As we shared last week, one of our scores at the Brimfield Antique Show was this pair of awesome mid-century chairs:
I really only need one (for the living room), but the seller was offering a discount for two (one for $75 or both for $120) so we decided to take both with the thought that I’ll keep one and we’ll sell the other one. Besides having great lines, being the perfect color for my house, and costing a very reasonable sum for such solid pieces, they also have a cool backstory: the seller bought ninety of them from a hotel that was closing for about $23 a pop, and has been reselling them like gangbusters. Even for the low price he gave us, that’s a pretty tidy profit!
They weren’t 100% ready to sell or plunk down in the living room yet, though — they both needed some new strapping and some sprucing up. This past weekend, I set up shop in the sunroom and got to work.
First, I took the cushions of both chairs. As you can see, the straps were sagging pretty badly (except the three new straps on the right chair, which the seller had put on), so the first step was replacing them.
I bought a roll of 2″ webbing (affiliate link – read our policies) which was $17 for 25 yards on Amazon when I bought it. Webbing comes in all different widths, so if you’re attempting a project like this be sure to determine the width you need by just measuring the webbing you’re replacing.
I flipped the first chair over to see how the seat was attached to the frame, and determined that it was just a matter of unscrewing five screws. Nice and easy.
The straps were attached to the seat with staples, so once I got the seat off I used a screwdriver to pry off all the straps, plus needle-nosed pliers to pull out the staples.
That left me with a gross pile of old straps and staples, and a lovely seat.
To attach new straps, I just cut the lengths I needed, stretched each one across the frame in the same places where the previous straps had been, and used a staple gun to fasten them to the seat.
Each time I stapled one end of the strap and then pulled the other one as tight as possible before stapling. I also made sure to weave them over-under with one another.
The front of each seat had slits that the straps went through, so that the straps wouldn’t be visible wrapping around the front.
Prying out all the staples took a fair amount of time, but there wasn’t anything difficult about this. If you come across a chair that just needs some new webbing, don’t be daunted! Just be sure to peek under the chair to see how the seat is attached to the frame and make sure it looks like something you can easily deal with.
Next was reviving the wood with some polish and wax. The chairs are in pretty good condition and the wood is very solid, but there are definitely some worn spots and plenty of little dings.
Having seen Naomi transform a number of furniture pieces with Howard Restor-a-finish and Feed n’ Wax (like the drawers in her dressing room and her butchers twine cane chair), I knew I wanted to give them a go. I picked up my supplies at Home Depot, and grabbed the “mahogany” tone of the Restor-a-finish as this seemed like the closest match to the original wood.
This is a pretty easy and very satisfying process, though it does take some time — especially with these chairs, which have a lot of surfaces and joints. I started by using a cloth to liberally rub the Restor-a-finish over every surface, using a fingernail to push the cloth into each crevice and joint. It was amazing watching the wood come back to life — little imperfections disappeared, and the chairs developed such a rich luster.
Per the directions, I let that dry for about 30 minutes, and then followed up with the Feed n’ Wax. I applied a generous coat of this over all surfaces using a cloth, let it sit for 20 minutes, and then wiped away the excess with a fresh cloth. This part of the transformation isn’t as striking, but it helps maintain the Restor-a-finish over time.
Now just like Naomi, I am totally sold on these products. The difference is amazing in person, but these photos capture it a little bit:
Of course it doesn’t magically eliminate all the heavy wear on the chair arms (I’d need to sand and stain), but it does such a great job of bringing out the natural beauty of the wood, creating a lovely shine and fixing all the more minor dings and scratches.
After letting the chairs sit overnight in the sunroom, I brought one back into the living room, popped on the cushions, and voila!
I love how it looks with the yellow chair — the legs are strikingly similar and they relate to one another in style (both mid-century, both low slung), but they’re very different and don’t look too matchy.
And one more sans cushions, to show off the new webbing:
I’m in the middle of one more change to that side of the living room that I plan to share next week, which I think will round out the space nicely.
Oh and one last thing: you may have been reading this post thinking, “Sage, your photography is looking even better than usual!” That’s because Naomi gave me this beautiful new camera strap as a post-marathon gift:
Now you may be thinking, “But Sage, a camera strap has nothing to do with the quality of the photos taken, and also I don’t think there’s any such thing as a post-marathon gift.” Wrong on both counts — the beauty of the camera has inspired me to new artistic heights, and Naomi is trendsetter (and an awesome friend).