Angela’s Gold Victorian Chair

31 Jul

Before Photo of the chair: broken in three pieces, dusty, and covered in cat hair.Finished photo of Angela's Gold Victorian Chair

My sister, Angela, had been looking for a little desk chair for her bedroom for a while when, on a visit to my husband’s parents in Oregon, my mother-in-law offered me a broken chair from her set of balloon-back Victorian dining chairs. Yay, free! It was the perfect project for class.

The back had two pieces broken off of it, and it had been living in the garage with the outdoor cats for a while, so it was covered in cat fur.  We brought it home to California, and then I brought it to class where Donna showed me how to glue the pieces back together and stabilize them with a couple of well-placed wood-screws.

Repaired chair back

I pulled the old copper nail-heads out of the trim on the chair’s seat, stripped away the disintegrating velvet fabric, and removed the original horsehair and cotton padding (which was quite dusty).


I set aside the springs to be cleaned and oiled, and then removed the old disintegrating webbing from the bottom of the chair. The wood was in good shape overall, but it did have some termite damage. After taking it home and spraying it with anti-termite spray, I brought it back to class and put in new webbing using the tools shown below (webbing stretcher, staple gun, scissors).

New webbing on the old chair

Once the webbing was firmly attached to the bottom of the chair, I put the springs back in (using a scary-looking tool to affix little metal clamps over the bottom of the springs, and through the webbing.). Once the springs were affixed, I began the process of tying them to the frame and to each other to create a stable base for seating.

Chair with new springs.

The finished springs (below).

The finished springs

Once the springs were finished, it was time to start adding the padding. I could have washed and reused the original horsehair padding, but, to be honest, it was so grody, I wanted nothing to do with it, and I figured my sister would probably rather sit on new synthetic padding rather than hundred-year-old horsehair. So, though it is not as environmentally friendly as recycling the padding, and not as recommended, I replaced the padding with new cotton and kodel, and tubular stuff called Foxedge around the edge of the chair. Sorry, I didn’t take many photos of this process. When it was finished, I covered the seat in muslin.

Chair with new seat padding, covered in muslin. The tacks hold the fabric in place prior to stapling.

Looking at the photo above, you may notice something. The seat is on, but the chair is not gold. I really should have painted the chair before I put in the webbing or the padding, but I didn’t because I had originally planned to gold-leaf the chair, not paint it. The gold leafing turned out to be quite a PITA, and I realized I probably should not have chosen a surface with so many curves and grooves as my first-ever attempt at gold leafing. So I covered the muslin on the seat with painter’s tape and spray primered, then painted the chair.

Again, I wasn’t as thorough in my photo-taking as I should have been. Once it was painted, I brought it back to class, added another layer of padding to the seat, and covered the seat in the fabric my sister had chosen. Observant readers might recognize the pattern as identical to the fabric on my Victorian Settee–the same fabric I swore I wouldn’t work with again. I mistakenly included a swatch of it in with the swatches I showed Angela, and she fell in love with it, insisting that it was perfect. I have to say, it does seem like an excellent match for the wall-color in her room.

So, I used the evil fabric. It was easier to work with on this small project than it had been on my settee. Once the fabric was stapled in place, I covered the staples with some green-and-gold gimp I found at Diaz Upholstery for $0.50 a yard. (2 yards).  Since the original nail-heads on the chair were copper-colored, I used new nail-heads from Donna’s selection of donations that have been made to the class over the years. These decorative nails were a gold color with just the slightest hint of green. They went perfectly (I think) with the chair, and were the finishing touch.

The finished chair in class.

During the last stages of the upholstering process, the chair acquired a little nick in the paint (you can see it in the right side of the above photo). When I brought it home, I repaired the nick with a spot application of paint, sealed the new paint and chair back with some Wipe-on Poly, and called up my sister to set up a delivery.

Finished photo of Angela's Gold Victorian Chair


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