Category Archives: Decorating

Arts and Crafts Dining Chairs Get a Wild Makeover

Earlier this year, we bought six antique quarter sawn oak dining chairs and an antique oak dining table at a moving sale.

We have not been able to attribute the chairs to a particular manufacturer, but as close as we can tell they are a fine example from the Arts and Crafts Movement that influenced design from around 1880 until 1910.

This movement was a reaction to the decorative excesses and the mass production of Victorian furniture and décor.  The Arts and Crafts Movement featured simple, honest designs and focused on the quality of the materials and the workmanship.

Lesson Learned

We made the mistake of not sitting in the chairs before we bought them.  But that probably wouldn’t have change our minds anyway.

The chairs had been recently reupholstered with a nice neutral fabric that went with just about everything.

Reupholster dining chairs before reupholster
Chair with neutral fabric

But there really wasn’t much cush there.  Sitting in them for any length of time hurt the old tailbone.

The chair seats had sturdy oak frames, and they were holding up wonderfully.  But the thin, flimsy wooden seat inserts inside the frames were failing on most of the chairs.

reupholster Dining Chairs - insert
Cracked seat insert

I could just imagine, at our next dinner party,  guests sitting uncomfortably in their chairs until someone (probably me) fell through their seat.  A memorable dinner for all the wrong reasons!

We decided to reupholster our dining chairs with thicker foam and new seat inserts.

Chris started cutting the inserts and I headed to the fabric store.

Tired of Playing it Safe

Once at the fabric store, I realized I was tired of playing it safe.  None of the tidy geometric designs that a sensible person would choose for dining chair upholstery appealed to me.  I had done all that before.

I was drawn to a Waverly print called ‘Santa Maria Adobe.’  The print is really too large for a dining chair and is definitely not for everyone.  But for these chairs, I loved it.

The Makeover Begins

The chair seats were the kind that are easy to reupholster.  Basically, you fold the fabric under and staple.  But we decided to go with 2-inch high-density foam, so I would have to have the right tool to cut foam that thick.

I stumbled on a YouTube video where someone had built a table saw for cutting foam and the saw blade turned out to be an electric carving knife.

Luckily we had one sitting forgotten in a kitchen drawer.

Reupholster dining chairs - foam cutter
My foam cutter

But before I went through the trouble of building the “table” part of the table saw, I thought I would try cutting the foam with the electric knife by simply holding the foam vertically and cutting downward following an outline I had drawn on the foam.

It worked like a charm, like I was cutting through butter.  What a time saver.

It was hard to get the seat corners to look right with foam that thick under the fabric.  It took me a while to find the best way to fold the fabric at the corners.

But the oversized fabric pattern was easy to center.  In order not to waste fabric, I made a couple of different looks for the chairs by centering different parts of the fabric – something I had never tried before.

Reupholster Dining Chairs upholstery 1

Reupholster Dining Chairs upholstery 2

Double Duty

When we have parties, we sometimes bring some dining chairs into the living room for extra seating.  Now with the thicker pads and the crazy upholstery, each chair can stand on its own as an interesting piece that looks good wherever we put it.

Reupholster Dining Chairs with side table
Chair with antique side table

And no one will fall through their chair.


You might also enjoy:


Linking up with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid Century Modern Chair Revamp

Chris had this little chair in his bedroom when he was a kid.  He remembers his mother, Betty, reupholstering it with the striped fabric.

Mid century modern chair before revamp
The chair with Betty’s 1960s upholstery work

For some reason, he held onto it.  We would use it sometimes as extra seating at garage sales, or as a stool for reaching high places.

For the last decade, it’s been buried under empty boxes in our basement.  Recently I decided to organize the basement, and I brought the chair upstairs into the light of day.

We’d just been to an exhibit featuring the work of Danish modern furniture designers – the best of the best from the Mad Men era.  Those chairs certainly outclassed our chair, but this cute little guy was sure trying.

Proud Origins

After a little research, we learned that we had a “tubular cantilever chair.”  The back and seat are attached to a continuous steel frame that then sweeps beautifully to an L-shaped base.

