Makeover: Vintage Chairs (& the best tips for picking fabric)

eddie ross- modern mix - parsons arm chairs @psstudio

You may remember a few months back when I did a post on parsons armchairs, inspired by Eddie Ross’s fabulous book cover and that chartreuse gem of a chair. I’d been itching to do an upholstery project and began searching on eBay for a vintage chair (preferably parsons armchairs!) on the cheap.  There’s no better way to get a gorgeous custom piece of furniture than by restoring a vintage chair to brand new fabulousness.

Here’s the thing about upholstery projects: it’s going to be EXPENSIVE, no matter what.  By the time you’ve spent the money on the original piece plus paid for fabric AND labor to do the reupholstery, you’ve almost spent the same –  if not more – than buying a brand new piece. So it’s gotta be worth all the time, effort, and expense. But on the flip side, you’re getting something totally unique. Plus, if you live in an older, smaller-scale home, it’s easier to find smaller scale vintage furniture that will better fit your home. (So many new pieces are overblown in their proportions.)

I hit the jackpot with a pair of Milo Baughman-ish parsons chairs that were an absolute steal ($350!) with the most beautiful swoop to the arms, almost like a serif typeface. They were shipped out to us via Greyhound for $95 (Which, incidentally, is a super economical way to ship smaller-sized furniture pieces, FYI) and arrived within a few days.

But! What to do with these fabulous little chairs? They were on the smaller side and the upholstery was an original beige dotty misadventure that was clearly not doing the chairs justice.  I had been lamenting a pair of lucite and canary yellow velvet chairs that I absolutely should have bought back in January (I refer to them as The Ones That Got Away) and I knew immediately that these chairs would be gorgeous in a sunny yellow velvet.


pencil shavings studio bedroom minted-13

Yellow makes me so happy. It’s a surprisingly versatile color and it pairs well with an array of different schemes. I love it with navy, pale blue, hot pink, mint — it brings almost any room to life.


But what about fabric itself? I personally find it a little bit intimidating and overwhelming to pick out fabric for a project, so I asked the super-friendly folks at Ketch Design Centre here in OKC for some help since they were so great to work with when I ordered my Thibaut wallpaper several months ago. Visually, I know what I like, but I needed help in finding something both durable and reasonably priced since my investment was already close to $1000 for labor and the chairs themselves. They provided a handful of different options in a wide range of price points.

Yellow velvet parsons chairs -

A few questions that I asked them along the way:

1. Even with a background in design, I personally feel intimidated by the process of choosing fabrics (so many options!) and an overall lack of knowledge of what will wear best, etc. What’s the best advice you could give someone on beginning this process?
The best thing to do first is to determine the overall design style and color palette in which you are working with. That alone will help narrow down the fabric designer. Next, what is the end use of the fabric? By understanding what the fabric will be used for helps tremendously with the selection.
2. What are your current favorite fabrics for upholstery? What do you recommend staying away from? 
Anything with Nanotex. IT. IS. AWESOME.  More and more fabric manufacturers are starting to incorporate this finish into their fabric fibers. This allows for a kid and dog friendly fabric (real life!). You can spill red wine on the fabric and it will bubble up and not set into the fabric and stain!  Any fabric that does not hold a double rub count of at least 30,000 I would stay away from. This will ensure a long life of the upholstered piece.
3.What advice would you give someone who wants to reupholster a chair or sofa?
Choose a durable, practical fabric that will stand up to the traffic of everyday life. It doesn’t have to be boring – add a fun pop of color or pattern with pillows!
4. What’s something they should avoid or look for when choosing that original piece to redo?
Look for those one-of-a-kind pieces that aren’t in production anymore.  It’s always fun to find something that not everyone has and really making it your own. (editor’s note: I completely agree with this! A piece with good bones trumps anything else.)
5. Ok, let’s talk about windows. What’s the difference between store bought and custom when it comes to drapery?
Draperies truly help create a softness and finishing touch to a space. Store bought panels can be a quick way to address a standard window, but have limitations to the width and length. It seems we are seeing anything but standard windows these days. Custom drapes have no limits and can address any window in a unique way.
6. If a customer is on a budget, what’s the best way to get bang for their buck when it comes to window treatments? Is it all about the fabric?
There are so many price points when it comes to fabric by the yard. You don’t need to choose an expensive fabric to make beautiful custom drapes. A simple solid, poly-linen look a-like can have just as much as a wow factor.
7. What are the biggest design mistakes you’ve seen that could have been avoided?
Classic, timeless design is always best. As much as you may want to go with what’s trendy or “in-style” now chances are you may get tired of it much faster.
8. Any trends you’d like to see die? If so, what?

Personally, so over the chevron print. When you start seeing a print everywhere you know it’s time for it to go! Luckily, we have been seeing a decline of it when viewing new lines each season. Fingers crossed it’s truly on the way out.Thanks so much to Ketch Design Centre for all your help on this project! Ketch provided the fabric for the chairs and were above & beyond helpful in the entire process. I can’t recommend them enough. Follow them on Instagram and pop into the shop for some amazing design inspiration if you’re in the OKC area. They specialize in commercial and residential custom window treatments, wallpapers, fabrics, and they also have an inspiring selection of vintage wallpapers if you love something retro. There’s SO MUCH EYE CANDY!

And if you want to fall down the rabbit hole: more resources on picking fabric for your upholstery and soft goods projects.

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