Monthly Archives: February 2017

Restoration woman – bring out your tat…

It’s been a while. I should have known how all-encompassing starting a business would be, I suppose. And the last couple of years have left little time for anything much. Certainly not writing the novel…

But I did manage to get a restoration project done. Before, my chair looked like this:

a rather sad-looking chair

a rather sad-looking chair

Let’s be straight here. It had looked like this for about forever. I acquired it in 1998, when I bought my first flat. Flat? A single-room studio in West Kensington (aka the border between Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush), and I loved it. It was small, needed furniture to match, and Mum came up with the goods. This chair had a saggy old cover on it (comes to us all with age), so I made a black faux-suede one. After 15 or so years being ravaged by cat claws that, too, was looking rather sorry for itself. So it was back to basics for the chair.

Several YouTube video tutorials later, armed with a small hammer, pliers and screwdriver I went to work. Taking off the old fabric from the top layer to the bottom, keeping everything in the order it came off (so I’d know the order to put new bits back on) and photographing the complicated bits.

If this is starting to sounds as though I knew what I was doing….Let me tell you something the YouTube videos didn’t mention. Probably because they assumed it was obvious. FOR PITY’S SAKE DO THAT PART OUTSIDE.

Under the top layer was what had originally been red velvet. It crumbled to a rusty dust as soon as I uncovered it. Then there was the ancient horsehair stuffing. Great stuff. Natural fibres, traditional material, naturally fire-resistant…irresistible to mice.

After lying undisturbed for, let’s say fifty years, the dust came out of it in piles. One pile was the exact size and shape of a dead rodent. The Dyson needed emptying four times. The last time I got that grubby I was building a patio in the rain.

Thankfully the springs and webbing were all still intact, so once the old fabric was off it was fairly straightforward. Worked my way in reverse, using the old fabric bits as patterns to cut from. The shaped and padded sides were a bit complicated, but I got there in the end.
And here’s the final result:

glamorous new chair

glamorous new chair

The cost?
About 8 hours of my time, plus
• A sore thumb
• A very grubby filter on the Dyson
• Upholstery tacks £3.99
• Hessian (for the base) £2.50
• Calico £0.00 (I must have paid for it at some point, but had enough knocking about in my fabric box)
• Fabric £3.50 (I found it in a charity shop, and there was just enough)
I know for a fact that a professional upholsterer would have done a better job. It’s by no means perfect. But doing it myself, and learning, was part of the point.

The rewards?
• A huge sense of satisfaction
• A beautiful old piece of furniture (it’s late 19th /early 20th century, I think) brought back to life
• A new hobby…?
Why does restoration and upcycling make us happy? What is that is so rewarding? Why do some people see tat and others find treasure?

Sometimes it’s the ability to bag a bargain. Transforming something a bit unloved into a thing of beauty and purpose again is enormously satisfying in our throw-away world. Not to mention ending up with something unique for next to nothing.

So first, the next project was to turn this into a thing of beauty:

I picked this up in Bexhill-on-Sea. Wait 'til you see inside.

I picked this up in Bexhill-on-Sea. Wait ’til you see inside.

When I got it home, the reaction was “please tell me you didn’t part with money for that?” Just you wait and see.

Restoration Woman, coming soon to a piece of old tat near you.

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