This simple and ingenious design has been around for a surprisingly long time and was actually once the center of controversy.

An early version of the cantilever chair was designed in 1925 by Marcel Breuer, a Hungarian modernist designer and architect.  But it is said that his design was inspired by the work of Dutch designer Mart Stam.  The two designers wound up  in a patent lawsuit in a German court, which Stam won.

Contemporary furniture designers of the time embraced the cantilever concept and were inspired to create all sorts of variations.

Better Than New

With the recent renewed interest in mid century modern design, these chairs are popular once again.  So Chris decided to give his chair a little facelift.

First he removed the upholstery his mother had added to the seat, and the yellow bathrug that she had cut to fit as padding.  As a child of the Great Depression, Betty never wasted anything.

Mid Century modern chair cushion taken apart
Unpeeling the layers on the chair seat

Then he dealt with the chair back.  It still had the original upholstery but had been painted several times.  The little steel tacks, a nice decorative detail, had been painted over.

old tacks
Removing the tacks from the chair back

He stripped paint splatter from the steel frame and polished it.

Mid Century modern cantilever chair frame

You can see in this photo how the entire frame of the chair is one continuous piece of steel tubing.  So with the back and the seat, the chair is made up of only three pieces.

Chris reupholstered the back and seat with a red leatherette fabric.  I love his choice of the red – such a versatile color.  Now the chair can work in either a whimsical retro setting or in a more serious classic contemporary environment.

Mid Century modern chair reupholstered
Cantilever chair after new upholstery.
Midcentury modern chair closeup
Close-up of steel tacks after being stripped of paint.

The original upholstery fabric was nothing special and there were no maker’s marks on the chair, leading us to conclude that it is not a high-end piece.  I suspect it looks better now than when it was new.

I don’t think it’s going back in the basement.

 


You might also enjoy:


Linking up with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Pumpkin Thief

Okay, I didn’t really steal any pumpkins on my recent visit to Molbaks Nursery.  But I did steal ideas – pumpkin decorating ideas that go way beyond carving.

Turns out the employees at Molbaks are a very talented bunch, and I’d stumbled upon a display of pumpkins that they had decorated.

This one is smiling, but somehow it’s clown creepy.

pumpkins4

This one, just plain creepy – and imaginative.

Pumpkin decorating ideas spider on head

These two are intricate works of art.

Pumpkin decorating ideas: day of the dead Pumpkin decorating ideas tree with leaves

And here is the one that I stole – or at least tried to steal.  For some reason I thought, “hey, I can do that.”

Pumpkin decorating ideas: plant face

I loved the wacky face made up of plants and flowers.

So I got a pumpkin for the head and a small turban squash for a hat.  Luckily some of the plants and flowers used in the Molbaks pumpkin were things I had on hand in my own garden:  I used hen and chicks (an evergreen succulent) for the eyes and clipped Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ flowers for the brim of the hat.  The last summer squash of the season made a perfect nose.

Then I wound up in the basement, sifting through our collection of old hardware, for the mouth.

My efforts yielded this disturbing image.

Pumpkin decorating ideas using what you have on hand
My crazy pumpkin

So what I learned with this one is that it’s fun to use what you have on hand, and there really are no rules.

But there was one more pumpkin at Molbaks that inspired me:  This fun planting of mixed succulents using the pumpkin as a potting container.

Pumpkin decorating ideas: planter

I found a small, lopsided white pumpkin (called a “ghost pumpkin”) with very cool veining trickling down from its stem.  It was such a unique look that I left the stem on and cut the opening for the plant behind it.

Pumpkin decorating ideas: ghost pumpkin planter
Violas with ghost pumpkin

The drawback of course is that these pumpkins won’t last long before they start to get mushy.  By now all the employees have taken their pumpkins home.

But what a fun way to enjoy the season while it lasts!


*Photos of Molbaks employee pumpkins courtesy of Molbaks Garden and Home, Woodinville, WA.


You might also enjoy:

 

 

 

 

 

Master Bathroom Remodel Part 3: Adding the Jewelry

Our Master Bathroom Remodel

This is the last of my three-part series on our master bathroom remodel, where we took a small half-bath and turned it into a large master bathroom.

