Tiny Baby Steps into the (Previously) Terrifying World of Upholstery, Mostly by Cheating

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Tonight’s post involves a vintage piano bench and velvet fabric scraps from studio days in college, as well as a healthy amount of MacGuyvering. Please bear with me as I publish this, I’m learning on the fly as to how formatting works in wordpress, and there will most likely be awkward paragraph gaps and a few mixed up photos. And way too many commas. We shall battle on nonetheless. Avast!

To attempt your own foray into upholstery (or rather, reupholstery), you’ll need:

-a screwdriver (even if there are no screws or tacks, it’s handy for prying purposes) Also, an ice pick or awl for prying old hardware.

-a staple gun

-a pitifully forlorn piece of furniture, hopefully with decent padding. Because re-stuffins is something you’re gonna have to google, we ain’t got there yet.

-fabric large enough to cover the padded parts, with 1 1/2″ folded underneath, ish

-I always like to have painters tape and a good Sharpie, ’cause you just never know.

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I completed this project about a year ago in about 25 minutes, shortly after moving into le apartment-ette, which is approximately 500 sq ft, or the size of a shoebox. Recovering furniture had previously scared me, because I was always afraid of harming the original features of the piece. But this was a great starter project for me, because this little bench was not nearly as rare an antique as my high school self had believed. I had this bench in storage for quite some time, and when I got it out, saw that the fabric just wouldn’t do.

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Which really was a shame, because one of my secret tacky loves is silky-charmeusey asian prints. And I think when I found this in high school, I was over the moon for them. Sigh. 5 or 6 sections of Art Histories will change a gal.

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Yep. Still can’t do it. It’s like the yellow deflated. And I’m not sure that’s even Asian?

Anyway.

Coming out of the Interior Design (ID) studios senior year, I went on a major scalping mission and took lots of the freebie/forgotten/items with impending dumpster dooms, including some fabulous metal screen (will be featured in a later post) and TONS of fabric scraps. Contrary to popular belief, the typical ID education is mostly focused on commercial design, so the non-fire/safety rated fabrics often go unused. Like this little gem…

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The deep bottle green is both staid and classic as well as spring-fresh to me, and I nabbed it immediately. As well as about a hundred others. But its service as upholstery fabric was determined largely by the fact that it was one of about 4 pieces that were big enough to cover the entire surface of the bench. I also think the texture and the pattern are great complements to my eclectic style. After thinking all this real quick while shoving the other scraps back into the baskets, I grabbed the screwdriver and staple gun.

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It’s a little difficult to tell here, but there were 4 screws holding the wood under the bench to the padded board that made up the seat. Basically, I flipped it over and undid the screws. I figure on things like this, they’re easy enough to put back in, I’m not “screwed” if it doesn’t work out. Ha! Love me some puns.

Once the screws were out, the panel popped out pretty easily. Like soooo…

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Then, for the fine art of eye-balling… First this-a-wayyy…

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Then that-a-wayyy…Image

Once I got the fabric situated in a way that stretched nicely over the original — That’s right! I left the original silky stuff on there. It was clean and in good condition, and I think it gave the new layer some reinforcement. Had it been in disrepair or dirty, I would have stripped the wooden panel of the fabric and padding, and tacked some new foam core to it (you can get the right stuff at Joann’s, it’s greenish and fairly cheap).

After deciding which-a-way I liked the fabric best, I started pleating the fabric on one corner. This is not a big deal at all, as I had initially thought. Just play with it some, the goal is to make the top look neatly tucked underneath.

First I tried this one–

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Then this one, which I went with.

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Up close and personal–

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Here, I decided that this maneuver most closely resembled other pleats I’d seen, and seemed to generally tuck in the corner fabric nicely. There was a lot of holding-in-place-and-flipping-back-and-forth so as to see what the top looked like. Ultimately, you have to live with it, so make yourself happy!

