2012-02-22

Upholstery Tales

bench3
bench1

Let's just say that my first adventure in re-upholstery was a little more intense than I had anticipated. There may have been one night when Matt came home from hockey to find me crying with a hammer in my hand and dozens of ruined upholstery tacks around me. When I bought this bench (in its original state below) at a garage sale last summer for $40, I thought  it would be easy to 'just re-upholster' it. I mean, isn't that what they do on those design blogs? They just re-upholster stuff and make a whole lot of fabulous, no?

bench7
bench5
bench6

I actually loved the original fabric but it was completely threadbare and falling apart. It had to go. And then we (my Papa was helping me for this part...) tore off the old cover and we saw the straw-like interior. It had to go. And since the back of the backrests and the bottom of the bench were actually pieces of old cardboard from the 80's, they had to go as well. So I bought new fabric, stuffing, foam, wood backing, upholstery trim and 3 packs of tacks. All of that cost a lot more than my original garage sale steal of $40. I was beginning to see that this little bench was not going to be my deal of the year, instead it was going to be a life lesson... or something as equally profound.

I didn't really do any research before I started re-upholstering. I asked the lady at the foam store a question or two but for the rest, I am a firm believer that ignorance is bliss. The bench was not going to be used much  so my main concern was that it looked nice. It was a slow process to clean out the whole bench, remove the hundreds of nails, paint the wood, cut out new backings, shape the stuffing and nail in the new upholstery.  However, the hardest part came at the end as I secured the trim with the upholstery tacks. The waste rate for upholstery tacks was at a shameful 55%. I had to go back to the store twice to buy more tacks and that original 3 packs turned into 8 packs. The problem was that the old wood was so brittle that it would splinter or just not allow the nails or tacks to go in. So many tacks got bent and ruined under the pressure... it was this impossible little task to find the sweet spot and the right amount of pressure to get the tack secure in the wood without it bending the tack or ruining the wood. I was intent on the tacks being perfectly aligned but at some point I had to admit defeat in the exchange for sanity. When Matt walked in on see me crying, I was getting about 6 tacks in per hour... It was tedious. Though it's worth noting, as I have before, that I am an easy cry. Matt walking in on me crying is about as common as pictures of foam topped coffees on Instagram...

bench4
bench2

And so this is the story of how I learned that upholstery is likely not in my future and how patience is not my virtue. I spent too much money. I wasted too much time. I said too many bad words. But in the end, I got a great little bench in my closet... 

43 comments :

amanda said...

oh dude. i took an upholstery class a few years ago. then i brought my knowledge home to reupholster an ottoman. i don't know how many times i banged my finger with the hammer or stabbed myself with a tack. that biz is not for the faint of heart. i LOVE this bench and am super glad you stuck it out. but i agree, it takes way more patience that i have in me :)

Melissa Swanson said...

It looks so pretty now! Good work! But I definitely feel your pain. I have definitely done this exact same thing not once, but twice (and I probably still haven't learned my lesson). My chairs cost me a lot of sweat, frustration, sore muscles, and probably lung damage from inhaling all that ancient dust.

Victoria said...

I think all in all it was worth it. Though I would never ever try anything like that. Just to image so much work make me tired :)

congratulations on a nice result!

Molly said...

Wow! The new fabric is fab-u-lous! I want to be sitting on that bench in that last pic as the whole closet (CLOSET?!?!) looks amazing. I'm inspired!

Maria said...

I love it! You have some serious style talent.

BESOS LYNN said...

The end result is so beautiful! Hard work and perseverance pays off, in (tears)a BIG way! Such a great bench!!! Great job!
besos,lynn

kelsey said...

oh, i LOVE how it turned out!

sbk said...

bahaha your comments cracked me up, mostly because i can so visualize myself having a similar traumatic situation. i have a chair i got a yard sale i'd like to recover but I don't know if I have the courage to attempt it.

Also, I LOVE your closet! Any closet that has room for a window, a dress form, and a bench deserves an A+ in my book.


twolittlebells.tumblr.com

Morgan and Lua said...

You done did it!!
Looks great :)

When am I coming to visit? Can we have a cocktail party in your closet?

Danielle Celeste Couture said...

beautiful work

Sylvia said...

But it looks great! What I've heard about nailhead trim is that you have to hammer/drill a pilot hole because the nails themselves aren't strong enough.

Elaine said...

Well, it looks AMAZING and your hard work and crying has paid off. Looks like I'll never reupholster anything. Ever.

Hannah Thomas said...

Your bench looks great!!

briannelee said...

Sadly it is usually less expensive to buy something new then reupholster an old piece. This bench looks fabulous, though! My in-laws actually have one very similar... it came from a very old house here it town. You did a great job!

Natasha said...

Well on the plus side it looks amazing!
I think I would have just ended up glueing on the trim, and cutting off the prong of the tack and then glueing that on too...but that's just how lazy I am..haha!

