05 September 2013

Step One: Re-cover Dining Room Chairs

I debated whether to begin my living room update with curtains or captain's chairs.  I had decided on curtains, then cut and pressed the fabric, when I discovered I had no thread.  So, by default, tonight's labor was focused on re-covering the first of nine dining room chairs.

My plan is to use the two antique captain's chairs I inherited from my grandmother to create a sitting area which will replace one of our ratty "couches" (a broken sectional disguised with pillows, a well-placed toy box, and a throw blanket), so I figured I would start with one of them and get to the standard dining chairs later in the update.

The chair was in good shape; it did have a few scratches and dings in it, but not enough that I have any interest in refinishing it.  My major issue with the chairs is the cushion fabric:  it, like just about everything else in my grandmother's house, was pink and had to go.
 I began by turning the chair upside down and removing the screws -- one in each corner -- that held the seat to the body.  Easy peasy.
 Next, I started pulling out the staples that held this black stuff -- which, I'm sure, has a technical name -- to the wood.   (Essentially, it covers the raw edges of the upper fabric and hides the webbing underneath.)  This would have been easier with a staple remover, but, since I didn't have one, I used the screwdriver to pull up the staples.  Also, while the seat was off, I got some wood oil and gave the entire chair some TLC.  It shined up quite nicely!
 I then removed the staples from the fabric, which were securing the fabric to the underside of the wood frame.  Once I got going, I saw that the frame was already riddled with staple holes.  My guess is that this is at least the third (and maybe fourth) time this chair has been re-done.  Somehow, that made me love it even more!
 Underneath, I found some interesting stuff that I had to Google.  First off, I expected to find a seat made of solid wood with foam on top.  Instead, I found woven webbing topped with burlap, then some kind of upholstery filling or batting on top of that.  Apparently, webbing like that is pretty common and is supposed to make for a more comfortable seat, which certainly fits my purpose.
 The filling was another matter entirely.  Most websites I'd seen recommended using foam core for the seat; my mother has recently re-covered her (similar) chairs and simply used cotton batting.  Whatever this is, it was kind of delicate and crumbly, and looked sketchy.  I still don't have a name for it.  But...it is sturdy, soft, and comfy!  I sniffed it; no odor.  And, ultimately, I decided to re-use it, and the chair is very pleasant to sit on.
 Next, I used the fabric I had removed from the chair as a guide to cut my new fabric.  I LOVE this fabric.  And I really love how it looks modern, but it's not permanent...it doesn't seem like it will be a big deal to re-do these chairs in a few years if I love it no more!  I had read that it wasn't hugely important to get a perfect cut, since the edges of the fabric would be hidden under the edge of the seat, so I didn't really bother much with that, as you can see in the photo.

After cutting, I chose to ScotchGard the fabric.  I went back and forth on this, but ultimately I tested a small piece of fabric and was completely amazed to see droplets of water bead onto it and not soak in.  With small kids in the house, I figured this protection was a must.
After that, the process was shockingly easy.  I stretched the fabric around the wood base with the original filling (pulling it pretty tight) and stapled it in place.  Then I used the same piece of black stuff I had removed to cover the raw edges of the fabric and screwed the seat back into the base.  Boom!  Done!  I know that people do this all the time, but it was my first try, and I am incredibly impressed with the results.  From start to finish, I would say this took less than an hour.

There are imperfections; my seat has bumps, and I am not 100% sure the fabric is aligned perfectly.  Still, I'm pretty happy with what I got, and I assume my second captain's chair will turn out even better. As soon as I get it done, I will post pictures of my little sitting area!

No comments: