Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Russians and Chairs

One of the positive things about having people over is that it sets a deadline for certain projects, like house cleaning, food purchase and, in our case, re-covering chairs.

As dining room chairs go, ours has always been an eclectic collection:  sets of two from sources such as Bill's Aunts, my Grandma & Grandpa and a second hand shop in Whitley Bay.  We decided that at least four of these chairs required new covers and, more importantly, new padding before we had our next dinner guests, Svetlana and Alexei.  I'd intended to take pictures of the meal, had even re-charged the camera batteries, but in the event didn't remember, there were so many other things to think about.  I'm not sure it's polite to take photos of one's guests anyhow, but I could at least have done the table.  Maybe next time I'll have the camera out when we are getting ready at least.

The dinner went well, I think.  We started with a selection of crackers, Boursin cheese and smoked salmon.  Then Bill produced his bœuf Bourguignon, roasted bell peppers and parsnips, 'smashed' potatoes and steamed broccoli.  For dessert we trotted out the last pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving (served cold) and a spare Christmas pudding (served hot) with whipped cream.  Alexei brought a bottle of lovely light fruity red wine.  We ate until we were completely stuffed and then sat in the living room and chatted.  Since they were with us for about five hours, I was about to quit worrying about having stayed too long at their house.  We just have loads to talk about!

Bill took photos of his chair project, as one of Grandma & Grandpa's dining chairs was in bits and had to be mended.  Apparently the chair is put together with pegs and glue.  One of the legs had split where the peg was inserted.  Other bits had simply come unglued.  About 20 years ago, I had put some upholstery material on top of the existing fabric and padding.  I'd completely forgotten the chairs' former covering, a lovely old floral pattern on a black background.  Seeing that again was almost like stepping back into their house.  

In the spirit of using what we already had on hand instead of running out and spending money, Bill used the foam rubber from an old mattress cover that we didn't need and some £1 a metre fabric I bought several years ago for another household project to make the new cushioning.  I probably would have skipped the white fabric cover, but we decided that I would have the job of adding the outside fabric and he decided to use the white to anchor the foam rubber.  Bill was very pleased with the outcome of his furniture refinishing.  You can see the variety of chairs that we have in this photo and since most of the chairs have sentimental value, they are likely to remain.  

I never think of mahogany stain as being as red as it is (in spite of that being the name of my hair colour) and was surprised at how different the old and the repaired chairs looked.  I've come to accept that I have to let go of the tatty old appearance that looks familiar and let Bill do the refinishing in order to make the chairs more useful.  It's no good having broken bits in the loft, is it?

The second hand chairs revealed some interesting pieces of wood when Bill deconstructed them.  I began to wonder just how old they are given that the seats were made from something like the side of an old wardrobe, the padding some indeterminate composite stuffing that looked like it was strings and cotton wool, and the covering fabric was canvas, painted and shellacked, not leather as I'd assumed.

As we have a new curtain for the front hallway, to match the door curtains, and the former curtain was a pale green very close to the colour of the dining room carpet, one of the few remaining original carpets from when I bought the house. 

We discovered that one cannot get staples for my old American staple gun, so Bill ended up buying a new one.  Staple guns are wonderful inventions but I still had to use a few unaccustomed muscles in my arms and shoulders to wrestle and hold the fabric into place.  Still, the chairs looked pretty good when they were finished and everyone sat very comfortably during dinner.

Have you been doing any projects around your house lately?


Michelloui | The American Resident said...

These chairs look like a very satisfying project! I love it when I can do something like this myself around the house, rather than paying someone else. I did this years ago to a couple of old metal cafe chairs I found at a tip. I sanded them and painted them with black hammerite paint, then recovered the seat with some spare plastic table cloth cover. They lasted for years as patio chairs!

The English Organizer said...

The chairs look great! And dinner sounds like it was a real feast - I recall when you went to dinner at their house and I seem to remember you were wondering how to reciprocate in style. Great menu!

Jo said...

Bill did a wonderful job, with your help of course. You need to keep him around.

Jo said...

Have you ever thought of needlepointing new chair covers to get you back to the original look.

Shelley said...

Michelloui - Outdoor chairs sound wonderful! Too cold here to sit out much, but I love the ideas you presented - using what you have or getting something free!

Pauline - Glad you liked the menu. I'm sure ours was much simpler than theirs to prepare, though they also included a few store-bought items. Not that I'm keeping score, mind! They are fascinating people to talk to, never mind all the lush food!

Joanne - Yes, I expect Bill is a keeper, bless him. I actually hadn't thought of needlepointing some covers and it's been ages since I did any cross stitch. I would prefer CS to needlepoint, though the latter would wear better. Hmmm. Bears thinking about that does. Thanks for the great idea!