Friday, May 17

A chair transformation from a "Plain Jane" thrift store find, to a blue beauty curio cabinet of artistic ocean inspirations, and all for a great cause

Thank you everyone for the amazing attendance last evening
at Take A Seat, plus all the great friends who tweeted, pinned and helped spread the word:
All of the chairs sold at auction,
and I bought a beautiful green lawn chair. 
Please stop back later today for details on the chair I picked up and the giveaway of framed green chair prints from last evening. 
My chair fetched over $200 to a
new homeowner on the South Shore coast of Massachusetts.  I am very happy my lil' chair will get a happy home by the sea.  In attendance last evening were two staff members from the Hometown Heroes, a non-profit organization to help Hurricane Sandy victims, and proceeds will go to help their organization. 
Here's the makings of my chair
(all chairs will stay on display at the Lillian August showroom and windows until May 22 so stop in to check them out):

Refurbishing a second hand 
"Plain Jane" chair 
  for the 
IFDA Take A Seat Chair auction
to benefit hurricane victims
Take A Seat Gala Auction
was on Thursday, May 16, 2013
6 PM-8:30 PM
Lillian August Furnishings + Designs
12 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
the "before" chair
When I decided to "up-cycle" a second hand chair for this charity auction, I had the sentiments of the ocean in mind.  Hurricane Sandy left many on the east coast in a state of flux with ruined homes and waiting in limbo until they can rebuild.  With this chair project I wanted to show how the spirit of rebuilding by taking a relatively inexpensive second hand chair, and making it pretty with creativity and hard work.   I found this simple chair at The ARF animal shelter thrift shop in Sagaponack for only twenty dollars.  After a day of searching, I came across the sturdy, solid mahogany caned-back chair.  I instantly had an idea of using the back like a canvas to project my feelings about the ocean.  Once home I turned over the chair, and was happy to note I had picked up a quality Baker Furniture chair from their Indonesian Collection.  I was up for the challenge. 
photo of an anchor I took in Maine last summer,
I am rejuvenated and inspired by the power of the ocean!
As a new board member of the NY Chapter of IFDA (International Furnishings Design Association) I helped organize, with our Japan and California chapters, this international charity event where all three chapters will host individual chair auctions in their cities.  For NYC, we had 24 designers refurbishing chairs, then on May 16 at the Lillian August showroom in New York City, professional auctioneer Karl Green and world-famous designer Jamie Drake hosted the evening together and auctioned off the chairs for hurricane Sandy victims, as well as for Tsunami victims in Japan.  Read more about the event and the other designers on the IFDA blog.
"Inspiration for the chair is the spirit of rebuilding, while remembering the ocean and natural world are imposing, beautiful and powerful.  The chair is a homage to the sea."    
 I chose to use the color blue, like the ocean, because it is soothing yet powerful.  This particular blue, Pitch Blue (Farrow & Ball No. 220 Full Gloss) feels historic but not staid, and is strong but not overbearing.  It's perfect!  The sheen gives a subtle glassy finish to the chair and makes it impervious to the elements.  The rush back is a nod to history and all the very beautiful old chairs that have the craftsmanship of caning. 
Take a look at the inspirations that influenced my chair:
The Color
I took this snapshot at the beach in California recently, and noted the 
The indigo blue-purple colors of the stones.
Pitch Blue
by Farrow & Ball
my supplies:
Chair: Pitch Blue Full Gloss 
caned back: Black Blue no 95 Full gloss
two brushes
Primer and undercoat in dark tones

