Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lady in Waiting

The DIY to which all others will be measured...

My favorite furniture re-vamp to date is also the first one I ever took on. A while back my mom tipped me off to a chair that had taken up permanent residence in my grandparent's shop. She (the chair) had originally belonged to my aunt and uncle but had been pretty beat up. My grandfather rescued her during a visit one day but unfortunately the abuse didn't stop - there in the shop she sat, waiting in pieces, subjected to the harsh sun, dust, and occasional barn cat... unloved, her condition worsened.

Turned out my grandparents already had an identical chair, but in much better shape, in their office (might explain the reason my beauty had to live in the shop) so after taking a look at this (way nicer) chair and some encouragement from my Mom, I decided to take on the task of giving the old girl new life and convinced my Dad to help. 

I wish I had some more pictures to share showing just how awful she was before.

In my garage - reduced to just pieces of molded wood
Little did I know how gorgeous she could be - or of her infamous past. Like discovering your neighbour is a Pulitzer Prize winner, as I Googled, my beat up little chair became so much more. It turns out that she is an original Eames Lounge Chair - which I discovered is kind of a big deal.

Photo by Vitra
 Ok, ok, I know that might not mean a lot to some of you - so like a good inside joke you need to know the history in order to appreciate it...

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman correctly titled Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671), were released in 1956 after years of development by designers Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company. It was the first chair the Eames designed for a high-end market. These furnishings are made of molded plywood and leather. 
Herman Miller describes the Eames Lounge Chair...

It lives in museums like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago and in stylish interiors everywhere. It has been the subject of documentary films and books. It even has its own fan website. Calling it a classic is an understatement. It's the quintessential example of mid-century design - elegant and profoundly comfortable.
Herman Miller
It turns out that she is not only an iconic piece from mid-century design royalty, but the Eames Lounge Chair is everywhere - I just hadn't been looking. Once I realized it I started spotting this design all over the place - and got quite excited (she can be spotted on House MD, Frasier, and Gossip Girl to drop a few names).

Unfortunately my famous girl was in rough shape. Her curved wooden headrest was beat up from being banged against something and the wood was rubbed raw through the veneer. The leather upholstery had deteriorated in many spots and the foam cushions were worn. Her legs were also in need of some love and had a few rust spots forming. Although I would have loved to keep the original components intact she was too far gone - I had to take everything apart and start from scratch...
Her unveiling
Starting from scratch meant a good clean and new veneer (thanks Dad) but it also meant reinforced cushioning and new leather upholstery. We had a professional take on the leather work which ended up being the best idea ever - the job was way above any skills I have and I was not going to risk messing up genuine leather. The leather was an investment (and took the place of many Birthday and Christmas gifts) but when you have a classic piece like this it's important to use quality materials. 

Her new home - my living room
I am still thrilled, many years later, with how the entire project turned out and I think that we did a great job of keeping the integrity of the chair intact while replacing the parts that were too far gone. I know that this is one piece I will NEVER part with - not only because she is such a classic beauty but because of the time and effort that was put into making her shine. 

It means so much more when you have to work for it...


1 comment:

  1. Whoa! that is super wonderful and if it goes missing you probably can not come to my house ever again the reason having nothing to do with your chair finding a new home in my home.....