So, we've all seen this chair. Many of us have this chair. This chair, along with 3 of her identical sisters sat in my maternal grandparents' knotty pine kitchen with black, wrought iron handles and drawer pulls circa 1970's-80's. I kid you not when I say I saw chairs like these for sale at a consigment shop, and they came with a kitchen table that was essentially a whiskey barrel base and a wagon-wheel top. Little House on the Scary. As these things typically shake out, these chairs ended up in my parents' basement for a rainy day, and as of recently, 2 were passed down to me and were now living in my Charlottesville basement. I mean, that's how these things work. We pass down our cast-away, less than optimal, and sometimes plain ugly furniture and goods to our children, friends, and those who are "just starting out." Speaking of pass-down furniture, I am proud to say that we never owned any of the "This End Up" furniture. You know, the wood crate furniture that not surprisingly, is as comfortable as sitting in a wood shipping crate. Anywho, I figured why not spit in the face of this pass-down tradition, take the chairs out of hiding, and give them a new a life?
Looking at the chairs, there are some neat design elements: the curved back, the wide seat, the intricate spindles, etc. These have a more classic, traditional feel, so I wasn't about to go over the top and try to make them look like very modern chairs. They have traditional lines and are a little too detailed to be painted hot pink. However, I did want them to look a little less Long John Silvers meets the Wild Wild West. I took design inspiration from the classic, collegiate captains chair you often see for sale in most college and university bookstores. They're typically black with a gold school seal. If you work at UVA or have even just walked by Grounds for ten seconds, we have these chairs everywhere. There's one in my office, we put them in waiting rooms, we have panelists sit in them, etc. I received one as a gift upon completion of my Master's graduation from the University, and I've always liked it. While it's a different chair, I saw similar potential in the old kitchen chairs that hid in my basement.
The Inspiration. Photo Credit www.uvabookstores.com
Sanding the surface of the old chairs, lightly to remove the old seal/finish, I prepped the chairs for ten bucks worth of black, high gloss enamel. Each chair took 2 coats and required some attention to avoid any drip marks on the spindles, arms. etc. Once the chairs dried nice and smooth, using a small gold leaf paint pen (available in any major craft/home improvement store), I decided to highlight a small area on the back spindles. And voila. The old kitchen chairs are ready for their close-up. The chairs now have a more sophisticated, gentleman feel, with a bit of Asian, lacquered flavor. For around $15.00, these tired old chairs are ready to serve as a desk chair or seat the head of the table at your next dinner party.
So, the lesson of the day. If you are fortunate or unfortunate enough to have a basement or attic, don't fill it with crap. We always make the mistake of stuffing things away that we don't need or don't even like, just because we have the space. I'm all about using things, even if it means rotating things out over time to better utilize the things you love. Look through your pass downs and your less-than-favorites, and see the new, hidden potential. A few bucks, a decorative pillow, and a little imagination can turn that piece of crap into a show piece. Simple Enough.
(And yes, that's a white picket fence in my backyard. Talk about living the dream.)