Posts Tagged ‘before & after’

Before & After: Basic Leather Chair



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I’ve had this seat for *gosh* nearly 3 years. It’s been patiently awaiting a loving touch in the corner of my studio. For the life of me I can’t find a before picture, but it’s not too terribly hard to imagine: dark oak legs and a 70s poo brown tweed cover over the seat cushions. It’s a simple silhouette. And for being so old and well-used (it was formerly a chair on BYU campus), it was in fabulous condition. A few scuffs and scrapes on the legs and a whole lot of dust.


Sitting on it was a dusty, scratchy experience. I felt like it could be easily elevated out of its sad state with a little bit of paint and leather. Unfortunately for everyone, it took a year to attack the upholstery once I started to take it apart.


It wasn’t that the upholstery work was terribly difficult. In fact, once I started the job, it wasn’t hard at all. The square shape of the upholstery made drafting up a pattern for the new cover super easy. And it didn’t take up a ton of material either. I don’t think I had more than 1/4th of a hide here and I had just enough to cover the entire thing.


The hardest part about the upholstery job was that Felix put a bolt inside one of the holes sideways (how he got it in there, I have no idea) so I spent a good hour working on getting it out.

I split a small part of the wood getting the legs on (see the above pic), but overall, it came together quite nicely. Putting the back panel of leather on was the most terrifying thing because I had to measure so precisely, account for the stretch of leather and use the most deadly upholstery tacks to nail into the frame so there are no raw edges. I’m sure those tacks were meant to go only through fabric, so it was a bit tough to get them to go through 2, sometimes 4, layers of 2 oz. leather.


Overall, I’m pleased with how it turned out. I think it looks nicely finished, and guests aren’t afraid to sit in the chair anymore! It also adds a lot of lightness to that corner of our living/family room. The old chair blended right in to the dark wood flooring.


Materials used:

Here’s a run-down of the process:

I took off the legs, measured the seat and drafted up flat paper patterns of the seat. I used a 5/8 seam allowance and made sure to write out the SA on every pattern piece.

After the patterns were done and checked against the existing chair, I cut out the leather. Since there were a lot of squares, each pattern piece was labeled and the leather was clipped to the pattern pieces until I sewed them so I could leave and come back to the project and know what pieces were sewed together and where.

From there, I got a bit freaked out about the sewing aspect of it all and switched to finishing the legs.

I used BB Frösch chalk paint for the legs, which was a huge time saver. No sanding or priming required. Just paint and go! The matte finish is pretty great, too. It makes me wish this had been around when we did our rocking chair eeons ago!

After I got the legs done, I (with the help of my intern last year) removed the prior upholstery. I wish we had done this outside because dust, old fabric fibers and countless number of staples just sprinkled my studio floor for weeks. Even now I still find a random staple. This chair had hundreds of hundreds of staples keeping the material on the frame! The dusty fabric made my studio smell horribly for days.

I sewed up the seams on the sides of each section (the top and bottom cushions are two separate pieces) and fit the leather on. I didn’t have to make any adjustments to the fit, thankfully, but I realized I needed to reinforce the ends of the seams so that they wouldn’t come undone. I grabbed my waxed linen thread for that and sewed up those ends for strength. Once I got the top and bottom cushions done, I affixed the legs, attached the back portion and then covered the bottom. I cleaned everything up and conditioned with leather conditioner and voila! It took me several months to complete it, but if I had worked continuously on the project, it wouldn’t have taken me longer than a Saturday morning and afternoon. I just got nervous about each step so I would take long breaks.



So there you have it! Read more for details on the living room!


Before & After: Leather Photo Stool


This was the easiest thing I did all week. If you have a similar stool, you might find the same to be true.


I bought this stool from a neighbor for $10. Chris has wanted a stool for playing the guitar, but we haven’t wanted to invest anything yet. When a neighbor posted that she was getting rid of it, I quickly snatched it up.

Chris was disgusted at the initial appearance of the stool. It had been well loved, the cushion was severely cracked and it had a layer of dust on top. All of the working parts moved smoothly, so it was just a matter of a simple face-lift. I’ve recovered a few stools in my day (1, 2), so I knew I could get it done in about 10 minutes. 15 minutes if you count stopping and taking pictures along the way.


I already had the foam, leather and staples on-hand, so it was just a matter of finding 10 minutes to dedicate to finishing it off. I cut a rough circle of memory foam. I wasn’t perfect about it because I knew I was going to smash the heck out of it anyway.


