Silver Leaf Vanity Chair
April 13, 2011
I finally finished up a chair makeover I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile. I found this one at a thrift store last year and I bought it specifically for the vanity in my bathroom. I loved the curve of the legs and the size was perfect, but the fabric? No thank you. It was dingy and stinky so the entire chair definitely needed to be reupholstered. For this piece, I had some fun adding a glamorous feel with a silver leaf finish on the legs, plus I replaced the foam and fabric with a modern geometric.
Here’s what it looked like last week.
I went back and forth deciding whether to add some tufting with fabric covered buttons, but decided with the glitzy silver leaf and the swirling detail on this Annie Selke Pearls Slate fabric, to skip the tufting this time.
I find the best way to understand how to reupholster a chair is to analyze the original upholstery job. This particular chair was a hint more complicated because of the necessity of tacking strips along the back of the chair.
For those who don’t know what they are, tacking strips are a tool used by professionals to create a clean edge with fabric where there is a visible seam. You can find them in fabric stores or order them online too.
Stripping an old upholstered piece is time consuming and an icky job. There are always a zillion tacks and staples to pull, and you’ll often find the foam and old batting underneath is disintegrated. Ewww.
It took me an hour to get it down to this frame. The springs were in great shape so I left them intact, then gave the visible parts of the frame and the legs a coat of spray gray primer, which is a great base if you’re planning to silver leaf a piece.
You get a subtle crinkly texture with silver leaf, but it is a pain in the patootie to apply. I followed the same method as with this silver leaf lamp. However, with the chair, I couldn’t get the silver leaf to settle in the ridges very well, plus it was shinier than I really wanted, so I used some ‘Silver Leaf’ Rub ‘n Buff over the top to tone down the reflection a bit and fill in the ridges.
Then I protected it with my new favorite: wipe on water based Varathane Polyurethane in ‘Satin’. I found it at OSH and it’s so easy to use. Wipe a small amount on a rag, then wipe the protectant on your piece, easy peasy.
The combo of the three led to this finish.
Gray primer + silver spray paint could achieve a similar look, but the‘Silver Leaf’ Rub ‘n Buff creates a muted, hand rubbed sheen that’s so pretty. Once the legs and frame were covered in the silver, I reupholstered the chair with new foam and batting.
As an alternative, I could have sewn a slipcover for the top, then tacked it underneath, but I thought this chair was a great opportunity to practice some more with tacking strips. If I was going to tuft the chair with fabric covered buttons like this headboard, it would be right at this stage (creating a hole in that batting of course).
You can see in the ‘Before’ how the original tufting occurred by pulling the buttons with twine and securing them to the wood frame before sealing the back of the chair with tack strips.
To close up the back of the chair, I chose flexible metal tacking strips, also called flexible curve ease, with metal teeth. I found this metal tacking strip at Beacon Fabrics for about $1.50 a yard.
With needle nose pliers and a hammer, you attach the strip with 3/4 inch nails (or upholstery tacks). Then you wedge your fabric inside the metal teeth, then fold the teeth over for a clean seam, hammering it closed with a mallet.
Finally, I had to hide the stapled edges around the legs. When hiding stapled edges, you basically have three choices. 1) Sew your own double welt cord, 2) Hide the staples with gimp, or 3) Cover them with nailhead trim.
In this case, I chose pewter nailhead trim to complement the silver leaf finish. To apply nailhead trim, hold them individually in place with needle nose pliers, then use a mallet (not a hammer) to gently pound them into the chair.
This thrift store chair now sits in my master bathroom. Of course this type of gilding isn’t for everyone, but I do like how it adds a touch of Old Hollywood glamour.