Winter Floral Designs: Three Easy Ways

After the excess of the holidays, I always crave a neat, uncluttered look for my winter floral arrangements.  I’m not quite ready for the flowers of spring, I just want a little green in the house to liven things up.

For these three arrangements, I used containers that I will want to re-use later for other projects, so I filled them with artificial greens. This way, there is no guilt or replanting involved when I want to rotate the greens out later in favor of something else.

So have you got a few minutes?  That’s all you would need to make these easy winter arrangements.


I just love the buttoned-up look of topiaries.  Here is one that never needs watering or pruning.

Winter floral designs: topiary

The little white urn is perfect for more formal looks.  I used it for a very simple hydrangea arrangement last fall.

I got a ball-shaped artificial green from the craft store, as well as some preserved moss for the base of the container.  To make the trunk look more realistic, I used a real tree twig.  Some floral foam holds it all together under the moss.

topiary ingredients

To cut the floral foam into a shape that would fit into the white urn, I used the same electric carving knife that I used to cut the foam when I reupholstered my dining chairs.

This knife has become dedicated for use in crafts. It never sees the kitchen anymore.


The foam is set into the urn, and the “trunk” of the topiary is pushed securely into the foam on the bottom, and the topiary ball on top.  Then the moss is set around the base of the trunk.

Air Plant Terrarium

I had a live air plant for several years and I killed it recently by moving its location slightly.  This artificial one doesn’t care where I put it.

Winter floral designs: terrarium

I used the same small thrift store fishbowl that I used for my Thanksgiving centerpiece and my Christmas angel vignette.

I used decorative pebbles from the craft store plus, as a top layer, small bits of sea glass and shells that I collected over the years.

terrarium ingredients

Fern Urn

This arrangement is ideal for shallow spaces since the ferns fan out horizontally yet stay flat, almost two-dimensional.

Winter f loral designs: ferns in urn

For this one, I used a tall narrow urn (again, a thrift store find), some artificial ferns from the craft store, the preserved moss around the base, and florist foam inside the urn to hold it all together.

fern ingredients

It took a little time to get the supplies together for these arrangements, but the actual time of arranging them was probably a half hour for all three.

Three winter floral designs


And if you don’t have time to troll the thrift stores for the containers:

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My Top 10 Posts for 2014 and a Look Ahead at 2015

This blog, My Sweet Cottage, which I started late last summer, actually made one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 come true:  To find more things I enjoy doing.  I really love having this blog, and I have you to thank.  Your comments and encouragement keep me going and keep it fun.

A blog is a great way of documenting the year.  Here, in semi-chronological order, is a look back at my top 10 posts for 2014.

Things That Happened in 2014

1. We lost my dear mother-in-law in May, but we found a beautiful way of honoring her life.  Betty would have loved her celebration of life party.

picture string closeup

2.  I shared the colorful makeover of our little garden shed.

Potting shed with paint and new roof

3.  In a three-part series, I talked about our master bathroom remodel.

master bath looking south

4.  In another three-part series, I covered our kitchen remodel.

kitchen remodel - south wall after

5.  My mother brought me some beautiful hydrangeas for floral arrangements.

Decorating with Hydrangeas

6.  I cleaned out our basement and found all kinds of treasures to revamp or repurpose.  My husband, Chris, reupholstered the mid-century chair he remembers from his childhood.

Midcentury chair revamp

7.  My brother and his wife have been busy too with their 1908 house.  They did a stunning DIY dining room remodel.  If you haven’t already seen this post, don’t miss it!

dining room table and window2 jpg

8.  A major highlight of my year was when one of my long-held dreams came true:  We now have a greenhouse!


9. We reupholstered our old arts and crafts dining chairs with an unconventional fabric.Chair after with side table

10.  In my favorite post of 2014, my mother shared tips for setting a formal table – and some interesting stories from her experiences working in an English manor house in the 1950s.

formal place setting

The Year Ahead

I have several resolutions for 2015.  First, now that I have a greenhouse, I resolve to expand my horizons as a gardener by learning more about greenhouse gardening.

I resolve to make more time for sewing so I can do more fun projects like these gift bags.

I resolve to repurpose old items in fun ways, like these jewelry organizers and this porch bench makeover.

And finally, I resolve to be true to my own likes and dislikes.  I will look to new trends in décor and design for inspiration, but I won’t be swayed by their popularity alone.  I will stick with what speaks to me.  And I will share that with you.

