Corner chair

This chair hails from one of my favorite salvage grounds: the storage complex.  People move out and throw away furniture that fails to pass the “effort required to load it on the truck” test.  Regrettably, the storage complex I used has stopped allowing people to discard their furniture, and so this particular well has gone dry.

Before it did, however, I pulled an odd chair and small table from the heap.  I’m not sure how old the chair is, though the black and white color scheme narrows things down a bit.  Black frame, white vinyl upholstery.  Sounds early 80s to me, although I was not well-sited to notice prevailing trends at the time.  The oddity comes from the frame design, which has a very narrow (10″) back and a light framework supporting the front of the chair.  It looks as if it was part of a dining room set.

Of course, being discarded, it had problems beyond any unfashionability, which I am not qualified to diagnose.  The vinyl was torn, and the lighter part of the frame was broken at several welds.  Oh, and it had been left in the rain.  Fortunately, the upholstery foam was synthetic and hence not immediately subject to rot, and the frame is steel.  Where there is metal, there is hope.

<several years pass>

I had a larger chair rehabilitation planned, and figured that this could prove to be useful practice, my last sewing project being a ball sewed in 8th grade “home economics” class.  I decided that my goal for the reupholstering of the chair was to avoid stabbing myself with a needle.  This is, I find, often a good goal.  Joann Fabrics yielded some good fake leather vinyl in the popular “banker’s green”.

When looking for new accommodations, I met a fellow who was trying to start a metalworking business.  I paid him to re-weld the frame, which fortunately was steel rather than aluminum (requiring TIG welding, which he could not do at the time).  This job was almost trivial for him, evidently.  It took him longer to find some bolts to hold it in place than it did to weld it and grind the slag off.  (As a note, it has been my experience that metalworking and fabrication businesses are generally not averse toward picking up half an hour’s labor time or so doing projects like this.)

Seat frame having finished the Tour de my car’s trunk, I needed to replace the upholstery.  The vinyl on the chair was cheap, torn, and dirty.  The foam, however, was fine, as were the wood backings for both the seat and back.  After 10 minutes with a flathead screwdriver and a set of pliers, the staples were removed.  I get the sense that this chair was not a high-buck item:

Yes, it is not quite symmetrical

Yes, it is not quite symmetrical

The minor water damage is evident.

The seatback:


One benefit to repairing things, rather than building them from scratch, is that disassembly yields information about how things should be put back together.  In this case, I was happy to realize that I could use the brain surgeon’s friend:



For the seatback, I could exclusively use what I think of as kinetic fasteners (staples and tacks).  Looming large in my mind, however,  was the knowledge that I would need to sew the corners together for the seat.  As previously noted, this is not something I am well-practiced at.  Trying to resist my usual impetuous modus operandi, I carefully thought about how to cut and sew the corners of the seat cushion.  Readers may be astonished to know that I even sewed together a few practice corners.  Measuring for the seat cushion took some time as I kept second-guessing myself.


After thinking about it, I used the seat’s wood backing as a template, and cut enough vinyl to wrap the top and sides of it.



I then realized that I had failed to take into account the depth of the foam; fortunately, I had presciently purchased more vinyl than I thought I needed.  Correctly sized piece of vinyl in hand, I tried to remember my 8th grade lessons.  All I could remember from that class was that you sew things inside out so as to keep the seams inside, and that peanut butter and chocolate taste good together.


The actual sewing proved anticlimactic, and, as a bonus, I did not stab myself.  At least not enough to draw blood.  I put the seat foam on top of the fabric, the seat board on top of that, and my knee on top of the board, to compress the foam enough to staple the fabric to the underside of the seat.  While difficult to photographically document, this worked well, especially when I started to cut notches in between the staples to stop the fabric from bunching up.


By comparison, the seatback was an exercise in patience rather than in mental work.  The structure of the frame hid the sides and ends of the board, so I could be less careful and still get away with it.


I eventually cut notches (“darts” in textile parlance) between the staples to avoid the wavy behaviour you see above.  The back of the seatback is visible through the frame, so I ended up using upholstery tacks to fit a panel of vinyl down the back.tacked-back

I replaced the black screws with brass for that classy look.  (It seems to me that the word “classy” does not itself sound classy.  Perhaps I should reconsider my use of it.)

As is evident in the above picture, the frame needs paint.  This is waiting on better weather.  Even without the paint, the chair looks pretty good, and is surprisingly comfortable, as the pad on the back fits neatly between one’s shoulder blades.


(Yes, the table on the right is the one salvaged alongside the chair.  Their proximity may be partially the result of  further anthropomorphization, I fear.)

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