Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cane Chair Makeover

A while back, like before Christmas I think, I found this dated chair at Elizabeth's At Hanes Park antique store in Winston-Salem. I had recently seen some cane chair makeovers online, and was itching to get my hands on one myself. Never having upholstered anything other than pop-out dining room chair seats, I was ready to take it to the next level and learn a new skill.

Elizabeth's had two cane chairs that weren't matching, but done in the same colors, would look great together. They were $30 each, I think. I knew I had to leave with at least one of them. But should I buy both? I had this long debate in my head. It takes me a long time to make decisions, but at least I know I probably made the right one after such a lengthy deliberation.

It went something like this:

A cane chair!
Oooh, what potential!
I have to buy it.
Wait, there are two?
Which one do I like better?
What are you going to do with another chair?
You already have 11(including dining room chairs).
Where is this one going to go in a two room apartment?
It could replace the green upholstered rocker in the living room.
No, I love that chair and this one doesn't even move.
I guess I could fix it up and sell it. That could be fun.
What if I bought both?
What if I couldn't sell either and I end up $60 in the hole and two chairs I have no room for?
I'm not leaving empty handed.
I'll get one.
I'll get two.
No, just one. Start slowly. You don't even know if you can upholster.
But it's such a good deal!
We don't have $60 in the budget for chairs we don't need!
But I'm selling them! It'll be profit!
I drove the Passat. Two chairs won't fit.
Oh, I can make them fit.
Baby steps, Allison. Baby steps. There will be other chairs.
Ok fine, just the one chair.
I wonder what she'll take for it.

So, that's how I arrived at buying one chair, that barely did fit in the car. The whole debate took at least 30 minutes(Gita, you had a lot of patience waiting on me). The chair sat in my house for several months before I got around to looking at fabric. If I'll be selling this chair, the fabric needs to be something neutral that will go in the most houses. Even though I'd really like to do it in something blue and white. The frame will certainly be white. I just had to find the fabric that speaks to me.

I checked Mary Jo's Cloth Store(as mentioned on Young House Love). Yes, I'm a fan of this store, but I don't sing their praises quite like they did. The store is massive, and if you're looking for a specific, they are bound to have it. But, the fabric is piled on top of each other and if you want to see the one thats near the bottom you have about 300lbs of fabric bolts to move out of the way. So, if something catches my eye and it's on the bottom, I think, oh...too much trouble. And I move on. If you want just a tiny swatch as a sample, you have to pull the whole bolt out and they will cut the entire length of the fabric and charge you for that yardage(1/16). So, you could end up paying 60 cents to $1.50 for a long strip of fabric. That can add up. But before you get your samples cut, you have to find someone to cut it for you. That can be a problem. There never seems to be anyone working in the section I'm in, or there is one person at the cutting table with a line of people waiting to get their fabric cut. Then, if I have several samples I need, I feel bad trekking them all over the store to find and cut each piece when they are very busy. "Just one more, I promise!" And their prices aren't THAT cheap. I'm used to $7/yd fabric, and the cheapest you can find at Mary Jo's is $12(at least with upholstery weight). I always manage to find the most expensive one there is. The first fabric I liked was $25/yd! No thank you.

Next, I checked Tony's Fine Decor Fabrics in Huntersville, NC. They have a pretty big selection as well but it's all $7/yd and samples are free(up to 5 per visit). After that trip, I came home with this selection.

After a consult with my mom, I decided it really needed a pattern, so the first 3 were out. I also wanted something with a little texture to it. I really wanted blue, but that patterned one was a little too formal. So I settled on this one:

I wasn't in love. But I had looked and looked and was ready to move on with it. It wasn't for me, right? My mom came to visit and saw I had extra fabric from a previous project(antique vanity bench). "Can I have a swatch of that fabric? I think it would look great in my bedroom. If it goes, you could do the chair for me." Yes! I have a buyer! The fabric looked great in her room!

Ok, now comes the scary part: dis-assembly.
I took many pictures along the way, in case I couldn't remember how to put it back together.

After 3 coats of paint:

The stapling went pretty smoothly except for this one problem....

Because of the groove that the old staples were inlayed in, the staple gun could not make contact with the wood, unless I stapled it above or below the groove. But then I'd have nowhere to attach the piping and I'd have to switch to tacks. Boo. What I needed was a tool to hammer the staples in with. A screwdriver wasn't working because no matter where it was placed, it just make the staple buckle in the middle and not actually go into the wood.

Matt to the rescue! He whipped up this handy tool with the perfect tip on it.

No, I did not hammer it like this. I used my other hand as support, but it's kinda hard to take a picture when I don't have a third hand. It worked like a charm! And wasn't nearly as tedious as I thought it would be. It was actually kinda fun. Sure, it took a little longer, but I was doing it old school.

The corner is tucked and finished.

Since I wasn't adding buttons, like in the original chair, and the foam was still in good condition, I filled the button holes with some poly-fill and covered with batting. This was a great idea I got from another blogger who re-did a chair like this. I'm not sure if I wouldn't have thought of it.

Here is the finished product, trimmed, and with piping attached.

And here it is in it's new home. My parents bed is tan and blue. The chair looks right at home in there. Now it might be time for a new phone table. It's amazing the things that don't stand out to you until you are looking at a photograph. If only I had moved about 3 inches to the right, the outlet would not show in this picture.


  1. Nice work Allison!!! I also enjoyed the inner monologue, too funny! See you and Matt next week!

  2. I came across your post today and I am working on the same kind of project! Here is my post about it:

    What was the blog post that you used for instruction? I've done some basic upholstery too but I'm a little scared to do the piping!

  3. how did you get the nice trim on the edge?

  4. I made piping for it. I bought new cording that was the same size as the old (1/4 in. I think) and sewed the new fabric to it, using a zipper foot attachment. Trimmed the extra fabric, then glued it on. Gluing it on was actual one of the easiest parts of the whole project. I worked in 3 in. sections to make sure I got it on before the glue dried.

  5. Did you have to sand the wood, or did it just take to the paint? I'm thinking of buying a chair similar to that and was just wondering:)


  6. I did lightly sand the chair by hand. That probably only took about 10 minutes. Then wipe it down with a damp cloth or paper towel to get the dust off. Anytime you paint wood for the first time, that has a previous finish on it, it's important to sand lightly and prime unless you want it to chip off for a rustic, worn look.



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