We went from this:

Master bathroom before remodel
Half bath before remodel

 

To this:

east wall portrait (2)

south wall (2)

toilet alcove (2)

Part 1 covers the planning process, and Part 2 covers the actual remodel process.

The Finishing Touches

In this part, we will zoom in to have a look at some of the little decorative details we added to our master bath after all that heavy lifting was done – the “jewelry,” if you will.

Needless to say, this is the part I had been waiting for.  My decorating style is usually simple, timeless and traditional.  I’m not a fan of clutter, even if it’s cute clutter.  I feel that if you have just a few interesting pieces in a room, they tend to get noticed more.

Using Family Heirlooms

I love to repurpose items and use family heirlooms in new ways.

Here, across from the claw foot tub, we found a great home for an antique dresser that had belonged to Chris’s mother.  She had found it at an estate sale, stripped off the white paint and refinished it.

Since most of the bathroom is so light colored – white wainscoting, white marble – it is nice to have a wood piece to add warmth and contrast.

wash stand (2)

The pitcher and water basin set is also a family heirloom from Chris’s great-grandmother.  The set is very old and also very large.  We were happy to finally have somewhere to display it that made sense.

pitcher closeup (2)

I also could display a few small pieces from my collection of vintage textiles.

Bargain Finds

I had purchased the two blue leaded glass windows 20 years ago – a bargain find from a discount hardware store.  I had been schlepping them around ever since, never really finding the right place to use them.

Finally!  I had them framed and we hung them above the dresser, a fun nod to the other leaded glass windows in the room.

master bath blue glass window
Leaded glass window panels with custom frame

Vintage Mirrors

We have three antique mirrors in this room, two on the walls and one on the makeup vanity.  The makeup vanity mirror was a birthday gift from Chris.  The smaller wall mirror was a bargain find from a second hand store.

It might seem like a lot of mirrors, but this room can handle it.

tub from shower (2)

master bath makeup vanity
Vanity desk with vintage makeup mirror

vanity from mirror

An antique mirror in the toilet alcove reflects the vanity and shower stall

A Crystal Chandelier

The wonderful high ceiling was ideal for hanging this Italian-made crystal chandelier.

master-bath-chandelier-1024x842 (2)

We finished this remodel several years ago, but since we designed it around the existing style of our 1920’s house, we think it will stand the test of time.


You might also enjoy:

 

 

Flower Arranging with Hydrangeas: Three Quick and Easy Ways

My mother brought me these beautiful cut hydrangeas from her garden today.  The flowers look so translucent, like they are lit from within.

Mom said that I should put them in water and enjoy them as cut flowers, and that they would eventually dry instead of wilting.

She brought me quite a few, and they are huge flower clusters.  So I am breaking them into three floral arrangements, using some of my favorite vases.

Tall and elegant

For the first one, I am using a large pottery urn – 15 inches tall.  Since the urn is taller than the flower stems, I have filled up the bottom with small florist pebbles.  These pebbles also add some weight so the urn is less likely to be tipped over.

I don’t trust the urn to be water tight, so I am going to inset a jar filled with water for the flowers.  I just have to make sure the jar is small enough for me to be able to fit it in the urn and take it out again later.

Now since hydrangeas are so top-heavy, it’s hard to get them to stay where you want them in an arrangement.  And for this particular arrangement that will be important.

So before I set this little water jar into the urn I will create a grid across the top of it with regular clear tape, which makes it easier to set the flowers in place.

Flower arranging with hydrangeas tape grid
Tape grid over jar

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best to add the water before making the tape grid.

Now the jar can go into the urn, above the pebbles, and it will only take three hydrangea stems, cut at different lengths, plus a little embellishment from my stash of silk flowers,  to create this arrangement.

Flower arranging with hydrangeas in large pottery urn
Hydrangeas in pottery urn

Sweet and old-fashioned

The second arrangement will be super simple because the hydrangeas will all be cut at the same height and placed in a wide-mouth glass vase.

This vase belonged to my grandmother, and I just love the informal and old-fashioned look it lends to any flower I use in it.

