Before and After: Heywood Wakefield Chairs

Recently I purchased an eight-piece Heywood Wakefield dining room set. Although the china hutch needs some work (the potential horrors of that I’m sure I’ll share with you in a future post), the table and matching dog bone chairs are in remarkably great shape. How they are in such great shape is complete mystery when compared to the condition of the seat upholstery.

IMG_4733Only four of the six even matched and all of them were water stained, filthy, worn-through and covered in multiple layers of fabric. I just can’t even comprehend how the wood survived whatever atrocity these poor defenseless seat pads had endured in their lives.

IMG_4734But I couldn’t resist peeling back the layers to see what was underneath. The top layer (on four of the chairs) was a late 1960s or 70s era gold brocade and more dirt than my vacuum filter.

IMG_4739Layer two was a well worn 1960s patio print.

IMG_4741Underneath it all was the original heavy woven upholstery in aqua with black undertones and metallic silver accents. This is probably from the late 1940s or early 50s and, when compared to everything on top of it, in surprisingly great condition. I had a brief moment of hope that with a good cleaning I could salvage the original, but on most of the chairs it was either stained or worn through on the corners. Aside from losing its coolness, I also lamented removing the original fabric because it was hand tacked on instead of stapled—with literally hundreds of upholstery tacks that each had to be removed individually with a tack puller.

But once that drudgery is over, the good part begins. I chose a mint green woven fabric with a little sheen to it. It’s similar in spirit to the original and really complements the light wood.

IMG_4761Fast forward through several hours of wrapping seats with new batting, ironing, cutting, stapling, stapling and more stapling and, voila!

IMG_4762The chair frames still need a good wash and wax, but with those fresh new seats you’d never know they had endured decades of… Three Stooges style pie fights? Acid rain? Nuclear winter? Whatever happened to them in their previous lives, they’re set for a happy and prosperous future.

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  1. Susie
    Posted March 27, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    What beauties! They turned out perfect. I have a whole bedroom set of heywood Wakefield.

    • Austin
      Posted March 30, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Susie! Even though it’s not my personal style, I just love Heywood Wakefield stuff. They have such great shapes and construction—it’s fun and elegant at the same time, and that’s tough to pull off.

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