Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DIY Cane Chair Reupholstery

I am a huge believer in adjusting and redoing classic, vintage pieces of furniture over buying something brand new.  I care deeply about investing in furniture that is classic, well made, and will last.  In my price point, that is more likely to be a historical piece rather than a contemporary one.  You can find amazing pieces at estate sales, auctions, thrift stores or as hand me downs, and it is surprisingly easy to refinish or reupholster them.

I have a great pair of chairs that I was given by my friend Cate when she moved from a house to an apartment and needed to edit her furniture a bit.  to be honest, they aren't a perfect pair (there is a slight difference in the cushioning in the back, but there are the same cane sides, arms, and legs, which create a uniform look.  Cate had gotten the chairs hoping to work on them someday, but never got around to it.  When I first got them, they were very 1960s, with a walnut stain and pink and orange velvet upholstery.  I never took a formal picture of the before stage, but they did make an appearance in a Christmas tree picture a few years back:

I have not every taken an upholstery class and do not claim to be a expert; I've followed a lot of tutorials on blogs and via Pinterest.  While it is not as difficult as you first anticipate it to be, it is something that I have gotten better at as I've gone along.  In our old apartment, I first reupholstered these chairs in a white and yellow chevron.

While these chairs worked okay in our space at that time and I enjoyed experimenting with patterns, ultimately I always want my projects and artwork to look high end.  I am always on a budget, but practice, research, and self teaching are free.  I believe in reworking on projects, whether it is a home DIY or more fine arts related, until I am completely satisfied and feel like the product looks sophisticated.  Once we moved into our new place and developed a plan for the colors, textures, and prints in our new place, I chose to keep the wood painted white and to pick a luxurious textured linen fabric in a sandy taupe color.

First, I removed the old fabric and used it as a pattern, leaving about two inches of extra border to help pull the fabric taught.  I used pliers to help pull the fabric tightly across the seat and back as stapled it to the frame.  This a trick I learned from stretching canvases across a wooden frame in painting classes in college.  Keeping the fabric pulled tightly is essential to keeping the upholstery job looking professional.  Any lumps, tears, excesses, etc., make the item look like a cheap hand me down rather than a piece that is classic, antique, or well cared for.

While I know that some high end furniture stores, specifically Restoration Hardware, has been featuring deconstructed pieces with raw fabric edges, I don't trust myself to pull off that without it looking clearly inauthentic.  You can't fake the wear that an antique, French flea market piece would have, or at least, I can't.  I wanted to finish the edges and hide the staples and raw edges with double welting made from the same fabric.  If you want, many upholsterers can make this for you or you can buy cording from any fabric store to make it.  Or, if you need the cording in a larger quantity, like I did, than your fabric may have on hand, you can use clothesline or rope from Home Depot to make the welting.  to do this, I started by first wrapping the clothesline in the fabric and pinning the fabric shut.  I then stitched as closely to cording as possible using the double stitching setting on my sewing machine, removing the pins as I went.

A nice perk to this step is that my sweet puppy loves to sit by the sewing machine while I work.  She's helpful like that.  

Afterwards, I trimmed some of the excess fabric, but left a half inch or so border so that I could ensure I had enough to attach the welting to the cushion and cover the staples.  To attach the welting, I used basic tacky glue for fabric, applying it liberally to the excess fabric and then pinning it.  To be on the safe side, I let it sit overnight.

The next day I repeated the process, this time facing the cording upward rather than downward.  The following day, I applied glue between the two cords and then pinned them together to create the double welting, leaving the chair looking polished and professional

I so proud of how the chairs turned out.  Overall, the cost per chair was around $45 each.  The chairs were given to me, the paint I had, the fabric was purchased on sale, and many of the tools I already had on hand.  Plus, the feeling accomplishing a furniture makeover on my own is pretty satisfying and motivates me to continue to work on things throughout our apartment, making it more and more our own beautiful space.

Have you ever done reupholstery?  What has worked well and what hasn't? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boy and Girl Roadtrip to Asheville

Please excuse my rather lengthy absence.  My husband recently returned from a long deployment art sea and I've been completely preoccupied lately and have been spending every possible minute with him to make up for a year long absence.  Shortly after he got home, I took four days off of work and we went to Asheville, NC for a vacation, focused on rebonding and getting reacquainted... and being super affectionate all the time in public and really not caring about the levels of appropriateness.

 Any military spouse will tell you that while you and your spouse may have known each other well at the start of a long separation, by the time you are reunited you have both grown and changed and undoubtedly different and strange to one another.  In the midst of the happiness of homecoming, there is work to be done in your relationship, and I believe that going somewhere totally new and out of your comfort zone is the best way to bond again.  And it is wonderful to bond while going on walking brewery tours....

These are some of the beer barrels at Wicked Weed Brewery, which was our favorite of all the breweries we toured.  They have a mango cumin saison that is a tall cold glass of heaven. 

Asheville was also great for just relaxing in nature.  It's a gorgeous place surrounded by mountains and loads and loads of greenery....

If you're in the southeast region, I would recommend it.   It's an amazing place and a great getaway for couples.

This brings me to a series I would like to add to periodically throughout the course of this blog: the Boy and Girl series, one that focuses on relationships.  What I love most about my home is sharing it with my husband, and I think everyone agrees that what makes a home special and important has far more to do with the relationships within the home rather than anything relating to design and architecture . 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Things I Love About My Home: Hampton Roads Local Businesses

This should probably have a subheading of "Hampton Roads Local Businesses #1", because it is a subject that undoubtedly will repeat.  As I've written about before, one of the reasons that we chose to live where we did was because we fell in love with the neighborhood and the community atmosphere, including the local businesses.  However, amazing shops and restaurants can be found throughout Hampton Roads.

One of my absolute favorite things to do on a lazy Saturday or Sunday is to get up early and drive from Norfolk to Suffolk for O'Doodle Doo's Donuts.  They are THE best.  They blow any other commercial doughnut shop out of the water.  The drive out to Suffolk is relaxing, as it takes me under the bay through the tunnel, through the countryside, and over the James River.  The shop has been open for just over two years and is always staffed with the NICEST people.  And they make flavors like Hot Mango (mango and cayenne pepper), Bacon and Blueberry Pancakes, Red Velvet, and Samoa.  I love supporting local businesses rather than a chain, but I have to admit that more than that, I love seeing this magic on my dining room table:

What local businesses do you LOVE?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Handbuilt Ceramics for the Home

When I was in college, I fell in love with ceramics.  It helped that I had a really, really cute professor.  That definitely made it easier to show up at the studio at 8:30 AM three days a week, ready to work for three hours.  These days, on my good days, I get to be the cute ceramics teacher.  Obviously, since I teach my students how to throw and handbuild, I have found a connection to ceramics beyond one college class. 

This year, I challenged myself to become more of a functional potter than an experimental student.  My challenge is to eventually create a full dish set for everyday use.  I have a beautiful set of Japanese china from the 1960s that I found in a thrift store, but I like the idea of having an everyday set of substantial dishes that are a bit more rustic.  Additionally, it follows the philosophy of creating or having my handiwork in nearly every aspect of my home.

Below are some of the ceramic pieces I've created.  I've tried to create everything in soft, neutral glazes that showcase the clay.  I find that there is something so cozy about eating out of a rustic, handbuilt bowl, plate, or mug.  Have you ever thought about how the aesthetics of your dishware affect your eating experience?  What do you prefer?