Believing Can Make It So

The Before Picture

This chair belonged to John’s parents. He inherited it after they died and has had it for about 13 of its 25 years. The chair does not really go with the living room as it exists now and John would tell you that he has never been in love with it. In fact, we tried to give it away to his niece Liz and her partner Tom when they decided to move in together, but they politely declined citing lack of space. They are in their mid twenties and I think perhaps having something that looked like a ” grandma chair ” was not what they had in mind for their first place together. Since John didn’t mind the idea of giving it away, he was also okay with me using it in my new space.

Feeling that my new studio needed more than just the daybed or desk chair for sitting, I decided to update the chair and make it a bit more funky. It had a faded polyester velveteen fabric that was a rusty, orangey-red color and several people pointed out that it fit the color scheme for my space. I felt like it needed reupholstering so I set out to make it happen. As is my way, I believed it was possible to do it myself.

It sat in the living room for a while with my fabric choice, a lime colored shade of green draped over it, and later in my developing space as it was being finished. When friends and family stopped by to have a look at our renovation/extension progress, they would see the chair and I always mentioned that I was planning to reupholster it for my studio.

I cannot tell you how many people said, ” Oh, you know how to reupholster furniture …” or something similar. Well, I did not know how to do it having never done it before, but like many things, I never assumed for one minute that it was beyond my ability. My response to those who asked was usually, ” No I haven’t, but I can work it out.”

I did consider that being a tufted chair would make it a bit more difficult, but the hardest part was taking the old tacks and staples out. After John watched me digging and yanking staples for several nights in a row, he encouraged me to give it away thinking it was too much bother. Suggesting that I quit in the middle of a difficult project only motivates me more. It’s like one child saying, ” Go on, I dare you …” to another child.

He walked into my studio space last night to find me hard at work on my chair and after seeing the tufting, said with some surprise how good he thought it was looking. My goal in sharing this story is two fold, one is my excitement in working it out for myself and the other is to encourage others to take a chance on trying new things even if you don’t know how it’s done. I think believing you can do it will often carry you along while sorting out the details of how to do it.

My ” new ” chair is almost complete and I will be back in a few days with some photographs that show the steps I went through as well as the finished product.

I would love for you to share an example of something you did that people questioned was possible or perhaps a project you have been considering.

11 thoughts on “Believing Can Make It So

  1. My project was my kitchen cupboards. I stripped the oak finish, and painted them a creamy white then glazed for an antiqued look. It took me a whole summer, and after I got started I wondered what I was thinking. But I did it and I love my new kitchen!

  2. “You,” she said with mock sterness, “are a terror.” The week I am due to leave my corporate cocoon, leaping into the dark unknown, no lily pad to land on, and you post this!. So universe speaks to me, and you carry the message. It’s happening on a macro and micro level, too. Leaving the job this week, and a smaller but important project that I am helping a friend with at a distance, with me hugely torn about hopping on a plane and being a (badly needed) extra pair of hands for 2 weeks, some 8000 miles away. Can I really afford to do this, with no money coming in and when I need to be hunting for a job? Am I nuts not to go? Mad driving up and down the country, doing stuff that is new to me, and that others are depending very heavily on. Can I really be that much help? It’s scaring me spitless. Whether I go or not, fear and excitement at the anticipated result of the project are there in equal measure. I’ll say more when it’s done. I too would be very interested to hear of the experiences and sucesses of other readers of your blog.

    That looks like a very nice Victorian (or Edwardian copy of?) slipper chair. You may be able to tell which by the number of holes in the frame, which may indicate how many times it has been re-upholstered. The purists will be sucking their teeth if you go lime green, “ooh, I’m not sure I’d do that…” but this is your vision and this is also 2010. Van Gogh, Monet and the rest of the crowd would be saying “go for it.” Looking forward to seeing your after pictures.

  3. I’m looking forward to seeing the “after” picture. I’m constantly taking on things that may be out of my experience, with mixed results. But I do learn something each time.

  4. Gee, I inherited a love seat that would have matched that apricot covered chair perfectly. I had no room for it and was no longer “in love” with antiques. I was at my mother’s house with my brothers and sisters in ’93 and there was a huge flood the day I arrived. The next day, without running water or electricity, we were cleaning out the house wishing we had advertised a yard sale. About 2 in the afternoon, the sun came out and the sky turned blue. It stayed that way for about two hours. We made a huge “SALE” sign and ran out of the house with as much of the stuff as we could, and we sold out. That’s what happened to the love seat. Someone fell in love with it at a glance from the street, stopped and bought it in the middle of the flood. The flood continued for days with our friends moving out to motels out of town, but we stayed, hauling our water from bladders set up by the National Guard. The house got cleaned and put on the market. And the love seat went to someone who loved it!

  5. I can’t wait to see the finished product, I love the shape of this chair and am glad you decided to update it rather than throw it away.

    I’ll have to get back to you about my personal experience in this area….

  6. Yes, yes, yes….I love stuff like this. I too have grand plans to repurpose an old colonial style (not my fave) vanity with a sanding and a paint wash…we shall see. I totally look forward to your pictures and feel recharged to get my own plans rolling.

  7. Well done Elizabeth… beyond me I am sure. I cannot wait to see your finished chair, I am sure it is excellent 🙂 x

    btw you are now in my UK blog roll 🙂

  8. Can’t wait to see it and your room! I hardly ever get past the buying of a how to book. Bought them on quilting and on upholstering and never did it. I do like to refinish furniture though. Have a 5 stack barrister’s bookcase that I will do next.

  9. I admire so much about you and this is one more thing. You listen to your own voice and respect it at least as much as others, and I wish I were more that way. Too often I let other voices drown out my own. Am I a coward? Yeah, I guess so….

    So glad you go for it, on this project and many others, and share your results here! Looking forward to seeing the process photos! You are always an inspiration, in so many ways!

  10. It’s a beautiful chair and I look forward to seeing what your upholstery skills do to change its persona. Know it will be great, bet you and John will be so glad you kept it, especially as it’s a family heirloom!

    I recently purchased the old French bergere chair I’d been searching for in thrift shops and flea market malls for months. I had it stripped of its old green velvet then I painted the dark frame white and distressed. Had it upholstered in natural linen……..looks fabulous. It has a whole new life in my home which I feel it’s enjoying more than hanging about the dingy antiques mall!

    Hugs –
    Mary ACROSS THE POND

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