TheSecretCostumier - Reupholstered wingback chair

Reupholstered wingback chair: Before and after

   A few weeks ago I shared how I found a 1959 wingback chair on the street and what inspired me to have a go at upholstery. The chair is now ready, and in fact, I’m sitting on it writing this post. It is comfy, I’m rather pleased with the outcome and I’ve learned so much making it. Here are the 3 most important lessons I’m taking with me from this project:

  1. Never choose a fabric with a pattern that runs in lines. I had 6 meters of fabric and almost ran out of it, as I had to match the patterns everywhere on the chair. It really was a nightmare, but looking at it now, the hard work paid off.
  2. If you don’t have a high pressure stapler gun I suggest you use a good old hammer and upholstery tacks. I did it this way, because this is how it was originally done and I couldn’t find my stapler. Although at some places it was hard to reach the nails with the hammer, they held the fabric in place much stronger than the staples could have.
  3. Upholstery is probably more time consuming than would imagine, but it isn’t as difficult as it seems to be. You need common sense and tons of patience. I threw away the old cover without tracing it for the new pattern (I didn’t feel like touching it ever again, as it was wet and smelly when I found the chair), and still managed to pin together the new cover on the chair.

    Luckily I did not have to buy new foam for the seat cushion, as we had one lying around at home, the fabric was only £10, I also bought some piping for about £2 and then some rope in a similar width. I did not buy any buttons, but covered two regular ones with the same fabric myself, so while a similar, one-off, handmade chair usually costs anything between £300 to £1500 on eBay, Etsy or Anthropology, costed me no more than £20. Yeey! Take a look at the before and after!TheSecretCostumier - Reupholstered wingback chair before and after TheSecretCostumier - Reupholstered wingback chair

…by the way, that beautiful painting was a parting gift from an old colleague/new friend of mine, Regina, when I moved to London. She used to paint when she was younger, and apparently picked it up again, as one day I showed her a picture on Apartment Therapy of a portrait on the wall in somebody’s living room, and told her that it was the  kind of painting I would love to own, so she painted an exact similar one secretly and gave it to me as a parting gift when I left the company where we worked together. It is still one of the most cherished things I am lucky to own.

Check out how I found this chair and what inspired me in this previous post.


Inspiration #2: Wingback chair refashion

I found this wingback chair on a rainy Friday night, dumped on the street, a couple of months ago. It looked rather old (according to the paper attached to it inside, it was made 54 years ago!), it was wet, it smelled, and was crying out to be reupholstered. I know very little about upholstery, but it seemed to have good bones under the dirty fabric, so I asked a friend to help me drag it home.

vintage 50's wingback chair

Then it stood on the balcony for another few weeks before I decided it was time to be brave, and spent 6 long hours to strip all the fabric off. That was 6 very long hours of pulling nails out with the help of a screwdriver and with the constant fear of poking my eyes out. Not even at this point did I know how I wanted it to look, but I knew 3 things:

  • I wanted to use piping on it;
  • I had some beautiful Dutch wax fabric from Togo on hand;
  • and the fact that I madly love anything velvet.

I had a harder time finding instructions and inspiration on Pinterest and online in general, but I stumbled upon a few sources that still make me wish I could start the chair redo all over again. Co-Lab’s boards, this one or, well,  my own dedicated board is worth checking out for some good ideas, but here are the ones that really got me thinking:

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12.

Inspired by these images, I came up with the idea of upholstering it with grey velvet (or mustard yellow. Or soft pink…or any colour, really) and using hand printed burlap (that was an over-ambitious idea, I know now) on the back of it. Then I went food shopping on a lazy Saturday afternoon to Peckham, and the next thing I knew was that I was walking out with THE fabric in my hand. Obviously, prior to the walking bit, there was a 45-50 minute period when I tried to describe what the selected 4 rolls of fabrics looked like to my sister, as well as taking rubbish photos of it to help the case move along. wingback chair refashionedWith her gentle nod and my strong desire to make something sophisticated, I went with the (little did I know) trickiest fabric. I was very close to giving it all up half way through, but I didn’t. So stay tuned, I’m almost there!