Monday, 5 May 2014

the ugly duckling chair - the story of a make-over

Let me tell you the story of a brown chair that was looking so much like the ugly duckling of the well-known fable.

Once upon a time there was a vintage utility chair that was bought by me for a very small price from the Finnish Red Cross store. In its youth it must have been an office chair, or a machinist's chair, and it was regarded with much respect for its ergonomic design and modern lines, which showed in its nicely looked after condition.

Now waiting quietly for a new owner in that Red Cross store amongst all the other abandoned and orphaned furniture, it just looked a bit sad. Its dark brown upholstery seemed to suggest by-gone times of different values, when the colour brown was much loved, because it tied together interiors by complementing turquoise and orange and sunny or ochre yellows and avocado greens.

Now it just looked a bit drab and boring removed from its true 1970s settings, but it sang to me with its shape, that nicely looked after condition, its reliable sturdiness and those aluminium legs and levers.

It's transformation into a beautiful swan (to carry on with the fable metaphor) took place slowly and with a lot of consideration, because I really wanted to conserve its original upholstery as well as to give it a new look. The plan I hatched sprung into action by finding the right fabric while still thinking up the perfect solution for constructing a clever cover.

I did it, and the ugly duckling chair looks like this now:

I have to say I'm very proud of this deed, because I love the look of my chair and also the fact that my design of the sewing pattern for this conserving make-over worked out like this.

Would you like to know how to do the same?
I will be sharing the steps of this non-destructive, original-condition-respecting make-over in three more Monday morning posts:

  • The first one will discuss the idea of mock-reupholstery ie. conserving while giving a new look and tips on choosing fabric and choosing a solution. 
  • The second one will tell you about how to draft a cover pattern for a chair. 
  • The third part will be about how to make up a well-fitted semi-permanent new chair cover.

I hope you will follow along to see how I turned my ugly duckling into a beautiful swan!

PS. I borrowed those sweet retro duck and swan illustrations from here.

PPS. Sharing this post on Dawn's History and Home Link Party and on Stephanie's Sunday Showcase Party.


  1. Fabulous ... a beautiful swan ... Bee xx

  2. Looks great and so tidy, looking forward to seeing the transformation:)

  3. It looks great! I love the fabric you chose, it sure dressed it up. Can't wait to see the rest of the series.
    Thanks so much for sharing this at History & Home this week, take care - Dawn @ We Call It


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