Leather has some stretchy properties, so I only measured an extra 3 inches around the sides for the leather and cut.


Not doing anything to the existing padding, I piled on the new padding and leather and started to staple it down.


It’s crucial to staple along opposite ends, first. Dividing the circle into quarters, then dividing again, and again, working all the way around switching off between stapling down horizontals and verticals.


I ended up stapling all the way around using very little spacing between staples to keep the leather from pleating around the edges.


Chris was impressed with the final piece, excited to practice his chords on it. But I’ve been using it in my studio for extra seating and animated gifs. It’s such a useful little piece in our home.


Don’t you just love it when you find something with such great potential and it ends up being an easy fix?

Zero Budget Project: Upholstered Stools


I’ve had these stools stacked up just taking up precious floor real estate for three months. If I want to do anything, I have to move these out of the way. So in my attempt to really clean out my studio, I knew I needed to actually finish this project.

I messed up a few times, but overall it didn’t take too terribly long to upholster these stools.  And figuring out the dimensions for the fabric was really quite easy. Particularly since I did the pleating on the top.

I haven’t quite decided where I’m going to put these newly awesome stools. I think they’ll tend to float, because they’re perfect for additional seating for parties, etc. They would look nice in our bay window in our Master Bedroom. I’ve got to get about 16 paintings out of the way before they can hang out there, though.

This project cost me less than $1 to make (hence the Zero Budget categorization). The fabric was $2 for 3+ yards and I used less than 1 yard to make this. Chris’s brother was about to donate a perfectly good memory foam mattress topper, so I used the foam from that. Since it is memory foam, these cushions feel quite nice. I’m really happy about the transformation, but I’m not sure how Chris feels about it. He mentioned that the floral was a bit girly. Maybe so. But I think they’re pretty rad. Read more for instructions on how to make your own.


Before & After: Rocking Chair


Chris and I made over this chair years ago. We found it at a second hand store in San Mateo for $30 and was clearly in need of some TLC. The previous owner had tried to make it over with a half-hearted effort and a can of black spray paint.

This was our first rework with paint remover and a tinted stain, and it took somewhere around 30 hours to rework. The spindles were definitely the hardest. Perhaps that explains why I went for a dresser with such clean lines.

This rocking chair looks worlds better with its new stain, and since we did it right the first time, the finish has lasted 5 moves! This is exactly why taking an extra hour (or 20) makes a huge difference when reworking furniture.

Zero Budget Project: The Dresser


I finished the dresser. It’s been nearly a year and a half since I bought it with the intention of revamping it. I knew if I wanted to get it done, I had to do it before the cold set in and I’d only be motivated to cuddle in blankets and drink a cup of hot abuelita (I’m hooked thanks to Celeste).

This dresser was originally going to be stained yellow like my rocking chair, but I kept feeling a nagging feeling that I’d be falling back on a crutch. I tend to fall into color ruts from time to time. In high school it was burgundy and navy. In college it was red and black. When I first got married, it was just black and tan. When we moved to Utah, it was yellow and black. Then it moved to yellow and orange.

Picking this color was a huge risk, because the guy behind the paint counter just mixed a bunch of colors and I went for it. There were no samples to go by (besides the paint stick he stained). I knew the wood on the dresser would take the stain differently because it’s not pine. It’s a veneered redwood or something warm like that. Maybe cherry?

I’m glad I went for the stain as opposed to an opaque paint, because the color and grain of the wood really shows trough to add a lot of dimension to this piece.

Also, I never consulted Chris on this color. I knew I was taking on a big risk by not asking him what he thought. While I was mid-job, he rolled in from work and I got more than a bit nervous for his reaction. Turns out he loves it! Bullet dodged. I do need to be better about communicating my home decor plans with him, though. He, too, bought this house.

Chris lets me use this dresser just for my clothes. He’s really nice about that. Atop the dresser I have a little ikea runner I made (fabric I scored for $1 a yard at a garage sale) to protect the finish from my accessories. My accessories are stored in Spice of Life jars and on an old 1950s lunch tray.

I’m proud of how this dresser turned out. Now I need to get our bed situation figured out. It looks like we’re going to buy a new bed for our room soon. And I want to make my first quilt for our room, too.

So have you ever stained wood a color before? I definitely think I’ll be doing that again with any other wood rehab projects I work on in the future.

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