5 Steps to Updating a Beautiful Mid-Century Modern Chair

#1 Find a chair!

This is probably the most difficult step.  We were lucky enough to have this chair given to us by a friend’s parents who had it hidden in their basement for a long time.  It is a hardwood chair (walnut – we think) which was brought over from Tanzania by our friend’s uncle.  We have also picked up some cool pieces at very reasonable prices from furniture dealers who are selling off old inventory.  Online market places and garage sales are also good resources.

#2 Frame maintenance

When the chair was given to us it was in need of minor repairs.  The framework that held the webbing on the front of the chair was broken and the webbing was stretched out of shape.  We replaced the broken framing with a hardwood trim purchased at a local hardware store.  This piece does not show once the cushions are in place.  We also replaced the jute webbing (available at Fabricana Home) which was an inexpensive fix.  It did take two of us to do it – one to stretch the webbing taut with pliers, the other to screw it in place.  Thankfully the finish was in good shape so we just cleaned it up with a little wood oil soap.

3# Purchasing Foam for Cushions

High quality foam is an important part of this DIY project.  If you’re going to bother fixing something, you want it to last.  A dense, firm foam was chosen for the seat cushion.  The back cushion is softer to make the chair more comfortable.  The foam was purchased at the Foam Shop where they cut it to my precise measurements.  They kindly offered to wrap the foam with batting, but I chose to wrap it myself with batting purchased at Fabricana.  The batting is important not only for the look of the finished cushion, but also to protect the foam from abrasion.


#4 Choosing the perfect fabric

The room for which this chair was intended already contains a large couch and matching arm chair that is upholstered in a subtle smoky aqua bouclé.  To make this chair a focal point of the room, we knew we needed to find a nice print or pattern that tied in the colours of the room, but also reflected the period the chair was originally built.  It was narrowed down to the three fabrics above.  We decided the middle one was too traditional for us and its aqua background was too overwhelming.  The third one looked somewhat mid-century but didn’t provide the punch that we were looking for.  We decided the first one had vintage elements (texture, theme) and was somewhat modernized by the colour palette and playfulness of the running animals.


#5 Cutting and Sewing the cushions

When dealing with a pattern with a large repeat, pattern placement is crucial.  I love the deer and the rabbit motifs, so I made sure they weren’t cut off.  I also measured very carefully to make sure the pattern continued up the back cushion.  I also managed to cut the band around the seat cushion so the pattern continued down the front of the chair.  When matching a pattern, don’t forget to account for the seam allowances.  I had approximated the yardage required at 2 yards and that worked out perfectly to finish both cushions!  For more detailed instructions on sewing a cushion of this type, please visit our YouTube channel here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cuw_83hCvo (Please ignore the instructions regarding piping and tufting)


While some of this project requires more advanced sewing skills, hopefully this article provides a little more information on the process of updating a beloved antique and giving it new life.

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