Natasha ~ TashaDelrae.com

danielle and dinosaur toes said...

i learned the same life lesson several years ago. i also learned that design blogs can suck it; reupholstery is NOT as easy as they make it look, and it would be nice if they'd be honest about how difficult it really is!

Rebecca Jane said...

I wanted to try a similar project but when I researched it, I think it'd be easier just to have it reupholstered professionally.

I have to say though, for all the blood sweat and tears your project cost, the bench looks pretty darn fabulous. Love the fabric you chose!

Piper Alexander said...

At least it finally turned out! BTW, I love the silver disk art to the right, did you make that or purchase it?

Julie at Modern Day Middle Age said...

I have never posted a comment here before but I just have to today because, ohmygod... that is one hell of a closet! The gorgeous, hard-won bench is just gilding the lily. Congrats on keeping all your fingers and (almost you sanity) whilst re-upholstering!

Erika said...

I SO feel your pain. While it can be a nightmare to do (and freakishly drawn out), it's worth it if only because the frames tend to be a hell of a lot stronger than modern ones. I've dining chairs from my grandfather's family which have had so many upholstery nails over time that I just get them done professionally (AKA making it someone else's problem). And as part of the whole simplifying business, recently gave away my old 1918 sofa that had seen some serious love from the dogs over the years. It went home with a young man with upholstery skills who is very appreciative of the fact that the frame, springs, original horsehair and kapok stuffing is all good for another 90 years.

freedomandfreethings said...

Kudos for seeing it through!
It definitely looks amazing.
I flirt with reupholstering. But I limit myself to tasks that just need a staple gun and fabric.
For eg.
http://freedomandfreethings.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/study-incentives/

I totally recommend this approach. It isn't a guarantee against tears,but it keeps the tacks at bay.

Eleanor said...

I see you in a whole other light now, and Lady, I gotta say I'm impressed.
Is it not enough to have mad thrift skills that you have to go DIY too????
;) Just kiddin'
Keep it coming!!!!

kori said...

The end result is totally worth it! Wow! Thanks for sharing the hard work you put into this project; it's both a cautionary tale and inspiration were I to take on such a challenge. I'm going to attempt sanding down a little table and repainting it. That seems a bit more in my range of DIY-ness and patience. :)

p.s. can we take a tour of your closet??

AbbyNormalTN said...

I am in MAD love with your artwork in there...and what appears to be some jewelry AS art???

Think if I ever tried this...I would just go OVER the old upholstery and then get the nailheads that come on a strip and that way only like every tenth one is a REAL nail!

Great job!!

Catherine said...

You did this yourself :0 You young lady are a Goddess!!

Catherine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teri said...

That is your CLOSET? Lucky.

Anonymous said...

Love the fabric you chose !
Camille

newpetite said...

You are just awesome!

E. said...

That's your closet? Every thought of doing a home tour - would love to see it!

voyage-on.blogspot.com

Abby C. said...

That had to be super frustrating! But, the end result is absolutely gorgeous and I totally covet it for my own house.

www.gypsyfriday.blogspot.com said...

Ahhhhmazing. Love the fabric! You will enjoy gazing at it everytime you get dressed!

Love your blog! x

www.gypsyfriday.blogspot.com

Vicky said...

Please share where you got that fabric. It's amazing!

Emily said...

I am seriously impressed. I found a similar settee and it sat in my garage for about 18 months before I just ended up throwing it away. Tragic, but I would've had to fix a broken leg as well, so I like to think I made the right choice.

But yours looks amazing. Be proud.

http://ofseedsandthorns.blogspot.com/

Simply Bike said...

For what it's worth, the bench looks gorgeous! I love the fabric you chose and the tacks look like you beat them into submission in the end after all. I could have never made anything like this, you've got skillz. With a z.

S.

Free Coupons said...

Bench is looking wonderful! It's a great effort and it's really inspired me. You spent too much money and wasted too much time but in the end you really got a good result.
Thanks for sharing such a great idea and great effort.

Ash said...

The blood, sweat, and tears was well worth it! Beautiful job! Not only was it a life lesson for you, but because you shared it, now I know that re-upholstering is not a walk in the park. Plus at $40 for the bench (what a steal) and the added costs of re-working it, I would probably buy this bench for a whole lot more..say $500!

And I love that fabric!

Fabrics said...

Benches can be difficult to reupholster, but yours look fantastic. Great fabrics!

myedit said...

Vicky- I think I got the fabric from the discount table at Fabricland...

chris @ court + hudson said...

OMG in love with this. If I was near by, I might have to steal it. Which would probably be difficult to stealthy maneuver - however I think that just speaks to the amazingness that this is!

AND you got the fabric on discount? Awesome job girl!

Lindsey A. Turner said...

I love it! That fabric was such a great choice!

Lindsey
http://thriftandshout.blogspot.com

Upholstery said...

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MisisD said...

You did a great job. Beautiful bench!