while visiting the MET museum in NYC to see the opening of the Matisse exhibit I was reminded of the gift of color combining.  Farrow & Ball sponsored this exhibit and invited me to a breakfast and private tour of the exhibit -- what a treat! Matisse had a genius way of bringing colors together.  While I was choosing the color combinations for my chair, I knew that Farrow & Ball paint would provide me with great choices and quality paint.
The staff at this Farrow & Ball shop on the upper east side is very helpful and the in-house color expert guided me on which paint color worked best with my fabric.
The Art of Ernst Haeckel
I am obsessed, yes, literally obsessed, with this artist and scientist from the 1800s.  While John Audubon had the talent of capturing beautiful birds, Haeckel was a genius in his oceanic musings.  He captured these incredible beauties and wonders of the sea in a way that makes them look other worldly. 
"Haeckel was a German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artists who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms.  He promoted and popularized Charles Darwin's work in Germany".  Wikipedia
Haeckel and his assistant Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay, photographed in the Canary Islands 1866
I bought vintage versions of these prints on Etsy, cut them out, then painted small Gesso canvases the same black as the back of the chair (Black, Blue Farrow & Ball).  I then glued the images to the canvas and covered them in decoupage glue.  Once they dried I varnished them, laying them in a mosaic pattern to the back of the caned back of the chair. Several varnish coats later, they were complete.
The Fabric:
I have admired Robert Allen fabric for years, but became more familiar with the company when they sponsored me on a trip to Brimfield Antique Show last May.  As part of their launch for their Naturals Collection, I joined a group of design bloggers to attend this large antique show and hunt for antiques together.  Later, the chairs Robert Allen picked up were upholstered in a variety of fabrics from the new collection and put on display in their showroom at the D&D building in New York City.  During this inundation of their fabric line, I grew an even more appreciation for the company's fabric, the details and the thought they put into each new pattern.  I had remembered this new fabric called "Malachite", which was produced in an emerald green, a black and this indigo blue. I wanted a fluid fabric that would give the sense of water and nature, and I immediately thought of the the Malachite pattern to upholster the seat of my chair.  The people at Farrow & Ball pointed out to me the purple undertones of the blue fabric.
more fabric and a pillow
I wanted to add a lumbar pillow to bring in another fabric combination and thought of a shimmery Robert Allen fabric, then created my own panels of fabric from the Haeckel botanical prints in the online program, Spoonflower.  This Ernst Haeckel fabric (printed on cotton) was  overlaid onto the Robert Allen fabric on both the front and back and trimmed with the Malachite fabric.   We made the pillow 8 X 17 down filled with zipper.
the trim:
After a bit of tweeting about the chair, my friend trim designer, Jana Platina Phipps of @TrimQueen on Twitter, generously offered whatever trim I needed.  I kept thinking about a color that would pop with this blue fabric.  Orange and blue is one of my favorite color combinations and has a nautical appeal, so I chose this gorgeous cord, which Jana designs.  One of her representatives, Brimar, who sells her collections, immediately sent me over the trim.  
How we transformed the chair:
The Upholstery:
As I walked to Martin Albert Upholstery in the 30s and the West Side, I came upon this large statue sitting squarely in the midst of the garment district depicting this industry's history and emphasis on craftsmanship.  I am happy to see the practices still alive and well at the Martin Albert Design Studio

 the studio workers guided me through the process, showing me the intricate ways in which they lined up the fabrics, trimmed the cushion, and worked their magic

 Since the chair was older, and I had already painted it, the staff needed to carefully break the former cushion and remake a new one
 the old cushion had seen better days
 the continuation of the pattern from one panel to the next 
is an important quality to good upholstery
and accounts for sometimes why there is a waste with fabric.  In order for the pattern to continue from one panel to the next in a seamless manner, the upholsterer must carefully line up the repeat pattern before sewing.

My Chair is Complete!


You have heard the statement "It Takes A village"  well that is true in this case.  I am grateful for the generosity from the friends and brands who have reached out to me to provide their products and time for this little chair.

I am thrilled my chair found a happy home.  

A special thank you to these sponsors 
who generously donated product and labor to the chair:
Jana Platina Phipps on Twitter
 Brimar trim
for the blog giveaway:  

Check out my  IFDA Take A Seat 
and profiles of the 24 designers and their chairs
Happy Nesting XO


Deborah aka @D2Zen said...

Tamara, what a beaut. You expended a ton of time, energy and creativity on this absolutely inspired chair. Well done. Good luck with #IFDATakeASeat !

tamara matthews-stephenson said...

Thanks Deb -- it was fun to make. Tomorrow night's our kick-off party and all the designers will be on-hand to offer their insights -- there are some very unique chairs. We will also Skype with the Japan chapter as their auction takes place - that should be interesting. Thanks for stopping by. :)

eman said...

Tamara I must say that it is splendid and classical work done by you, much appreciated work.