It was on the way home from an out-of-town wedding. I saw these three “beauties” set out for the trash collection, and I knew they deserved a second chance.
Turns out it was worth it, to us humans at least, because these chairs were a collectible Danish modern brand from Denmark. More importantly than any financial value, they were the perfect style for our dining area.
Once I removed the upholstered seats and backs, the chair frames showed years of failed DIY repair attempts by the previous owners.
The photo above shows the part of the chair that held the seat. From L to R:
1. The photo on the left shows the original hardware. The left and right side rails each were supposed to have two metal pins sticking out of them. The seat cushion would sit on top, and a screw would go through the metal pin and up into the bottom of the seat cushion.
2 & 3: Someone tried to use both wooden dowels and hard plastic tubes in place of some of the metal pins.
Fortunately I was able to steal enough metal pins (and other hardware) from the armchair (which turned out to be beyond repair) so I could fix the two no-arm chairs.
LESSON LEARNED: If you’re rescuing furniture from the trash, take all the pieces including the ones beyond repair, so that you can harvest parts from them.
Moving on to the rest of the chair frames. . .
In the photos above, the issues are as follows (clockwise from top left):
Top 2 Photos Above: The armchair was a lost cause, with serious structural damage “repaired” with clumps of glue and plastic wood filler.
Bottom 2 Photos Above: The seat backs were held into each frame with wooden dowels and/or screws. However, the holes that held the dowels were so shattered that the owners had tried to repair them with huge clumps of plastic wood, painter’s tape (???!!) and bent metal plates.
I decided to strengthen all the holes by sandwiching them between flat metal plates, held together with nuts and bolts. There’s no way a screw can rip through them when too much pressure is applied by the seat-sitter.
After sanding the backs down, I screwed one plate onto the “front” side, and the screws went through far enough that I was able to attach a plate to them on the back side too. I secured the plate on the back with nuts.
I repeated the process with all four holes on each of the two seat backs. When I was done, the holes where the seat backs would be screwed into the chair frames were seriously secure.
Time to refinish the frames! I sanded them down and then rubbed on a few coats of teak oil. I just love refinishing old wood.
Left: After Right: Before
I’m not an upholstery expert, so I sort of winged it on the reupholstery. I simply wrapped the existing plywood frames first in thin, 1/2 inch foam, then covered that with a layer of quilt batting. I stapled it all in place.
Then the seats got wrapped in a plush silver velvet, and that was stapled to the bottom.
The backs got wrapped in Robert Allen Freja Floral fabric. They were a bit trickier because only the sides would be hidden from view. So I wrapped the seat backs, and made sure I folded the edges of the fabric in a tidy way along each side before stapling. The bottom of each seat back had a groove in it, so for the final seam I tucked the loose ends in, folded them under neatly again, and stapled.
In the photo above, you see that screws hold the top of the seat back to the frame. The bottom of the back is held with a wooden peg. I still need to find wooden plugs to fit the holes and cover the screws.
After the reupholstery, I found the spot in the seat back where the peg should go, then tore the fabric a little and wedged the wooden peg in. I sealed the fabric around it with FrayCheck.
In retrospect I should have put the pegs in before reupholstering, but this worked.
Now I have two lovely mid-century dining chairs at our dining table. Because I used fabric I already had, the project cost me less than $30.
When people come over, I proudly say to them “Let me show you the chairs I found in the trash!” I have never been ashamed to bring new life to old, discarded furniture.