Here’s to a fun and interesting 2015!

This post is part of a fun event called “Show and Tell Fridays” featuring the work of some very talented designers.  Click on the thumbnail below to check out their work.

Pretty Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas: Think Burlap and Yarn – Really!

Looking to do something a little different this year with your holiday gift wrap?  Here are a couple of fun and pretty ideas that came straight from the fabric store.

Burlap Gift Bags

Since I already had my sewing machine dusted off for my porch bench winter makeover, I decided to make gift bags from some burlap (also called jute) that I had been wanting to experiment with.

Holiday gift wrap ideas

I love how the rough texture of the burlap contrasts with its girly pattern.  And I love the classic combination of the black and tan colors.  This year in holiday wrap, black seems to be the new red anyway.

Burlap is not a very tightly-woven fabric, so I added a green lining to the interior of each bag so that it can be reused without risk of something poking through the burlap.   Also the fresh green color gives a little dash of interest, and having a lining makes the bag look more finished.

The bags are about 9″X12″, a good size for carrying tablets, books, or magazines.

The little snowflake ornament and the bell are tied on with a great ruffle yarn that I recently discovered.  More on that below.

Making the Bags

I used a 10″X13″ piece of cardboard as a template to cut the burlap and the lining.  When I sewed the sides and bottom of the burlap together, I backstitched liberally to make the bag more durable.

Attaching the lining to the bag was the hardest part, but once I got my head around it, it was easy.  I used roughly the same method described very nicely here, except that I attached the straps, about an inch below the top of the bag, before I stitched the lining to the bag.  Then I just pinned the straps out of the way while I was sewing the bag and the lining together.

I learned to be careful ironing jute.  Don’t get the iron too hot and make sure to have a scrap piece of fabric between the iron and the jute or the ink from the pattern on the jute might transfer to the iron.

A Gorgeous Ribbon Alternative

I found the ruffle yarn I mentioned earlier at the fabric store and it looked pretty interesting to me at the time.  But once I got it home and had a closer look, I realized it was even better than I thought.

Holiday gift wrap ideas


It can be pulled apart for a lace-like look and it also has tiny sequins sewn in for a subtle yet festive glimmer.

It’s also an economical alternative to conventional ribbon since the bolt of yarn is 23 yards long.

So that is all for now – I’m off to do more wrapping.  Hope you are too.  Happy holidays!


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A Warm Welcome: A Porch Bench Gets a Budget Winter Makeover

A Lonely Porch

We use the bench on our covered porch almost every day in summer, but we never use it in winter.  The summer-print cushion is put away for the season and, except for one of our cats occasionally using it as a lookout post, the bench sits idle.

I have always had a fantasy about sitting on the porch in winter, bundled up with a hot chocolate watching snow fall.  But this has never happened.

Creating a Warmer Welcome

I started to wonder if we would use the bench more in winter if it was simply made cozier and more appealing.  So I decided to give it a try.

This is not the most practical idea I’ve ever come up with.  After all, even though the porch is covered, the fabric used on the bench would still be exposed to some winter weather.

But if I used a truly weatherproof fabric, it would not feel warm and comfortable, which would defeat the purpose.

So I went to Goodwill on Black Friday and for a song I bought a used sweater to convert into a soft pillow and a green fleece throw to convert into a cushion cover.

winter decorations - textile closeup

And if the weather has its way with them, oh well.  They are expendable.

For the holidays, I combined them with a Christmas pillow and a red throw.


After the holidays, they can be combined with other accessories and continue to create a warm and welcoming look for visitors – and us.

It’s day one of the new look, and Priscilla the Cat is already using the bench more.  We will see if her humans follow suit.

From Scraps to Sachets

The leftover sweater scraps were kind of charming and calling out to be used for something.

So I made these sachets with them for stocking stuffers.


I used slices of scented soap to fill them.

It’s fun to repurpose old items.  I’m planning more projects like this with other used fabrics.


Projects in this post were sewn with my Brother CS6000i sewing machine.

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Three Festive Lighting Ideas for the Holidays and Beyond

I always have a hard time following the unwritten rule of taking down the Christmas lights after the new year.

What a silly rule.  The days are short and gloomy and the fun of the holidays is over.  Seems like that is when we really need a little cheerful lighting to lift our spirits.

