We never did give you a good look at the finished birthday armchair.  So, on this dreadfully hot day (40 degrees celsius – ugh!), since we were going that way, we decided to take the armchair back to its site of adoption for a wee photo shoot.

Yep, here we are – on the nature strip of Dandenong Road / Princes Highway.  Miles from the city.  Where the trucks roar past and the view is bleak.  (No girl children or crazy mamas were endangered at any time during this photo shoot – we were parked in the parallel, one-way, dead-end service street.)

This is one of my favourite hard rubbish finds (I always say that, don’t I!).  Despite it’s rather hideous dark olive green vinyl cover, it was in beautiful condition when I picked it up.  It had clearly been very well made.  Once the original vinyl was off, the materials and workmanship underneath were impeccable and thus, very easy to work with.   I saved the original metal label and reattached it when I was finished – Van Treight – furniture of distinction – gorgeous!  I think they were based in Sydney – the label on the bottom declares this to be a Visitor’s Chair.

I did an upholstery course when Abby was a toddler.  Every Saturday morning, for a whole year, I traipsed along to a local trade college where I rebuilt a genoa armchair (one of those armchairs from the 1930s with hugely fat, rounded arms).  With the help of a marvellous tutor – Ian, a retired master upholsterer – I learnt how to sew in springs, put in webbing, build an arm, seat and back with the traditional layers of material, make my own piping and attach it, button backs, to upholster first a “petticoat” of calico, then the special fabric on top.

I learnt that you can NEVER pull the fabric too tightly.  That I always left too much fabric behind when I attached a piece – Ian would hack it back without mercy.  That if you can’t see it, use scraps of whatever happens to be laying around – thrift is the name of the game.  That if you start with a sow’s ear, you will end up with a sow’s ear no matter how much effort and money you put in. And tack, tack, tack, tack, tack … and then tack some more.  We had air pressured staple guns – woot! Were they empowering or what!  I really loved the course, and whilst I know I don’t have the skills, expertise or experience to pull off something like a genoa by myself, the more I have practiced over the years, and the more I push myself, the better I get.  Every piece of fabric I cut or staple, I can see Ian standing beside me, exhorting me to do better, try harder.  He was awesome.

It is such a comfy chair – it sits in Abby’s room, under her window.  She spends hours sitting in it, reading or drawing.  Often, at night,  it becomes Julian’s or my chair, we sit beside her before she falls asleep and she tells as all about her day, or the latest book she’s read, or anime she’s found, or drawing she’s finished.  Or we read – sometimes aloud, sometimes parent and child just reading their own thing in companionable silence.

As for cost – the fabric was reduced to $5 a metre at Spotlight and I only used two – what a find!  The tacks were less than $5.  A new cushion for the seat (the old had DEFINITELY been peed on) was about $40 – I bought a really good quality upholstery/memory foam from Clarke Rubber which the young man meticulously cut in the required wedge shape. The rest of the supplies were things we had around the house – thrifted blanket for the petticoat – gives it such a smooth finish – staples, covered buttons, red flannel, strong crochet yarn, and a random piece of cardboard to give the top edge at the back a lovely sharp line.

An absolute gem – and a much loved birthday present.  One that I hope Abby will enjoy for years and years and years to come.

Oh, I do so love hard rubbish!  Such a shame there were none of our birthday chair’s relations there today! (Julian’s wiping his brow with relief :-)

the thrifted birthday armchair
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3 thoughts on “the thrifted birthday armchair

  • January 4, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Just look at that chair!!!! it’s smiling!

  • January 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Hi Lily,
    Congratulations on a wonderful chair. It’s just perfect, so happy and I love the colours. I bet Abby is thrilled with it. Bet you keep looking out for another!
    Best Wishes

  • January 7, 2013 at 7:06 am

    So glad you shared the finished result, I’ve been waiting! And it looks brilliant. You make everything look so easy, so I was happy to read you’ve gone the distance with upholstery tuition!

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