work in progress: mid-century arm chair
Our condo is filled with family furniture – dining chairs from my maternal and paternal grandmothers, living room chairs from my maternal grandmother, my desk and Daniel’s desk from my parents, and the list goes on. Over Labor Day weekend, as I was catching up on some reading, I found myself wishing for a comfy chair next to the windows in the bedroom, where the light is especially wonderful in the morning. And since DIY projects are more exciting than research, I was immediately inspired: I knew the perfect chair was sitting in my grandmother’s storage room, just waiting for a little TLC.
My maternal grandmother bought this chair in the early 1960s from Ethan Allen. She passed it on to my mom, who used it in the apartment she and my dad lived in while he was in law school. (That’s the “then” picture above!) Dad studied for hours in that chair, with a lap desk for his books resting on the chair arms. The chair cushions were later recovered in their current neutral fabric, but for most of my memory, the chair – along with its matching loveseat – was in my late grandfather’s workroom, which is now my grandmother’s storage room. My sweet grandmother was happy to pass it on (again), and my sweet parents picked it up and brought it down to me that Labor Day weekend. Thus the DIY project began.
The chair upon arrival:
I absolutely love the mid-century-meets-early-American details, especially in the arms. The skirt was ripped, the finish was worn, and the legs had water damage – but the chair itself was sturdy and the cushions were firm (if a little musty). Daniel helped me remove the skirt and several layers of staples, and he got me started sanding off the finish – first with an electric palm sander, then with a foam sanding block.
There were just a few spots on the cushions, so I made a foam solution with water and dish soap to rub out the spots. I sprayed a tried-and-true mixture of vodka and water to help neutralize the musty smell.
By the end of Labor Day weekend, the chair was nearly done. I loved the way the wood looked with the finish removed, and I nearly finished all the sanding, save for the tricky detailing on the arms. I told myself I’d finish sanding the next weekend, but, instead, I sat in the chair – which I furnished with a super-soft throw – and got some research reading done. Two and a half months later, the sanding still isn’t quite done, but I have been enjoying the chair. And the sanding will get done over winter break, I’ve decided. (No excuses!)
I can’t imagine decorating without the eclectic blend of mid-century, handmade, and early American pieces my family members have passed on to me. Most of all, I love the stories and the people each piece represents. Here’s to keeping furniture in the family!
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