Well this year, I found a few simple and classy lighting ideas that can continue to shine all winter – and even beyond.


With these pretty strands of mini lights on bendable, silver-toned wire, it’s easy to create all sorts of sweet little vignettes.  The tiny LED lights have a warm white glow.

Christmas Lighting Ideas tips - angel with microlights

They have a battery pack that can easily be hidden.  In the photo above, the battery pack is under the angel.

They are fun for lighting up arrangements where a corded light would be unsightly or impossible.  In the photo below, the battery pack is hidden under a pine cone.

Christmas Lighting Ideas tips - micro LED lights

I’m looking forward to using them in centerpieces and for special occasions year-round.

Christmas Lighting Ideas tips - LED Lights with mirror

The creative possibilities for these tiny lights are endless.

The batteries last 48 hours, and there is an on-off switch on the battery pack.  So it’s best to place the battery pack where it can be easily reached.


Now that our greenhouse is almost finished, I am very eager to find the right lighting and have been imagining something involving old-fashioned, Edison-style filament bulbs.

I came across a strand of glass Christmas lights that gave me the look instantly.

Christmas Lighting Ideas Edison style vintage bulbs

I just love the industrial vibe they lend – perfect for a greenhouse.

Christmas lighting ideas Edison bulbs old fashioned

I will leave these lights in the greenhouse until I find permanent lighting.

Although they are marketed as Christmas lights, their simple design can easily work year-round.  I’m looking forward to using them in summer for evening garden parties.


Right before Thanksgiving, something unfortunate happened to my mother, Erika:  She walked into a store and was exposed to an excessive display of gaudy Christmas decorations, causing her to come down with an early case of “holiday overload.”

So she decided to take a year off from having a conventional Christmas tree.  Instead, she used some fresh, green branches from a curly willow and some small white lights to create this wintry look.

Christmas Lighting Ideas - winter tree

She placed a metal grid inside a large plastic pot to anchor the branches and then poured in sand to give the base some weight and to help keep the branches in place.

Since this is not a Christmas tree, she can keep this look long after the new year.  So “holiday overload” isn’t all bad.


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The Foraged Wreath

One of the many things I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is being able to find greens for holiday decorating right in my own garden.

An Easy DIY Christmas Wreath

It’s fun to make your own wreath, and it’s easier than it looks.

Where to Find The Greens

Often you can get free scraps of evergreen branches where Christmas trees are sold.  If you want more variety in your wreath, some nurseries also sell boughs of assorted evergreens and berries.

But I check my garden first for evergreen branches, berries, pinecones, and interesting mosses.

If you don’t have a garden, ask a neighbor or friend with one if they can spare a few cuttings.  If you don’t live in an area with evergreens, can you find other local greens or natural elements that would make an interesting wreath?

Materials and Supplies

To start with, you just need a wreath form, florist wire (found at craft stores), wire cutters, greens, and garden pruners.  Once your wreath starts to take shape, you will get a good sense of what other kinds of decorations you might want to add.

DIY Christmas Wreath - what you will need

Let’s Get Started

There are many ways to construct a wreath, and this is just my method.  I like to use drapey greens that hang nicely on either side of the wreath and meet at the bottom.

Cut the greens into about six-inch lengths and bundle them, at the cut ends, into small handfuls using the wire.

bundled greens
A handful of greens ready to be attached to the wreath form.

Securely attach the bundles to the wreath form at the cut ends using more wire.

Start at the bottom and work your way up, overlapping the greens you are adding over the ones already secured so that you are always hiding the wire from the previous bundle.  The wired cut ends should be up and the uncut loose ends pointing down.

Work your way to the top in this manner and then start again at the bottom and cover the other side, working your way up.

At the top, you will wind up with some wire showing, and this is a good place to put a bow or other decoration that covers those wires.

You can make your wreath as dense or as loose as you like, and with the wire you can add your other decorative elements.

My Wreath

This year I’m craving decorations that look natural and unpretentious, and it shows in my wreath.

DIY Christmas Wreath

One of these days I will make a wreath that is actually round and symmetrical.  But I just love a drapey, whimsical wreath.  I added large pinecones and longer greens at the bottom.

Small gold bells on wires are the only touch of glamour.  Now the wreath jingles softly as the door is opened.

wreath closeup

A Simple Garland

With a branch of the leftover greens, I made this garland.

