In this post: Sometimes the best way to afford a quality vintage French chair is to buy one that’s tattered and transform it with reupholstery.⇒
This chair actually sat in my house like this for several years.
Well, at the beginning, it wasn’t this bad. I don’t remember exactly how long ago I found the chair and while it wasn’t quite the wreck you see above, it was clearly tattered and from the start the plan was to rework the chair.
I found it at an antique market and paid next to nothing for it. It had lovely lines and I knew instinctively the best way to attain the look that I wanted at the price I was willing to pay was to reupholster a vintage French chair.
It sat in a corner of the family room for way longer than I ever intended, with a soft throw covering the offending bits. But the chair was by the window and my dog loved to perch himself on it to look outside, and while he was there, he would pull at the innards until it really was in shreds.
The thing was, I couldn’t decide what fabric I wanted to cover it with since I wasn’t sure where I wanted to keep it and I knew very little about chair reupholstery.
As with many things like that, I managed to ignore it despite the fact that it was the only thing in the room that wasn’t finished. When we moved into our new house not long ago, I finally decided it was time to address the chair.
I decided to go neutral for maximum flexibility and chose a tonal jacquard fabric from Ralph Lauren’s Home Collection.
Then I packed up my sad looking chair and took it to a local re-upholsterer. When I dropped it off by his ‘seen-better-days’ garage, it looked like that was exactly where it belonged.
So imagine my delight when I picked up my chair! I had worried that the light fabric might not work with the dark wood, and then worried more than it wasn’t light enough. In the end it was exactly what I was hoping for… ?
I considered painting the dark wood a lighter tone (and may yet still do that in the future), but the chair was going into a bedroom that my son uses when he stays with us and the dark wood helped keep it looking a little less feminine.
The chair has really beautiful detail with curves and carvings and nailhead trim. The lines would work wonderfully with an antiqued paint treatment, but I plan to live with it a while before making that decision.
The wall hangings in this room add interest to it and are a bit more complex than a simple piece of art. I went with a chippy painted shelf beneath a small bold mirror with mercury glass bottles featuring distressed labeling.
My intention to go neutral kept in mind the patterns that could be added to merge the chair into the decor of the room. Here I’ve draped an animal print throw with a super soft feel, but it could also look great with a tweed pillow. The room revolves around a khaki palette and includes pieces with an aged look.
In keeping with that theme, the shelf displays a few vintage leather bound books.
Flanking the mirror are two tiny watercolors that I picked up in San Gimignano in Italy.
You can catch a peek at the subtle floral on the comforter and drapery panels, a favorite pattern of mine that works beautifully with menswear tweeds. If my son was living here I’d likely consider it too feminine, but as his guest quarters, it’s actually just fine. (It’s far less feminine than the floral my hubby sleeps under!)
Bedding is one of the easiest things to change in a room, and something I do quite often, so the space will likely see many different iterations over the next little while.
So what do you think about painting the chair? I know people have very strong opinions about painting wood. Where do you stand on that and do you think it would work well for this particular piece?
I’ve been looking for my next project for refinishing furniture.
Is this the one?
Vintage French Chair Resource List
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.
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