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Note the sassy yet homespun ottoman pouf in the top of this shot. Arbor three at Canton, possibly the end of Arbor 2 as it transitions in to A3. I highly recommend picking one up. Super comfy, mostly dog-proof, and it matches everything, for somewhere in the $50 range. Which is more than I like to spend, but totes worth it. End of infomercial.

Now for the fun part! Staple gunning! I recommend trying a few startin’ shots on the underside of the wooden panel or some scrap, to get a feel for the thing and to prepare thyself for the loud report. I nearly wet my pants the first time I used it, I kid you not. In class.

So once the pleat is all as it should be, I stapled the tar out of it because I was worried about my big hiney sitting on it and untacking the fabric.

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This picture manages to hide the 42 other staples hidden the folds. This sucker ain’t going anywhere.

Then I folded the fabric over the panel and stapled it at regular intervals as I traveled to the next corner. This side is easy, it’s a matter of watching the pattern on the fabric, and trying to keep it even as you go. Here, I tried to keep it folded over the edge at the same point in the fabric all the way across. So, if you’re using a polka dot pattern, try to have a nice even row of dots on the underside. It helps the top look a little more polished, I think.

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Wash, rinse, repeat. Just pleat, staple, then move around the board to the next corner to pleat.

Another way to do this, would be to see how-ish you want to pleat it, then tack your middles first, the center of each side of the board, then work your way out to the corners, alternating staples ¬†centered right and left til you get there. Then pleat the extra. I’ve had luck with this, I think it centers the fabric better overall, but in cases like this bench, who gives a rat’s patoot? If this explanation confuses you further, feel free to ignore it and move right along.

Anyway, after I finished tacking those staples in, here’s what we have!

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Uneven as all get out, but effective nonetheless. I think I added another couple staples where it puckers there. Made me feel all assertive and empowered. Note the silver toenails, I find they enhance concentration, ha.

Aaaaaannnnnddd…

VOILA!

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And here Le Petit Bench Verde sits, in mon petit foyer! Along with a nightstand I’m currently debating on refinishing. Hmm. Vote in the comments! And some shoes. I’ve since added plenty of goodies to the walls, the overwhelming white was killing me.

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Harvey approves!

Fearless Lessons to learn here:

Do not be afraid to take stuff apart (unless it’s an heirloom. Then get someone clever to give the okay first. THEN don’t be afraid to take stuff apart.)

Staple guns are loud, yet forgiving. Like many of my relatives. (Shout out! Woot woot!)

Large scraps of great fabric are great things to stash, no matter how many times your friends use the phrase “hoarding.”

Doggies appreciate fine seating/purse stashing places, too.

Pulling the trigger on the fabulous and fantastic…Welcome to Fearless Design!

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My name is Sadie, and I’m a creator at heart. I come from a long line of crafty, resourceful people, and have been making and planning and doing things and stuffs as far back as I can remember. There’s a joy and intensity in seeing something come together right in front of you which heretofore existed solely in the world within your mind. Along the way I’ve met lots of people who love design as much as I do, but many of these folks are terrified by the idea of MAKING A DECISION…dun dun dunnn… And it saddens me to see them living in a shapeless world of bland and beige, longing after the vivid lives and pictures they see in magazines or on tv. When I interned at Sherwin-Williams, people requested assistance in choosing colors, so we’d sit down and look at the options. But after a few minutes of looking at blues and browns and reds, they’d chicken out and go right back to the dadgummed megagreige or nomadic white! (DISCLAIMER: Any and all colors can be beautiful if confidently chosen for the right reasons. I’m ok with a posh white room. Just not a boring, indecisive one.)

SO! All this to say, Fearless Design is about pulling the trigger on what you truly want to be surrounded by. Forget the rules! If you are confident in your style, the space/necklace/canvas/whatever will come together in its own right. Plus, if it’s a bit off, I give it a snooty name like “bohemian eclectic” or “avant-garde” and move right along to the next bottle of super glue. Design is about people, not perfection. Which is awesome, because I haven’t done a perfect project yet. Just a bunch that I love and give pet names to.¬†

Welcome to Fearless Design.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7