After such an enthusiastic response to A Stylish Secretary Makeover, in which I updated an old secretary with mirrored doors and a fresh coat of paint, I thought I'd dig up the "before" shots of a few more pieces in our apartment. Last winter, Jaithan and I were doing our usual Saturday morning run through the Chelsea flea market when a couple of chairs caught my eye.
The style is psuedo-classical revival, probably from the 40s, and while they're not fine antiques, they're built well and we both really liked their shape. The price was great too: $80 for the pair. Plus, I love a Greek key! It's a little trendy right now, so I much prefer buying vintage. What I didn't love was the fabric, a scary Southwestern ikat print in seafoam green and mauve. The wood tone wasn't my favorite either. When it comes to furniture, all wood is not created equal, especially when it's oak veneer, and this would definitely have to go. As If the fabric and finish weren't bad enough, the backs of the chairs had been embellished with tiny brass spindles, just to chochkee them up!
As soon as we got back to the apartment, I couldn't have unscrewed those spindles fast enough! They already looked so much better, I just decided to keep going. A quick trip to the hardware store around the corner, together with paint and fabric left over from another project, and I had all the supplies I'd need: a dremel tool (a great investment), wood filler, steel wool, a scissors and staple gun. The foam and batting on the seats were still in great condition, so all they'd need is a couple of coats of paint and some fabric. This makeover anyone can do, I promise!
First, I filled the holes that had been left by the spindles with wood filler and let them dry. To prep the wood, I sanded it all down with steel wool, then used the dremel for the more intricate parts around the Greek key. For the paint, I used my favorite gray (Brompton from Ralph Lauren). I love painting furniture the same color as the walls; I think there's a certain quiet sophistication about it. Two coats later (with time to dry between each) and the oak veneer was gone. All that remained was the fabric. First, I simply lifted the seat out of its frame, then cut a piece to size (with extra all around). I used a beautiful gray velvet from Stroheim & Romann, though these days, a lot of online stores, like House Fabric and Calico Corners, carry good options as well. Next, I pulled the fabric tight over the seat, just as is, stapled it in place, then used a scissors to trim. Out with the oak, in with the chic!
Now as much as I love using color, especially when I'm entertaining, I much prefer to live with a quieter palette. I think there's an understated elegance to the mix of grays, and now that the chairs are finished, they're the perfect compliment to the Greek column fireplace mantel in our living room, another flea market find I made over with mirror. But the best part is how expensive they look. Certainly a lot more than what I paid. All it takes is a little imagination, courage and a coat of paint!