DIY GarlandRight now I have a crush on these little white bells on jute twine, and I’ve been looking for ways to use them.

I tried them on the wreath, but they didn’t look right.  So making a wreath does involve a little experimentation, but that is all part of the fun.


I used my Fiskars Pruners for cutting the greens because they are very easy on my hands.  They are a great gift for any gardener, in fact these are going to someone on my Christmas list this year!

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Button Up These Pretty Jewelry Organizers

My Vintage Button Obsession

A while back, I was at an antique show not feeling very inspired when I came across a jar of old assorted buttons.

For some reason it caught my attention and since then I have been a bit obsessed with old buttons.  If you buy the right jar, you could wind up with a little treasure trove of tiny works of art – mother of pearl, Bakelite, wood, glass.

DIY holiday gift idea using vintage buttons

Each one holds a secret as to what great old garment it might have been on.  An Edwardian wedding gown?  A flapper’s little black dress?

A Great DIY Gift Idea – Or to Keep!

Of course if you had some really cool old buttons you would want to display them.  But how about displaying them on an attractive piece of décor that takes up only wall space and also helps you organize your jewelry?

Something so pretty and practical that it would also make a great gift – that is if you can bring yourself to give it away?

You only need a few supplies and a little time to make this fun earring hanger.

DIY holidat gift idea - earring hanger
Earring hanger


Or a necklace hanger.

DIY holiday gift idea - necklace hangers
Necklace hangers

Round Up The Supplies

First you’ll need a frame.  Not a fancy frame, but something very plain with a good flat surface that you can easily glue buttons to.

You will need craft paint or spray paint if you want to paint your frame.

If you’re painting over wood or over a dark color, you might have to prime the frame before painting.

You will also need craft glue.

If you’re making an earring hanger, you will need a medium to heavy-duty staple gun, wire cutters, and some quarter-inch mesh screen (found in hardware stores).

For the necklace hanger, use small hooks instead of the mesh screen.  You might also need to drill holes for the hooks if they don’t screw easily into the frame.

And of course you will need buttons.  Some vintage buttons are highly collectible and you can spend a pretty penny on them if you are so inclined.  But you can also find jars or bags of old buttons at thrift stores and antique stores at bargain prices.

Sometimes jars of buttons are sorted by color, so think about an overall color scheme and the look you would like to achieve for your frame.  This is the fun part!  Just keep in mind you can only use buttons with flat backs or they won’t adhere to the frame very well.

The How-To

You have probably already guessed that this project is very easy.  It’s also lots of fun.

First, paint the frame and let it dry.

For the earring hanger, you will need to use the wire cutters to cut the mesh screen to size so that it fits inside the frame.  If you look at the back of the frame, there should be about a half-inch recessed rim around the inside and this is the area you want your screen to fit into.

Attach your screen to the frame by stapling it to this rim.

DIY holiday gift idea
Back of earring hanger

If you’re making the necklace hanger, get small hooks from the hardware store in a finish you like and screw them into the frame from the back, as shown in this photo.

DIY holiday gift idea
Back of necklace hanger – note the location of the hooks.

You want to be able to hang necklaces on the hooks, so make sure you get hooks large enough if you will be hanging bulkier necklaces like pearls.

Then the creativity starts:  Then lay the buttons out on the frame in a pattern that you like and glue them on.

DIY holiday gift idea - button art
A wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors of buttons were used for this necklace hanger.

Attach a picture hook or hanger to the back of the frame if it doesn’t have one.

I love projects that repurpose used materials in unique ways.  These hangers were made using second-hand frames from the thrift store and of course the old buttons.

They are a great way to display collections of vintage jewelry.

Not as hooked on buttons as I am?  Skip them and just use a pretty little frame.

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Growing Paperwhites for a Beautiful Holiday Centerpiece

A Holiday Tradition

Growing paperwhite bulbs for the holiday season is one of my traditions.  Paperwhites are so fragrant, and they are so easy to grow.  Best of all, they can be grown in all kinds of fun containers, so the creative possibility are endless.

Paperwhites are a bulb, a variety of narcissus, and they can be forced to bloom indoors during winter.  If timed right, they can be blooming gloriously in your home just in time for the holidays.

Think Outside the Box

I’m sure you have seen the paperwhite kits in home and garden stores.  They come in a box and include some bulbs, a container, and planting medium.