Flower arranging with hydrangeas in vintage vase
Hydrangeas in vintage vase

Because the vase is so wide at the top and the hydrangeas are so top-heavy, they won’t stay in the vase on their own.  And I can’t use a florist frog because it would be visible through the glass.

So I am using the tape grid trick again to keep them in place.

Prim and proper

The third arrangement will be even simpler.  It’s all about the vase I use, which is a small elevated urn.  Then just one cluster of hydrangeas is cut short to sit right on the top of the vase.

Flower arranging hydrangea in footed urn
Hydrangea in footed urn

This simple and elegant arrangement works best displayed at eye level, for example on top of a bookcase.  I love the neat, buttoned-up look of the hydrangea with this urn.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these hydrangeas look when they dry and whether they will change colors.


Resources:

I used my Fiskars Pruners to trim the hydrangeas because they are very easy on my hands.

A unique floral vase doesn’t have to be expensive.  I love these options from Etsy.

amber pitcher brush mccoy pottery greern porcelain vase Hull pottery vase Vintage handblown artglass wedding vase

Amber Pitcher | Bush McCoy Vase | Green Porcelain Vase | Hull Pottery Vase | Vintage Handblown Artglass | Wedding Vase

Okay, the Hull pottery vase IS a bit of a splurge, but it’s pretty dreamy.

Affiliate links used.


You might also enjoy:


 

Linking up with:

 

Party Decorating Ideas for Entertaining on a Budget

You don’t need to spend a fortune to create a memorable atmosphere for your guests.  With party decorating, it’s not so much what you spend as how you put it all together.  Here are three easy and affordable ideas.

Idea 1: For a fun inexpensive tablecloth, try a sarong

Sarongs come in so many sizes and patterns and most of them are less expensive than a new tablecloth – and more interesting.  They work as a tablecloth for small tables or as a table topper for larger tables.

(Tip: If the sarong doesn’t stay in place on the table, just use a neutral-colored tablecloth underneath it.)

Party decorating ideas - using a sarong for a tablecloth

This is a sarong I got at an outdoor market in Hawaii for around $10.  For this brunch, I paired it with vintage elements: my antique china, crystal and silverware, and a footed milk glass candy dish as an elevated flower vase.

Which brings me to my second tip.

Idea 2: Buffet table tip – Elevate food to add interest

For your buffet table, make sure your food is presented at different heights.  This creates a far more interesting presentation than if your food is  placed on platters that are all at table height.

Don’t worry if your serving pieces don’t match, and don’t worry if you are using a serving piece for something other than its originally intended use.

For example, it’s okay to elevate an appetizer like bacon wrapped dates by serving them on a footed cake plate.  Next time you are at the thrift store or at a garage sale, look for footed or elevated serving platters.

Party decorating Ideas: Thrift store finds: elevated serving dishes
Thrift store finds: elevated serving dishes

The glass cover, above, although not elevated, lends a vertical element to buffet tables.  You can make your own small elevated serving dish by gluing a small vintage plate to a brass candlestick.  Just make sure it’s stable enough not to tip over if nudged.

Other than food safety, there are no rules here.  So have fun with this one and your buffet table will be more interesting.

Idea 3:  Get creative with flowers

This is a little “old world” trick I learned from my mother, who learned it from her mother.

Times were tough for my mom growing up in Germany during WWII, and her family was barely scraping by.  She and her siblings usually didn’t get birthday gifts, but her mother always made the birthday boy or girl feel like a VIP, starting in the morning when their breakfast plate was ringed with flowers.

Buy why stop at birthdays?  If your event is going to be a sit-down meal, you could add this fun little touch to everyone’s place setting.  You can go subtle with this idea or create a big splash.  The possibilities are endless.

Party decorating ideas:  Nasturtium and salvia with vintage china
Nasturtium and salvia with vintage china

 

You could even use edible flowers like nasturtium, chives and squash blossoms.  (Note: some flowers are poisonous, so if the flowers will be intended for consumption, always make sure first that they are edible.)

Flowers out of season?  Go shopping in your garden for attractive greens to use instead.


You might also enjoy:


Linking up with: