Before and After: A Decades-Old Chair Gets a Loving $18 Makeover

published Jun 15, 2021
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Parents’ (and grandparents’) houses can be treasure troves for finding unused old furniture in the basement or cool vintage gadgets in the garage to bring to your own space and put your own twist on.

Take this piece, which DIYer Heather Malloy rescued from a friend’s parents’ house. It just was sitting in a garage for decades, she says, and its sturdiness, comfort, and overall coolness made it ripe for reupholstery.

“I rescued it literally off the wood pile” she says. “The chair was destined for a fire.”

Because it matched with the style of her own house, Heather wanted to give it a chance for a second life.

“It looks like it came from an old office building in Chicago, originally,” Heather says of its petite-but-utilitarian square shape and fluted legs, and as she describes on Instagram, it became a little lunch break project complete in less than an hour, for less than $20.

First, she removed the seat and thoroughly cleaned the frame, and she was surprised by how polished it looked after her cleanup. “I was originally thinking to paint the entire chair, but after cleaning it up, it looked so good, I couldn’t do it,” she says.

But she did want to switch up the fabric from the existing stripes and stains, so she very carefully removed the seat fabric, making sure to save the tiny upholstery tacks. (Though future reupholsterers could always pre-plan and get new ones if needed, she says.)

“The cushion was in good condition, as was the seat platform, so I reused them and simply recovered the cushion and seat platform,” Heather says. She selected an $18 fabric (her only expense for the project), in a fun and fitting mid-century modern TV pattern made by Ambesonne.

“I love the lines of the chair and how the new fabric suits the era and the style of both the chair and my home, which is mostly decorated with mid-century vintage furniture,” she says.

Her favorite part of the project? “That I even attempted it,” she says. “This was really a newbie ‘get your feet wet’ type of project where the actual complexity and costs were minimal, but the result was all out of proportion to that time and effort.”