis of a wooden spool used to hold electrical wire (free from Lowes) into a mod, round ottoman.  Be on the lookout for this and many other projects.

Well as a dealer of fine vintage furniture I am a bit saddened and excited by this transformation. If you weren't aware the chair you reupholstered is a 1960s Eero Saarinen Executive Chair by Knoll International. In his groundbreaking collection of 1957, Eero Saarinen transformed executive seating into a fluid, sculptural form. This classic chair is constructed of a upholstered seat and back over tubular steel legs with nylon glides.

A pure work of art by an amazing mid-century architect. I do love to see itmes like this live on....but it's a shame it got to the point of having to be reupholstered from it's original beauty.

Nice work

I have the exact same chair!! (well actually 2) that I want to recover.

I have the same foam issues - did you eventually figure out a good way to scrap it all off?

How much fabric did it end up taking? I don't want to over buy...I was thinking about 5 yards to do both chairs.

Please please help me with your expertise, I've never reupholstered anything and these chairs are going to be my test run. I'm actually pretty handy with the sewing machine, but I'm nervous about the foam...

 

Thanks!!!

Fantastic job! I totally mangled my attempt at re-doing a chair that was far easier than yours was, so I am impressed with your skill. Your new chair looks great!
awesome... i would have been intimidated, but it looks great.  can I ask how you did the seams (particularly for the back piece)?  (...a picture would be great, if it's possible) great job though!
Very inspirational, thanks! You did a great job, and now I'm going to re-do the torn seat on my old recliner, in something patterned and funky :)
Well done!!!

That is a great job you did!!  The chair was a wonderful find as well, despite the condition it was in.  I long to find pieces like that at estate sales!

I have a nice set of chairs that I rescued from an old job to come live in my breakfast room, but I have never cut the foam or peeled off old foam. Makes you look at staple guns differently..huh?  :)

I must say, this is amazing.... and that the other people in your class are silly for not ADORING you and your chair!

Personally, I haven't done any major apholstery projects myself, but I did redo the padding on my desk chair, b/c the fabric had stains on it from where my nephew spilled stuff on it... haha... however, I was only 14 at the time, and the fabric was thin (from a dress) and ripped... so, a new apholstery job is in order before too long!

The fabric is from one of the many discount outlets in Highpoint, NC. This was only $1.50 per yard!
That looks awesome! Congrats on a job well done. Where did you get the fabric?
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