Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No fear, sit here

I have four very old oak dining room chairs.  When I was first married and living in San Jose, about thirty years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a charming vintage oak dining room table with spiral legs and two cunning little extensions.  Someone had given it to her but she didn't want it, and I did.  Match made in heaven.  Unfortunately, when you sit at the table you can't cross your legs because it has some kind of fascia-board around the top (to hide the extensions, I suppose); but that's a small thing.  Anyway, all I had were some metal-and-vinyl chairs from the now defunct Ski's Royal Furniture in Campbell which was a delightful emporium of new, old, and peculiar items at rock-bottom prices.  But my lovely little table deserved better dinner companions, and one day we saw four chairs for sale in someone's driveway.  I'm so good at this.


The original chair seats were covered in leather so scrofulous that if you sat on one you'd shed brown leather flakes for the rest of the day.  I must have imagined that someday I'd have a blog where I occasionally posted my thrifty DIY projects, so I scraped off the original cotton-and-horsehair padding underneath, which, although repulsive to look at, was not terrible to sit on [when covered], and re-used it.  The seat bottoms were saggy and creaky woven slats so I convinced my husband to make four new plywood ones.  I hadn't discovered yet that he was no good at being married, but he could sure cut shapes out of plywood.

Mister Carson thinks everything in the house is just fabulous

On top of that, I stapled forest green chenille (it was 1980), which proceeded to absorb the sticky spills and greasy drips of thirty years of  dining with children.  Somewhere along the line I stopped looking at them altogether because they were so intensely gross.  The chairs, not the children.

From left: Vile seat cover; disgusting padding; serviceable seat bottom; very old cat.

On Veterans Day, JoAnn had a great 50% off sale, so I bought some bouncy new 2" foam and two yards of dark brown leatherette that we used to call Naugahyde.  It was simple to cut four seat-size foam shapes, and that lulled us into thinking the whole project would be a snap.  The old padding was mostly flat and last time I reupholstered the seats, it was almost effortless. (Or maybe it was hard and I've just forgotten.)

The easy part.

At first Lillian and I pretended that I could do this by myself.
After we stopped laughing, she held everything while I stapled.
Thank you to everyone who offered instructions on how to properly miter corners.
With all due respect, you are wrong.

Lillian and I struggled with my big staple gun which, although a useful and powerful tool, is unwieldy at best and aggressive to boot. (Hello, it's a gun.) The foam was quite springy and hard to press down enough to evenly attach the leatherette, and folding down the corners nearly made me cry,  but I did it when I was a clueless twenty-something and by God,  I would do it now. If you are wondering, I didn't use a layer of batting, since the chair seats drop into a little tray area on the chair's frame, and batting would make them too thick to fit.  For the type of seat that screws atop the frame, batting is recommended to soften the sharp edge of the plywood.  I also might drill a few holes in the plywood so that the air can poof out when someone first sits down.  The leatherette prevents poofing, so it's a bit like sitting on an exercise ball.

I'm surprised we finished all four chairs with our fingers intact.  (Well, I did get a few painful snags from all the wretched staples I pried out, but I've had a recent tetanus shot, so don't you worry about me contracting lockjaw.)  The next day my wrists were so wobbly I could barely lift my coffee cup.

Mister Carson fearlessly sitting upon a newly reupholstered chair.

I still need to refinish the table and chairs, but they look markedly better, and anyone may safely and cheerfully sit on them.  I think next we'll tackle the head-and-footboard  lurking in my garage.


  1. That choice of upholstery looks SO GOOD!
    And yes, staple guns are kind of hard to manage.

  2. You have awesome skills. And Lillian, of course. :-)

  3. A few years ago I had the task of recovering our kitchen chairs. It was definitely harder in real life than the concept was. Bravo to you for doing a great job, even with cats around to supervise. A rivet gun is exhausting to use!