But if you want to get more creative, it’s easy to learn how to pot paperwhites using your own container.

Potting Up Your Customized Paperwhite Container

First, pick a container that you love.  The only requirement is that it is water tight and a couple of inches deep.

With such limited requirements, you can have all kinds of fun with this.  Use a vase, a teacup, a gravy boat, a trifle bowl.

Here are just a few containers that I have used to pot up paperwhite bulbs.

Growing paperwhites - choosing a container
Paperwhite containers – the possibilities are endless

Growing paperwhites

You don’t need soil for paperwhites.  They grow best in just pebbles and water.

You can find a wide variety of decorative natural or glass pebbles in the floral department of most hobby stores.

Is your container all glass?  Then choose a highly decorative pebble since it will be seen.

If the container is not glass, then in some cases you can just use unglamorous walkway gravel (example to follow).

Next you will need the paperwhite bulbs.  For just the bulb and not the whole boxed kit, the best place to go is a garden center or nursery.

Make sure the bulbs you buy are for indoor forcing.  Ask if you have any doubt.  There are many new varieties of paperwhites for indoor forcing.  I  have always had the most reliable luck with the most common one, Paperwhite ‘Ziva.’

Plan on spacing the bulbs at last a half-inch apart in the container, so buy your bulbs accordingly. I have found that as long as they are not touching each other, the bulbs don’t mind being crowded in a container, and it makes for a fuller display.

So now that you have what you need, let’s start potting.

Just put the potting medium (pebbles, gravel, or glass beads) into your container at least a couple of inches deep and space the bulbs on top of the medium.

Then add just a little more medium to hold the bulbs in place.  Most of the bulb should still be above the surface.

Here are two examples:

Growing paperwhites. Starting in amber bowl
Starting paperwhite bulbs in amber bowl.
Growing paperwhites: Starting bulbs in green vintage bowl
Paperwhite bulbs in vintage container

You can see how the bulbs are spaced.  The bulbs in the green container are in plain old walkway gravel because I intend to put decorative moss over the gravel later to finish the look.

Once the bulbs are set in, just fill the container with water until it reaches the bottom of the bulbs.  They need to have access to the water but not be  submerged in it.

Nap Time

Once your paperwhites are potted and watered, you can put them in a cool, dark place for a week to take a nap.  But I have skipped this step entirely and it didn’t really impact the bulbs that much.

Once they have been in the dark for week, bring them into the light, somewhere in your house not too warm but near a window.  By now you should see that the bulbs have started to sprout.  Make sure the roots always have water.

It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere

Once the growth on the bulbs gets about four inches tall, your paperwhites are of drinking age and can have a cocktail.  Seriously.

This step isn’t for everyone and feel free to skip it if you like.  But feeding your paperwhites a little alcohol will stunt the root growth making the plant less gangly and less likely to lean over, yet not impacting how nicely it will bloom.

Give them the hard stuff – 40-proof clear, uncolored booze, diluted with water.  Cheap vodka is a good choice.

Mix one part booze to seven parts water.  If they still have water in their container and you are just topping off, then their first drink can be one part booze to five parts water.

A Little Support

Even with the booze, the paperwhites might lean toward the light so you might have to stake them.  I use decorative artificial berry sprigs (found at craft stores) for stakes since they add a little color to the arrangement.

Potting paperwhite bulbs - using florist berrie as stakes
Most hobby or craft shops carry these decorative berries around the holidays.
Potting paperwhite bulbs - craft berries as stakes - closeup
The berries have wired stems so you can bend them around any leaf or blossom that is leaning.

Finally in Bloom

Here are is my amber glass paperwhite container four and a half weeks after the bulbs were potted.


Growing bulbs - after 4.5 weeks


And here is the green vintage container where I used plain old walkway gravel.  Now the gravel is covered with moss and other natural accents.


Bulbs at 3-5 weeks closeup of moss

I wanted the arrangement to look like something growing naturally on the forest floor.

Paperwhites usually boom four to six weeks after they are potted, and continue to bloom for at least a week and usually much longer.

After they are done blooming, they won’t bloom again so you can throw them in the compost bin with no guilt.

I plant several paperwhite containers at intervals during the winter so I always have them booming.

But then again, I am a little obsessed with them.

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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.

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Mid Century Modern Chair Revamp

Midcentury 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.


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